Diagnosis: Diabetes. The First Night Home

Welcome Home

Welcome Home (Photo credit: Matthew McVickar)

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.

White Board | 219/365

What the dosage equation looked like to me at the time.
White Board | 219/365 (Photo credit: mfhiatt)

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.”

Blood glucose meter and testing strips

Blood glucose meter and testing strips. Yep, I used about that many. (Photo credit: DeathByBokeh)

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.


Categories: Diabetes, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Diagnosis: Diabetes. The First Night Home

  1. Ruby Moore

    Aw Julia, wish I could give you a real hug instead of words via cyberspace. Worse than when he was an infant and you had to get up for 2am feedings and a diaper change. 😦 Lord I pray your peace, wisdom, guidance, and a multitude of blessings in and through all of this new venture for the whole family. Amen

    • Thanks, Ruby!

      The good news is that this is the worst that happened. It’s been smooth sailing since that first night… more or less.. 😀

  2. Lisa Garcia

    Wow. I’m learning so much about diabetes. You’re still a hero in my book. I think hero is synonymous with mom across the board in situations like this. I personally would have been a disaster.

    • Thanks Lisa. But you know, you’re a Mom…. you probably would have surprised yourself with how well you can deal, as much as I did!

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