A good in-a-nutshell about Type 1 Diabetes.
I have already helped one of my offspring learn to drive, so now that my daughter Emily is learning, I should be good at it. And I am pretty good, I must say, at some of the things.
Like keeping the left side of my body completely relaxed so as not to communicate anxiety to the student driver while keeping a death grip on the arm rest with my right hand and my foot pressed firmly to the brake pedal I wish was under my right foot.
One thing with which I struggle, however, is finding words at crisis moments. Which is why, when Ian, my oldest, was learning, and we approached an intersection just as we began to hear sirens, and I could not identify the direction from which the sirens were coming until we were halfway through the intersection and I realized a giant red firetruck was heading right for us, my instruction consisted of me raising my hands, closing my eyes and saying, “AHHHHHH!!!!”
Emily has learned this about me, too. She decided to speed up for a yellow light once, not realizing that that particular intersection had a really bad ditch just before it. I set her straight though. As we approached the intersection at speed and subsequently bottomed out, I calmly instructed, at the top of my lungs, “Ditch! Ditch! Ditch! Ditch! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
With all the driving lessons, she has now started “helping” me when I’m driving. Which was fortunate the other day when I was turning left across an intersection near a college and a student decided she couldn’t wait for the next light and ran into the crosswalk after the light turned red. However, at this point we discovered that Emily has the same problem I do; all she said was “Lady! Lady! Lady! Lady!” And since I couldn’t see said lady, who was positioned exactly where the frame of the car blocked my view, I kept going until Emily found the word, “STOP!”
Today I was backing out of a parking spot, and Emily again spotted something I didn’t – a man walking right behind the car. Somehow, even though her mind still could not find that all-important word, “stop,” it did process the fact that saying “lady” the last time had not been enough to stop me, so this time she yelled, “Human!” And then, apparently thinking I needed clarification, “Human being!”
She later explained, “I think somehow my brain thought that I just needed to describe the thing you were about to hit more accurately. Like, “lady” did not appeal your sense of morality, but if you understood that it was a human being, then you would know it was morally wrong to hit it.”
She must get it from her father’s side.
My friend Di has started a blog, and she’s a pretty funny gal. I highly recommend a trip over to Talking To Strangers.. only a couple of posts yet, but well worth a read!
Originally posted on Talking to Strangers:
His name was Tim.
I don’t remember Tim. I don’t remember this incident. What I remember is my mother’s retelling of this incident. She found it amusing. She found me amusing, if her stories are any indication.
Because the back drop for this story is Yakima, Washington, I must have been between my second and third birthdays.
This is how you can tell our age and domestic status. Married, four kids, pushing 50… yup, date night means a trip to the grocery store.
And because we are this family, with our various auto-immune challenges, ranging from gluten, soy and casein sensitivity to Vitiligo to Type 1 Diabetes, with some lactose intolerance thrown in for good measure, we were having our “date night” at Sprouts, the Valhalla of special ingredients, stocking up on gluten-free pancake mix, dairy-free “yogurt” and the all important Bio-K to balance out our digestive tracts.
Don’t worry, that’s as TMI as I will get about digestive tracts.
I always look forward to a visit to Sprouts, because with all the dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, MSG-free, hydrogenated-oil-free foods they offer, it feels like they speak my language. And a couple of times a year, they speak my language for half-price for a full 8 days, so that really makes it fun to shop there.
Except we missed the memo that this Friday night was “take your overwrought and fussy children shopping” night.
I heard him before I saw him. I heard him running from one end of the store to the other. From my position in the juice aisle I paused and looked toward the center aisle of the store. Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of him. A small, black-haired boy, running, just as his footsteps had suggested, full-tilt, waving both arms above his head yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! MOOOOOOMMMMMMY!”
He was not lost. He was not distraught. He was obviously having the time of his life. I stood there with a bottle of organic lemonade in my hand and tried to project authoritative displeasure in his direction the next time he sped by the end of my aisle, but he went by so fast I barely saw him, so the “Thou Must Stop With Thine Misbehavior” vibes apparently bounced right off him.
I contented myself with packing things into my cart while vehemently thinking the things I would like to say to his mother about the importance of Keeping One’s Children In Check In Public Places.
Now, you would think, with four of my own, and with a small nephew who almost exactly fits the description of this little boy, apart from hair color, that I would have a modicum of sympathy. Or at least understanding. And see, NOW, from the comfort of my home, after the fact, I do. I totally get it. But I’m getting ahead of my story here.
Because at the time, I was supposed to be having ALONE TIME with the hubby. And this whirlwind of a child was distracting me from my date.
In 20-20 hindsight, it does not escape me that while half the problem here might have been this boy’s mistaken assumption that the grocery store was a playground, the other half might very well have been my mistaken assumption that the grocery store was a venue for Quality Time With One’s Spouse.
However, at the time, it was all about how little his mother was doing to curb misplaced exuberance.
