Monthly Archives: October 2013

Diagnosis: Diabetes. The Home Team

Home Delivery

Home Delivery (Photo credit: Mr. Ducke)

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?”


Laundry (Photo credit: KellyK)

“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.

Categories: Diabetes, Faith, Family, Homeschooling, Relationships | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Diagnosis: Diabetes. Nurses – My New Favorite People.

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.

Nurse BrianShe 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.

Diggin' Myself a Hole

The Fence Post Hole Digger

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.


The Croquet Hoop

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.

Categories: Diabetes, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Diagnosis: Diabetes. The First Week

ambulance transport

Somewhere underneath all that equipment is an 11 year old boy being loaded into
The Cadillac Of All Ambulances

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 Type 1 Diabetes.”  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.

diabetes memeThus 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.

Categories: Diabetes, Faith, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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