Sunday, January 30, 2011

Diabetes + School = A Pickle

OH MY GOSH!  How do you parents of school-aged kids with diabetes do it?!

Honestly, I’m in a bit of a pickle.

Okay.  It’s not entirely a pickle, per se.  I’m pretty sure I know what I need to do here.  Let me lay it down for you:

So, Jenna started junior kindergarten last week.  Now, keep in mind that Jenna has just undergone a major life shake-up, having just moved.  You may also want to factor in the fact that Jenna has been by my side almost constantly since she was born.  Her diagnosis was at 2 years of age -  I didn’t go back to work after I had her, and her diabetes has made it difficult to be away from her for any longer than 2-3 hours at any one time.  I have had no weekends away - no days at work... nothing.  So Jenna is accustomed to me being there.

Now, developmentally speaking, I know that she is at an age where she can handle school.  She is very ready for the classroom environment and to start the formal, structured learning process.  Developmentally speaking!

Emotionally, however?  All things considered?  Not so much.

She cried.  A LOT.  She did not want me to leave her.  We tried, my husband and I.  And it would be one thing if we could just go and not return until the end of the day.  But, since the school hasn’t had a chance to arrange special needs care -- heck, they don’t even have a diabetes protocol prepared yet!  And since it isn’t clear which province will be footing the bill for said special needs care due to our recent move from the west coast, I must be available twice in the day to check Jenna’s blood sugar and administer her insulin while the school gets its ducks in order.  Furthermore, since no one in the school has any solid knowledge about type 1 diabetes, I am incredibly uncomfortable leaving her for any length of time anyway!  It’s all those what ifs we know all too well. What if she goes low?  What if she goes high?  What if she goes so low she requires glucagon?

Anyway, I’ve been somewhat consumed by this over the weekend.  Should I persist and bring her again tomorrow?  Should I insist on staying with her in the classroom until she is comfortable?

Or maybe I should just let it go for now -- maybe even skip the junior K experience altogether and wait until next September to start senior K.  By then we will have moved into our permanent home and we will be more settled - more stable.  Jenna will have had a chance to get her bearings - maybe even develop a strong desire to start school.

I should tell you that Jenna is strongly in favour of that last option.  And I want to take her feelings into account here.  She may only be 4 and 3/4 years old, but she has been through a lot.  She knows what she needs in some respects.  And right now, I believe her when she says she isn’t ready.  I trust her when she tells me “I just want to wait until I’m a little older, Mommy.”

Furthermore, the school isn’t ready for Jenna’s diabetes.  They are clearly daunted by idea of a type 1 diabetic, junior kindergartener right now. They are intimidated by it.  (To give credit where credit is due, they have asked a lot of the right questions and have attempted to see to our needs - this, in spite of having to talk myself down when they recommended I conduct her blood sugar checks and insulin bolusing in a “handicapped bathroom” located at the end of a long hallway, a considerable distance from the kindergarten classroom -  a suggestion that smacked of discrimination and an attempt to hide the perceived blood and gore away from all those “fragile little kindergarten minds."  But that is another post I will write very soon.)

And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to entrust her diabetes care to a stranger.  I’m feeling hyper-protective of Jenna right now in light of all the changes she has endured.  And I’m not sure I’m up for the task of educating those requiring education and dispelling the myths and prejudices to make this school diabetes-friendly.  Not just yet.  I have a lot on my plate right now and the task of educating and preparing the school is one that requires my full attention and a great deal of preparation.  If I wait, I will have the next seven months to do just that.  And that might just make a huge difference in how both Jenna and I feel about her starting her scholastic journey.

If anyone has any advice, resources or ideas regarding how to make this school a safe place for Jenna, I’d been keen on hearing from you.  I’ve been told by the office staff that Jenna will be the first child with type 1 diabetes they have had in attendance, as hard as that is to believe.  I think I have my work cut out for me.