It didn’t help that there was another lady there at the same time with no fewer than six 5 to 8 year olds in tow. I must admit that she was doing a spectacular job at keeping them polite and orderly, despite the fact that Whirlwind Boy was flying by with distressing regularity and tempting her youngest beyond the poor child’s ability to resist. A quick, “Hold my hand NOW!” from Mother was necessary to prevent the hand-waving cavorting from becoming epidemic.
Which, by comparison, made Whirlwind Boy’s mother look even more lax in her duties and added fuel to my vehement mental fire.
I finally took refuge behind a display of Christmas treats, actually feeling thankful that they were on display two months early, since they made such an admirable shield from possible collisions with flailing five-year-old arms and legs. There I waited for the ruckus to subside, and eventually it did.
My date, on the other hand, was bravely shopping for cheese as if nothing was amiss. He’s bigger than me.
Once the store was quiet again, I assumed the Whirlwind Family had left the shore, heaved a sigh of relief and ventured out from my hiding place, rejoicing that while I was there, I had discovered gluten-free Toaster Pastries in two flavors.
I met back up with the hubby and we had a conference that went something like this:
ME: Is that it?
ALAN: Ummmm… I don’t know, can you think of anything?
ME: I don’t know. Did you get cheese?
ALAN: Yep, I got cheese. So… what else?
ME: Ummm….. I don’t know.
ALAN: We should go home. We sound pitiful.
ME: Yeah, we should go home. We can always come back later. After we have slept.
Let’s just say it had been a long week.
We made our way to the checkout, and as soon as we got in line, who should pull her cart up behind us but… yep, you guessed it. Whirlwind Boy’s Mom. With son. And daughter, who was a slightly toned down version of her brother.
Our stuff was already on the conveyer belt, so we were stuck. Whirlwind Boy ran around us and stood where we needed to stand to pay and struck up a conversation with the checker.
“WHAT’S YOUR NAME? HEY! WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”
The checker took it all in stride and chatted with him, while I, feeling slightly huffy, had to maneuver my cart around the boy to get it to the end of the checkstand.
“My name is Cory. What’s yours?” bantered the checker.
“MY NAME IS COLIN!” he announced to everyone in the store except for those at the far end in the dairy section, who were probably out of earshot, what with the humming of the refrigerators.
He finally threaded his way between Alan and I to stand by his mother, who had been quietly but firmly trying to get him to return to her this whole time. As he walked past Alan, Alan said, ‘Hi, Colin!”
The boy whirled around, mouth agape, and said, “How did you know my name?”
At this point, just like the Grinch when he hears the Whos singing in Whoville despite his attempts to steal Christmas from them, I began to feel the ice around my heart begin to crack. Because this kid was undeniably cute.
I was still judging, of course, because when we are tired and not reining ourselves in and fall back on our natural inclinations, judging comes so much easier than, oh, reasoning, or empathy, or connecting with our fellow human beings.
“He has probably had too much sugar,” I mused, feeling superior because I never took MY children shopping when they were all sugared up. (In order to think this way, you understand, I had to conveniently forget the Sideways Tipping of a Full Basket of Groceries Incident, as well as the one that involved a two year old colliding with a sweet lady’s cart of vegetables. And we won’t even talk about how an entire department store was locked down when another two year old of mine hid under a rack of girl’s clothing.)
Selective memory is so comforting, but it always comes with a price… that inevitable fall before which pride goeth.
Almost as soon as that judgmental thought had crossed my mind, the friendly checker grabbed a container of Organic Lollipops and offered them to Whirlwind Boy and his sister.
The sheer panic in their mother’s voice stopped my self-righteous self in its tracks.
“NO! No, please, don’t give them sugar!”
So. Apparently this child’s behavior had nothing to do with the mother’s inattention to healthy diet. The fact that she was shopping at a store that carries healthier food than most should have clued me in. Apparently this mother knew all about the evils of sugar and red food dye and nitrates and all the other crazy-making ingredients being sold by Evil Big Business Food Companies.
Which left only one conclusion: this child was just like this. All. The. Time.
Within a split second, I went from judging the mother to my heart going out to her.
This child was not a monster. This child was a delightful, outgoing and very intelligent young man. He was the type of piano student I love to teach, even though he would most likely fall sideways off the piano bench or get his fingers stuck in the lid while sitting on it. The type of teen I love to have in my English classes, even though he would most likely stir up enough of a ruckus that building maintenance personnel would feel the need to remind me on a regular basis that There Is A Class Below Yours And You Are Shaking The Building.
The type that is often misunderstood by the system and those who cling to the status quo, who gets shackled with labels and drugged into submission but ends up growing into the kind of adult who can change the world for the better. The type whose mother should be awarded instant Saint status when the child comes of age, along with a life-time membership at a spa and a free yearly vacation in Hawaii.
This is what Ty Pennington looked like as a child.
And apparently, it was very, VERY bad to give this child sugar and his mother knew ALL about that.
Without hesitation the checker whisked the lollipops out of sight with one hand and offered a box of stickers with the others. Whirlwind Boy declined politely and commenced trying to hang upside down off the neighboring checkstand. Alan and I picked up our groceries and left the store, but not before I caught the mother’s eye and smiled at her. A little nod of solidarity. A little glance of, “Don’t worry, he’s awesome.”
And although she probably didn’t know it, a little moment of, “I am so sorry for judging you and I vow I will never, ever, ever do it again.”
Diary Entry from one week after Ryan came home from the hospital:
The crisis has passed, and we are now settling into our New Normal of Diabetes Regimen. Ryan is handling everything very well, Alan is back at work, and we have recommenced school. Everything is great. I have nothing to complain about.
I am noticing, however, how very irritating people can be. I can’t really explain this, but in the past few days, people have been so difficult to deal with.
Other people, you understand, not me.
It occurs to me that perhaps what is happening is that a combination of stress, sleep-deprivation and delayed-onset-motherly-freaking-out has begun to bring out in me my Inner Cranky Person. I usually keep her well at bay (unless I lose something, but that only happens once in a while, and is TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE).
<Glares left and right just in a case a family member appears to say otherwise>
This week, however, my ICP seems to be making her voice known. I worried about that for a few seconds, until I realized that I was too stressed, sleep-deprived and freaking out to really care, and reasoned that since I know many cranky people who live their daily lives requiring the world to walk on eggshells around them, it is actually possible to be cranky and not have the Entire World Blow Up. Which is what I think, in the back of my mind, I believed would happen if I were to ever be impolite. So apparently, and I don’t remember actually doing this, but the signs are there that I have, apparently I decided at some point that it’s my turn to be cranky.
So here’s how today went:
<Fill this part of the post with errands all over town compounded by drivers being affected by the full moon and the fact that I was running these errands for a family member who was getting ready for a long-awaited trip, on which I was now not able to accompany her, given our current status of Newbie Diabetes Family, but I’m Mom, so I couldn’t act jealous.>
Extrapolate mood after that, factoring in a math lesson, once I got home, that was pretty much like this video:
Also factor in the subsequent realization after this Math Lesson from Hades that I am going to have to enforce a gluten free diet with the child who struggled so much in the math lesson. She had been on one in the past, but we eased her off it. Let’s just say the symptoms have returned. Lack of focus is one of them.
Giving shots is easy compared to policing gluten-freedom. But I so NEED to have something else to do, so why not?
I finally tried to cook dinner, since my last two piano students mercifully stayed away for unknown reasons, (perhaps their guardian angels whispered warnings in their ears?) but we were out of hamburger buns, so I tried to call Alan to ask him to pick some up, but the son-of-a-goat-herder-phone-cord, which is long so that it can reach all over the kitchen, has reached that inextricably tangled state, and rather than calmly working on it while I talked to him, I just pulled as hard as I could on the ends in opposite directions and walked into the kitchen without really even looking to see if that worked, even though I knew darn well that brute force never works with the stupid cord when it is tangled.
And it hadn’t. So I knocked the whole phone on the floor, along with the stuff on the counter, which included my cell phone, which popped open, flinging its battery and cover all over the kitchen floor. Not to mention that the dang phone hung up at some point in all this violence, so I had to call Alan again, so at that point, the conversation went something like this:
Alan: Hello! How are you doing?
Me: Well the phone cord is tangled (still struggling with it) and it just won’t untangle (grunt) no matter what I do (grunt).
Inner Monologue: This stupid cord! Why won’t it untangle? I’ll just pull harder! That’ll show it!
Alan: Oh. (silence while he tries to figure out why I called him to tell him that)
Me: Anyway, what time are you (grunt) coming home?
Inner Monologue: It’s all Alan’s fault. It’s all his fault this thing is tangled like this.
Alan: Um… (silence while he tries to figure out why I am asking him this, since it’s the same every day)… I should be there by 5:30.
Me : (Looking at clock for first time) Oh. It’s only 4:30. (grunt) Oh, I didn’t know it was 4:30. Never mind. I can get the buns myself.
Inner Monologue: I’ll go to Target. Then I can buy buns AND a cordless phone. I’m going to buy some chocolate and junk food too and eat all of it with a glass of wine.
Alan: Okay. Um. What buns?
Me: (realizing I’m beginning to sound crazy) For dinner. Never mind. I can get them myself. I just didn’t know it was 4:30.
Me: My students canceled so…. anyway, I didn’t know it was 4:30. Um…I have to go, bye. (hangs up before she does any further damage)
So I went and bought the ding-dang buns. No junk food, though, because when I got to the store, it inexplicably turned out to be the grocery store instead of Target. And since I had foiled myself on my phone-replacement plan, I became sanctimonious and healthy and rejected all the rest of the promises I made myself over the cheese-whiffing phone cord and bought some nice vegetables instead of the junk food.