Jenna has been attending her junior kindergarten class with me present.   Initially, I decided to wait until next September to start her in senior kindergarten.  But after talking to the principal about this and being assured that Jenna’s school day duration could be shortened to accommodate her anxiety, and after being told I could remain in the class as long as I like,  I decided to persist.  Jenna has gradually increased her stay each day and now remains until the end of the school day.  I have been gradually decreasing the amount of time I am present in the classroom in an attempt to get her accustomed to being on her own.  She is doing incredibly well - even telling me “I’m fine, Mom.  You can go now.”

However, I am only absent for about an hour and a half at a time right now, provided her numbers are in a good range and she has eaten well prior to my departure.  There is still no funding for additional assistance from a nurse to do blood sugar checks and administer insulin for snacks and there has been no education aide assigned to Jenna specifically to watch for signs of trouble.  Furthermore, I have yet to do any diabetes teaching with the staff so I am not comfortable leaving Jenna for a prolonged length of time.  Next week I have made arrangements to conduct teaching with several staff members.  I will also be supplying an emergency kit to the classroom to perform checks and treat any lows.  This should help with my peace of mind a little.

I would like to thank all you amazing, clever Moms who gave me such awesome advice and tips and pointed me in right direction for resources and support.  I am so grateful to you all.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We Made It!

I’m a little late posting this but we arrived at our destination in southern Ontario late Friday evening and have been basking in small town charm and the loving warmth of family ever since.

Our trek across Canada was not without it’s trials but we played it safe, travelling during good weather and staying put when the weather got nasty.  Which was often.

Frosty prairie morning

A word about the prairies: COLD.

How cold?  I’m talking scary cold; the kind of cold that makes you thankful for shelter.  And central heating.  And cars that start, regardless of hell freezing over!

But along with the breathtaking temperatures came the equally breathtaking sunrises.  The sun coming up over a distant, flat horizon on a crazy-crisp morn is an incredibly beautiful sight to behold.  It almost made the early morning wake-up calls and the frozen-together eyelashes and nose hairs worth it.....almost.
A prairie sunrise

The girls were incredible on the road!  I had purchased a few road-friendly activities at a craft store and kept them hidden away until I was desperate for a diversion - something to keep them occupied and help pass the time.  My scheme worked surprisingly well.  But with that many hours of driving, even the most engaging activity couldn’t guarantee a trip completely free from the occasional bout of restlessness and boredom.  The girls had their moments, especially during the final leg of the journey.  But overall, they did far better than could be expected.

How did the D behave?  Not too shabby!  Jenna’s numbers stayed in or near target for the most part, with the help of raised basals.  There was one day I forgot to raise her basals and, as you might imagine, with sitting all day in a vehicle, her blood sugars crept up into the mid teens.  It served as a reminder of how important activity is to good diabetes management.  The guilt I felt also served as a healthy motivator to remember to raise her basals.

Beautiful sunrise in northern Ontario

So yeah.  We made it.  And now begins the process of starting life anew - registering the kids for school, setting up a case conference to address Jenna’s needs at school, finding G.P.’s and endocrinologists, signing up for provincial health is busier than ever.

But life is good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Behemoth Icicles, Big-Horned Sheep and Behaving Blood Sugars.

We are stuck.  Again.

It appears Mother Nature is determined to ensure that we stop and smell the...snow drifts?  Our progress is not what we had hoped, even though we knew that travelling in Canada in January by road could mean unexpected weather and unplanned, extended delays along the way.  This isn’t all that surprising.  Disappointing?  Sure.  But not surprising.

We’ve been stuck in snowy, blowy, bitterly cold Calgary since Saturday afternoon, waiting for a nasty blizzard to bug out.  The drive through the mountains was incredible.  But once we got out of the mountains and things started to flatten out, the wind and snow made driving pretty dicey.  We were hoping to make it to Medicine Hat.  It wasn’t in the cards.  

But what amazing things we have seen - like the herd of big horned sheep climbing the mountain on our way out of Golden early Saturday morning.