After dinner I could have kicked myself for not at least buying chocolate, however, and ate six somewhat stale cookies to make up for it.
And about halfway through the cookies I noticed that everyone had gone to the other end of the house, leaving me by myself, bringing me to the conclusion that embracing my Inner Cranky Person is all well and good, but there is actually a REASON that politeness is a better policy.
It has to do with not eating alone.
Arriving home from the hospital was everything it should have been. The dogs went wild. The house had been cleaned by a parade of friends and relatives. Dinner was delivered, piping hot, at dinner time by another friend, along with Welcome Home balloons for Ryan. I was feeling pretty optimistic about things.
And THEN I decided to treat Ryan to some ice cream. You see, I noticed that he was starting to feel deprived with all the carb counting. Reality set in that afternoon when he wanted a snack, which has to be under 10g of carbs, and the first thing he chose was a cookie… too high a carb count for even one cookie, and the second thing was a bowl of cereal, until I pointed out that in order to stay under 10g he would have to have just 1/4 cup of cereal. So I offered him carrot sticks, peanut butter and a slice of turkey, but that is NOT a typical happy 11 year old boy snack. At least, not this 11 year old, not yet. He ate it because he was hungry but then he was quite sad.
So I went to the store and bought some ice cream. 14g for 1/2 a cup (incidentally, the “low carb” ice-cream had exactly the same carb measurement as the regular vanilla. Whatever.). Then, when I gave him his bedtime dose, I added enough insulin to cover those 14g of ice cream and let him have a bowl. He was very happy and felt very normal. I was the hero.
Until Alan decided to review the numbers we are supposed to use in figuring the dosage, which change for the nighttime dose. He found a note on the page that said you are supposed to cut the dose in half if it’s bedtime and you are adding insulin to cover a snack. There are a lot of complicated math-type and detail-type reasons why this is totally not my fault, including the fact that although my oldest son claims he heard the trainer mention this particular detail a number of times, I never did. I heard related details, just not this particular one. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. At any rate, my bedtime dose was one unit high. My hero status began to teeter.
Well, okay, then, so just ONE unit, that shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. But we tested him again just in case (which means another poke in the finger). It was lower than usual, but still very normal. Actually, it would have been a good number except that I’d never seen it that low before. But still well within normal, so I sent him to bed and figured it was fine.
Then came the 2 am check.
We didn’t actually HAVE to do it, but the nurse had suggested we do it for at least a few days until we get good at this. So I volunteered to do it, because Alan hadn’t slept well ever since this all started, while I had been sleeping a good 8 hours every night, even at the hospital. (I chalk that up to my training in Youth With A Mission, where we often slept on a school bus driving through the night, two to a bench seat).
The short version of the story is that things didn’t go perfectly. To really communicate the angst of how badly it went, I think it best to share an excerpt from an email I sent around 3 a.m. to my friend Di in Washington, who works night shift. And let me just give this disclaimer: Yes, good Christian girls do swear sometimes.
…So I get up at 2 am. I almost go back to bed, because, you know, I checked his blood sugar at 11 and it was okay, but they said 2 a.m., so I make myself get up and go check it.
Now, this means I have to get out the meter, and a test strip, and the pokey thingy, all by the light of my cell phone because the flashlight was in Ryan’s room instead of where I would need it BEFORE I went in. So now I’m irritated. So I go in there, trying not to wake up Ian, grab the flashlight, sit down on the edge of the bed and try to simultaneously hold the flashlight while inserting a tiny little strip of plastic into a tiny flat little hole, all the while peering through two pairs of glasses because I don’t have my contacts in and need my reading glasses to read the meter, and my hair of course keeps falling across my eyes, obscuring my view. I get the damn strip in the damn machine, shove my bangs under the ear pieces of one of my pairs of glasses and grab Ryan’s hand to poke him. Can’t see well enough to figure out where to poke the damn pokey thingy, and end up picking a spot nigh unto impossible to get blood out of. Not to mention that after I’ve squeezed it a bunch of times I discover that was the same finger we poked at 11. Ryan’s too sleepy to be any help. So I get some blood on the strip, but it’s not enough so the machine reads “Error, use a new strip.”
The bottle of strips, of course, is out in the living room because I, in my infinite wisdom, only brought one into the room. So I get up, knock a couple of things over and careen out to the living room, grab another damn strip and put it in the damn machine. Then I squeeze the damn finger again and test it. It’s still not enough blood and I get the same error.
I still haven’t brought the damn strips into the damn room, so I go back out to the living room, grab another damn strip (still only one because at this point there’s no way I’m admitting this is not a good method) and shove it in the damn machine. Squeeze the finger again, still not enough blood but this time I get smart and don’t use it on the strip. Poke another finger and get blood everywhere, at which point I realize I forgot to bring a dainty little cotton ball to mop up with. Whatever, I just let him bleed and get the damn blood on the damn strip and the damn machine says his blood sugar is 68. Damn it, that’s too low. So that extra unit of insulin we gave him DID make a difference.
So I run out to the kitchen to get exactly 4 oz. of apple juice, because that’s what the book says to do and I was tested on that in the hospital so I know THAT number, anyway. I search for the tiny little juice glasses, because that’s what I always pictured using when we talked about this in training, but I can’t find any of them, and then it finally dawns on my befuddled brain that a coffee cup will do just fine if I measure the juice with a measuring cup first. I run back into the bedroom with the juice and command the boy to drink it all. This is more sugar at one go than he has had for days, and it’s his favorite apple juice, so he’s happy, but he actually starts to fall asleep before he has drunk it all. The nerve. I make him finish it, belatedly hand him some toilet paper for his bloody fingers, and tell him I’ll be back in 15 minutes to retest him.
Then, I have to amuse myself for 15 minutes at 2:15 a.m. I have finally found a valid use for the Words of Wonder game on Facebook.
Three games later, I go test him again. Which means poking him AGAIN. I pretty much hate myself at this point for inflicting so much pain on my child and hasn’t he gone through enough and why did I volunteer for the 2 am shift because I’m all alone here trying to juggle the flashlight and the meter and the damn strip and the pokey thingy and doing everything wrong. At least I got a good drop of blood on the first poke this time, measured it on the first strip just fine, and the reading was 115, which is normal. He rolled over and went back to sleep and I went out to the computer and played another game of Words of Wonder because so there I’m an adult and I can play it if I want to. And then I realized my adrenaline was crashing and I was shaky, so I poured myself a teacup full of apple juice and drank it. If there had been a bottle of wine open I would have had that, but there was no way I was messing with a corkscrew given my recent ineptitude with the pokey thingy.
And tomorrow I have to tell Alan all this. Except it will be, “Yeah, it was a little low so I gave him some juice and it came right up. No big deal.” I will have Ryan wash that hand before Alan sees it and all those nasty pokes will be our little secret.
At the time it was happening, I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to break down sobbing when this is over,” but I didn’t. I played Words of Wonder and wrote an email. Apparently this is how I deal. I’m wondering if the breaking down sobbing that everyone seems to expect from me over this entire situation is never going to come, because I’m just not. I’m just dealing. Things need to be done, and I am doing all the things.
And I am playing unnecessary games of Words of Wonder at 3 a.m.
On my way out the door to the Urgent Care that fateful Tuesday when Ryan was diagnosed, I posted a quick status on Facebook: “Taking the 11 year old to Urgent Care with chest pains. Probably dehydration – poor thing can’t keep anything down. Please pray.” At the ER I updated with another status, and kept posting as things developed.
And this is when I found out just how awesome my friends are. I knew I had awesome friends. I did. But I just didn’t realize HOW awesome they were until this crisis blind-sided us. My phone was buzzing with texts as word got around. Daughter Emily notified certain key people and it went from there. A prayer request went out on the church email loop. People started offering help on Facebook and via text and email.
We have been in crisis before, with my own mystery illness a couple of years ago, and the four times I was in the hospital for childbirth, and when my father passed away in 1998. So we had been on the receiving end of the dinner-deliveries that someone at church or our homeschooling academy would set up for us. But each time in the past, when people would say, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” I would intend to answer them but then just never figured out what the perfect job would be for them to fulfill, and then the crisis would pass, and then I would look back and go, “Huh. A lot of people offered a lot of help that I didn’t accept, which made that whole thing a heck of a lot harder than it needed to be.” So this time, I found myself accepting on the spot. I didn’t get back to them later. I simply said the first thing that popped into my head when they offered and didn’t allow myself to over-analyze.
“Can I make you dinner?” … “Yes, please. Someone has tonight covered. Can you do tomorrow?”
“I’ll come over and do laundry, dishes, whatever you need.”… “Okay, I’ll get Alan to hide a key somewhere for you. Friday okay? The hamper at the foot of my bed needs washing.”
This took some sucking up of pride. Especially knowing that a friend was going to be washing and folding my underwear and seeing what a disaster the house was. Considering that I left for the hospital at the end of a long day of sick-boy-in-the-house, I didn’t get much cleaning done that day. And accepting all the food… well, that was easier, but it still took an admittance that I really couldn’t do it all myself.
I think I learned my lesson the last time I needed help. I was sick for so long, I had to receive help. I couldn’t function without it. And I learned then what I discovered anew now… the sting of swallowing pride is nothing compared to the joy of letting people help you. By the time we got home from the hospital, I felt completely loved and supported by those around me. So maybe I couldn’t bring the awesome nurses home with me. But I had some awesome friends and family, who I could count on to pray, to cook, to clean, to help my other kids, and to just call or send me a line saying, “I’m thinking about you. You’re going to be okay.”