And the monster icicles, the length of which I would only be guessing.  But given their size in relation to the trees around them, I’d say they rival many high-rise buildings.

And the avalanche that occurred as we were driving by, not long after we entered Yoho National Park.  It was as if it had been timed just for us - for our own personal awe and amazement.

And the thick, blue, shell-like glacial ice blanketing the rock on the side of the mountain.

And of course, the majestic, awe-inspiring mountains themselves that will forever hold me in their spell.  

Canada is a country of wild and dangerous beauty.  I’m proud to call it home.

As for diabetes, I am almost afraid to comment.  I don’t want to jinx what has been a fabulous run of amazing numbers.  But there you go;  I’ve gone and said it.  I hope this doesn’t mess with our good glycemic fortune.  

Snacks while driving have consisted of baked potato chips, 100% pure fruit juice, water, beef jerky, pumpkin seeds, apples, salami slices, popcorn and during one weak moment in Revelstoke, when J and I were in dire need of a good cup of coffee - a small box of ten assorted Timbits at Tim Hortons.  

We have made two visits to the hotel pool and have roamed around a fantastic mall outside of Calgary for hours to satisfy our physical activity needs.  This mall had one of those interactive floors that the girls had a blast jumping around on.  

We were hoping to be on our way tomorrow, but highway closings east of us may delay our progress for yet another day.  We will make the best of it, though.  Calgarians are pretty friendly, hospitable people.  To be stranded in this city another day would hardly be considered a hardship.  

Fairer weather is forecast for Tuesday.  We’ll be on our way before we know it.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet in my cozy room (all are asleep, except for me) and drink my outrageously priced, hotel room-service pot of tea.  I haven’t had a decent cup since somewhere between Kamloops and Revelstoke.  I’m desperate.  I’ll be sure to savour every precious drop.

One last thing, I want to thank those of you who made snack suggestions and everyone who has written supportive and encouraging comments.  It has been incredibly helpful and means a lot to me.  Talk soon!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Journey Interrupted

There was a time, not long ago, when an adventure involving the open road, a cooler stocked with snacks and no set itinerary would have thrilled me to bits.  But when you factor in two kids, winter driving conditions and diabetes?  Well, lets just say my adventurous side is being trumped by my practical, protective, momma bear side.

And when the highway this momma bear is travelling on with her precious little bear cubs starts to look like this...

...momma bear starts to want to crawl into a cave and not emerge until spring.  Preferably a cave with cable TV, a couple of comfy beds and a hot shower.

So far this trip has been about what we expected, which is to say unpredictable winter weather, kids that get road-weary long before the adults and the hard lesson learned that when a pit stop is made, everyone - whether you feel the urge or not - must go.

OH!  And the cost of gas is atrocious!

But what I am most disappointed in at the moment is the Frio pack we purchased for the trip.  We can’t rely on a cooler to keep Jenna’s insulin cool and yet avoid it freezing in sub zero temperatures (the joys of winter travel).  So, we purchase a Frio pack to try to keep two vials of Novorapid cool enough to preserve it during our journey.  But I’m not so sure it is doing an adequate job of maintaining the proper temperature.  The vials don’t feel much cooler than room temperature.  And I’m quite certain I’m using it correctly:  Soak inner pack for 10 minutes, pat dry with towel, place in outer fabric bag, keep hydrated.  It’s not rocket science.  And I’ve been careful not to hide it away - keeping it where the air circulates around it.  It is, after all, the evaporation process that is supposed to act as a cooling mechanism.  But I don’t think the cooling is sufficient.  Anyone else had any experience with this product?  What was your take on it?

Oh well.  Our main concern at the moment is the weather.  We have had to take a slightly extended break from our progress due to a winter storm warning that we prefer not to mess with.  The picture above is nothing compared to what could lie ahead.  We are erring on the side of caution and hunkering down until the storm passes.  Thank goodness for kind-hearted, generous family members who have offered us shelter for as long as we need it.

And thank goodness for 4-wheel drive.