The thing is, I would have done any of those things for any one of my friends. No problem. Pick your kid up and take them to the park? Sure, I’ll do it. Come over and do your dishes? Where’s the key? Cook you dinner? I’m on it.
Show up at the hospital with things like Starbucks and interesting sick-bed-appropriate games and Lego kits, and spend an hour walking the hospital ground with you, telling you it’s okay that you are unraveling and snapping at your family members over silly things? Well, maybe I couldn’t do that before, but I can now. But more importantly, I know to do it because no fewer than five different friends, who have each walked down similar roads themselves, did that for me. It’s the camaraderie of those who have slept in those hospital-chair-bed-torture-device-things.
So why do I tell you this? To brag on my friends? Well, they are pretty awesome, I admit. I can’t take credit for that. But no, it’s not just to brag. It’s to point out two things that I learned through being on the receiving end of help.
1) When someone you know is in crisis, don’t be afraid to come forward and offer to help.
- Be a little pushy, even, so that they understand that you are not just saying platitudes, but that you really mean this. (Now please understand that when I say to be a little pushy, I mean a LITTLE pushy. It didn’t happen this time, but in the distant past, I can remember coming up against people who wanted to come in and take over our lives on their schedule. So be sensitive and save the Savior complex for another time.)
- Give specifics. “I can give your kids rides to classes and meetings – what’s your schedule?”; “I have 3 hours on Thursday – I’ll come clean your bathrooms.”
- And then (and this is really, really important), SHOW UP and do the thing you said you would do. Again, no one let us down this time, but I have seen it happen, and it makes it harder for the person in crisis to accept help when they are afraid it won’t come through.
2) If you are on the receiving end, for goodness sake, accept the help you are being offered.
- Don’t worry about the details. Just say “Yes thank you” and let your awesome friends figure out the details.
- Be honest about your needs. “No, I don’t need dinner, but can you do some grocery shopping?” Don’t be afraid to ask. They want to help – they just offered it.
- Remember that people might not deliver their help perfectly. We are still finding dishes and laundry “put away” in strange places. It’s actually kind of fun. Relax your personal rules a little and choose to be blessed instead of upset.
- Keep them updated – Facebook and Twitter and email are perfect for quick but easy updates. You don’t have to share everything, but let them know their prayers are working. No, really, you really do NOT have to share everything. Details about medications and bowel movements are not necessary. But an update once or twice a day is nice.
They say it is better to give than to receive, and sure, that’s true and all. But when you open up your life and let people in, your heart begins to grow.
So let people in. Let people know you are struggling. Let people pray for you and send good thoughts your way and light candles and whatever else they offer, however they want to express their solidarity, whether or not it lines up with your particular theology.
Receiving help has changed me. I received so much more than the help, which would have been enough in and of itself. I received love, which has swelled up in my heart to overflowing, and is causing me to look for ways I can pass it along. It’s more than a “pay it forward” kind of a thing — it’s a living, breathing, organic thing that thrives on connectedness, gratitude and self-sacrifice. It is, I believe, what God intended when He made us – pure love, expressed in a thousand little details, each one reflecting His image. He created us for relationship; when we erect walls to protect hearts that have been wounded in the past, we shut out the healing He means to bring through others.
Because while people can be pretty awful, and it is wise to remove one’s self from toxic situations, people can also be pretty awesome, if you let them.
Don’t get me wrong. Doctors can be pretty awesome too. But the nurses we encountered at Miller Children’s Hospital were amazing.
I know, I know, I sound like a PR campaign, but if anyone made the transition easier for us into this new lifestyle of Type 1 Diabetes, it was the nurses.
Up in the PICU, they kept telling us about the “awesome nurses down on the second floor,” who would be training us about diabetes. But the thing is, these PICU nurses loved their jobs so much, they just couldn’t help themselves. They went ahead and showed us the ropes. One nurse brought in a bunch of different syringes and, apologizing that it wasn’t really her job to do this, proceeded to explain how they all worked and what the measurements were and how to remove bubbles from them and how to dispose of them, just because she “loved this stuff.” It was her job, and she had a chance to talk shop with some willing listeners.
She went off duty and Nurse Brian came on. I remember his name because he was the nurse for the two boys in the room, both of whom were named Ryan. We had fun with that. And he not only showed Ryan how to lance his finger to get a drop of blood to test, but made him do the math to figure out what the dosage should be. And then, when Ryan got that math right, he gave him a hypothetical number and asked him to figure out the dosage if that were the blood sugar. Word problems from a nurse in the PICU. The homeschooler in me cheered. He even told him to show his work (while Mom did a fist pump behind Ryan’s back).
And then he handed me the needle and said, “Okay Mom, you do the shot.”
I have never shot anything before. Other than with a camera, I mean. But sticking a needle into someone’s skin, on purpose? Especially on my sick baby? My sick 11 year old “baby,” who is taller than me, granted, but still. I had no idea how to do it but there sat Nurse Brian and Ryan, looking at me expectantly, and I realized I had a choice. I could freak out, which would communicate to Ryan that this was scary and awful and wrong, or I could just suck it up and stick the needle into his arm and get on with it. Because this was not going to be the last shot I gave. So I did. Grabbed it like a dart and jammed it into his arm.
Well. Apparently I have watched too many episodes of Gray’s Anatomy. Nurse Brian winced and said, “Oh, um, you don’t need to drive it in. You just stick it in.” Ryan did a little more than wince. The shot I gave was a good intramuscular shot. We were aiming for subcutaneous.
Think fence-post-hole digger as opposed to a crouquet hoop.
Still, at least it could only get better after that first one. Although Ryan did wrap his arms around himself and declare, “You are never allowed to touch me anywhere ever again.” But I’m sure that was the blood sugar talking.
The next day, Ryan was moved into the care of the “awesome nurses on the 2nd floor.” And they lived up to their name, but they were quite surprised with how quickly we caught on to the diabetes stuff. I don’t remember if we let them in on the fact that the PICU nurses had already been over it with us. So they probably think we’re all just geniuses, and that’s okay with me.
The day after that, we had three nurses. Two were student nurses from California State University at Long Beach. It made me want to go back to school, just seeing how eager they were to help, to learn, to become medical professionals. By the day after that, Ryan was in such good shape, he was asked by another student nurse if he would be a test subject for a demonstration. The student needed to pass a hands-on exam to show that he knew the correct procedure for a head-to-toe physical assessment. Ryan agreed, and the student nurse came back a few minutes later with his instructor to do the test. However, he had been banking on just Ryan and Dad being there, not being privy to the fact that two sisters and a mother were on their way back from the cafeteria. So when he walked in the room he blanched visibly and said, “Oh, I didn’t know I would have an audience.” Poor guy was nervous enough, but we made it twice as hard.
He did well, despite the fact that he stumbled a little when rattling off the lymph nodes. I had no idea the human body had that many different lymphatic glands. Well, maybe it doesn’t; he was stuttering a little. At any rate, when it was over, the family gave him a round of applause and voted to pass him with flying colors. I don’t know if the instructor took that into consideration, but he came back later, beaming from ear to ear, to announce that he had passed and to thank us for allowing Ryan to be his victim… er… subject. He was a bright young man, and very personable. I’m sure he will go far. And the fact that he was able to display such grace under pressure as to pass that test under the watchful eye of no fewer than four family members may indicate that he has a promising future in ER nursing.
By the time we were sent home, I was genuinely sorry to say good-bye to the staff. They had been our guides on our first shaky steps down this journey, our support, our safety net, our teachers and our cheerleaders. And it hit me hard, as we left the hospital, just as it had 19 years before when we left the hospital with our first newborn child, that they weren’t coming with us. I had become quite adept at giving shots by then, and Alan had started out being adept, what with his classical guitar-playing, artist background, which had apparently developed far greater fine motor skills for him than my Keith-Greenesque piano-banging did for me. Even big sister Emily had given a few shots. And all that complicated dosage math? I could do it in my sleep. This year, my homeschooling/tutoring duties require that I teach 6th, 8th and 10th grade math, so I was up to speed on all the subtracting, dividing and ratio skills I needed. I worked long division faster than the nurses could input the numbers into their calculators.
But the question still loomed, What If Something Goes Wrong? As we walked to the car, I mentally reviewed the training notebook I clutched in my hands. We had numbers to call. We had a sheet that told us symptoms to watch for. We had two different blood glucose monitors and a whole box of insulin, not to mention some 8mm syringes. We even had a red case that carried an emergency super-glucose dose in case Ryan passed out from low blood sugar.
But most of all, we had the assurance of all the trainers and nurses that we really had learned what we needed to know, and that we would do fine. So just as I did when I gave that first shot, I chose to suck it up and get on with it.
Only this time, I was determined not to dig any fence post holes. Metaphorically speaking.
Our family has been taken down a new path recently. It started with our 11 year old, Ryan, feeling unwell for a week or two, which culminated in a day of throwing up. We just figured it was the flu, but by the end of the day, he was still throwing up and looked terrible, and had started having muscle cramps in his chest. It was the muscle across his rib cage, so I wasn’t concerned about his heart, but it was so obviously painful I thought perhaps it was a sign of severe dehydration and took him to Urgent Care. The receptionist and nurses there took one look at him and advised we just take him straight to ER and save ourselves the co-pay, since they were pretty sure the doctor would be sending him there anyway.
On the way to ER he was petulant about the sun in his eyes, the length of the trip, his need for a drink, over and over. My 11 year old had degenerated into a 4 year old. I knew something was up. So I prayed all the way there and kept a patient tone in my voice. At one point I felt reassured that he would be fine, but also felt that this was not a quick fix. We were headed for a journey, but one in which the Lord was going to use Ryan to bless others. And while it wasn’t going to be the road we would have chosen to walk down, it was going to be okay.
So when we got into the ER, said the magic words “chest pain” and got whisked immediately behind the doors, I should not have been surprised when the doctor came back within minutes of his initial introduction and blurted out, “Bad news. He has .” But I was. Diabetes? That doesn’t run in either side of the family. I just blinked at the doctor while he hovered above me, bouncing slightly on his toes. What then ran through my head was the thought that maybe this doctor was mildly Aspergers. He was not the best with his bedside manner. He seemed to be lacking social cues and had strange body language. But then, we’re all closer than most to the Aspie end of the spectrum in my family, so this didn’t bother me. To the contrary, it reassured me. It told me this guy was completely focused on his medicine and knew what he was talking about. Maybe that was a jump to a stereotyped conclusion, but it worked for me. I blinked again. Diabetes. Okay. So that’s what we’re doing now. I had a vague idea that this would involve shots. We’re not medical in our family. We don’t do shots.
Well, okay, I thought, I guess we do now.
And the next thought was “But we’re not giving in to it. We’re not taking on the cloud of dire, life-threatening illness and wearing it like a shroud. We will walk down this path, but God is still God, which means He is the Great Physician, and His power is greater than any disease. And He can call this game any time He chooses.”
I know this for a fact, not just as a matter of faith. Four years ago, He healed me of an autoimmune disease I had had for 25 years. Almost two years ago, He healed me of a mysterious ailment that the doctors never did figure out. But those are stories for another post.
Within hours we were in an ambulance, being transferred to Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. I had a nice conversation all the way there with the ambulance driver, about kids, game-changing moments, what kinds of messed-up things you see when you work in the medical field and how well you can get inured to it over time, Haiti, voodoo, the spirit realm and how we don’t need to be afraid of demons as long as the Spirit of God dwells within us. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his normal chit-chat with a mother who has just been handed a diagnosis for her son. Then again, everyone deals in different ways, so perhaps it was.
Ryan was sitting fairly happily on the gurney in the back, being fed IV fluids, which helped a lot, although it didn’t do anything for that diabetic dry-mouth that comes with a blood sugar of over 400 and ketones off the chart. The nurses in the back kept him happy by showing him Madagascar on the DVD player. This was my first clue that Miller Children’s excels in meeting the needs of children. I was so grateful. Except for the part where the song, “I Like To Move It, Move It” got stuck in my head. It was nearing midnight at this point and I had been up since 3:30 a.m., so I was exceptionally open to ear-worms.
Into the PICU at Miller we went, met more incredibly awesome nurses and a couple of doctors, and I was introduced to the chairs-that-fold-out-into-beds-for-Mom-to-sleep-on. My friend Cynde, whose daughter Yverline has multiple medical issues and has logged a lot of time in children’s hospitals, has many colorful adjectives to describe these beds. The most repeatable one is “medieval torture device.” At any rate, I was exhausted and once the nurse had pulled the confangled thing out into its proper bedishness, I fell asleep right away, dreaming of lemurs. My husband Alan had to hold it together a little longer than I did and navigate the freeways home. Turns out I actually got a better night’s sleep than he did.
And so began our crash course in Diabetes. After four days in the hospital and a number of intensive training sessions by nutritionists, diabetes experts, nurses and physical therapists, we knew all about carb-counting, insulin shots, blood sugar levels, ketones and which of the puddings in the cafeteria fridge to avoid at all costs (the banana. Step away from the banana pudding with its luscious-looking whipped cream, cute little rolled cookie and promising cherry on top. It lies). Alan became an expert in syringe sizes, and when we were sent home with bigger syringes than the ones we had used in the PICU, he spent a good two days on a crusade, making calls and demanding smaller needles. Apparently 2mm can make a huge difference to the pain level of a subcutaneous shot, and he didn’t rest until he had a box of 6mm needles in his hand.
Thus the new normal came to the Schmidt household. A normal that involves planning ahead everything that goes into Ryan’s mouth, perfecting the Elevator Pitch explanation of Type 1 Diabetes, packing syringes and blood glucose meters and insulin bottles and alcohol wipes and snacks in case the levels fall too low every time we leave the house. A new appreciation has arisen in my heart for the fact that we homeschool — as scary as the first few weeks have been, I am thankful that is hasn’t also included having to deal emotionally with handing the daily care of my Diabetic Newbie over to a school nurse that may not even be on campus full-time as he or she tries to cover multiple campuses. Ryan is coping well, bouncing back with the resiliency of youth. And while I am aware that his emotional reaction may be delayed until he is older and fully understands what this means, we will continue to treat this as what it is: the new NORMAL. Okay, we give shots now. Life goes on. You are still an awesome 11 year old. You still have a role in the Christmas musical at church. And you still have math to do.
Speaking of which, the day that I reminded him to do the dishes and he threw himself backwards on the couch, moaning, “Oh! Diabetes! Oh, my pancreas!”, I knew we were going to be okay.