Sunday, November 28, 2010

Special Sibs of D-Kids Day!

This post was going to be about my amazing seven year old daughter, Jazmine and how supportive she is of Jenna, her little sister with type 1 diabetes.  I was going to recount how she spotted the signs of hypoglycemia in Jenna and took it upon herself to check her blood sugar - not once but twice!  I was going to say how caring and sympathetic she is when Jenna is not feeling well.

But then during an exchange with a friend on Twitter I was reminded of an incredibly important aspect of being the sibling of a child with diabetes: they are just as much in need of support and understanding as their brothers and sisters with diabetes, particularly in the weeks and months following diagnosis.

Jazmine was only four when Jenna was diagnosed at the age of two.  That’s the same age as Jenna is now.  When Jenna came home after a four day stay in hospital Jazmine witnessed her sister having to endure finger sticks 6 to 8 times a day and insulin injections 3 to 4 times a day.   Not surprisingly, Jenna was fearful of each needle stick and would cry.  While I concentrated on helping Jenna endure these relentless physical trials, Jazmine was going through an emotional trial of her own.  It was frightening for her too.

Numerous times Jazmine would run into her room crying, unable to cope with her sister’s distress. I recall feeling so torn at times.  Jazmine would often have to go without my hugs and words of comfort for longer than I would have liked while I assisted Jenna.

On one occasion, when I was finally able to attend to Jazmine’s needs I explained to her that Jenna needed us to be brave to help her find her bravery.  I told Jazmine that she could help Jenna cope by offering her encouragement.  Jazmine needed to be involved.  She needed to be a part of it all in some capacity.  And really, Jenna needed her to be a part of it too.  I told Jazmine that she could be so helpful if she could find a way to cheer Jenna on.

And that’s just what my then four year old little girl did.  From that day on, Jazmine conquered her own fears and found her bravery to help her little sister find hers.  Jazmine found it in herself to stay by Jenna’s side when Jenna became fearful.  She offered comfort and reassurance and was always ready with praise when Jenna endured a frightening procedure.  Such a selfless act by a child so young is truly incredible.

My point is that it is too easy to overlook the needs of our non-diabetic children.  We get immersed in the daily management of diabetes, especially in the weeks after diagnosis.  We can forget that they too are scared and need support, education, involvement, encouragement, comfort...

It’s been said many times before but it’s worth repeating here: Diabetes affects the whole family, not just the pancreatically challenged.  Often the siblings are young children who need to be shown how they fit in to this whole diabetes business.  If we can include them, everyone benefits.

So in honour of Jazmine, we are going to do something we rarely do but always enjoy when we do it; we are going to the movies.  We are going to buy massive quantities of overpriced popcorn and watch the 3-D version of that new Disney animated movie - Tangled.

When I told Jazmine our plans for the day her eyes lit up and her jaw dropped!  She couldn’t wait to go tell her sister - her best friend.   I can’t think of a better way to celebrate and honour Jazmine than doing something fun together, as a family.

After all, that’s what it’s all about - Family.  And nothing is more important than that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Celebrating Our Special Sibs of D-Kids

Once again my beautiful seven year old daughter recognized Jenna’s symptoms of a low blood sugar, took the initiative to perform the check, then upon confirming her suspicion quickly reported her findings to me.

Those who follow me here or on Facebook will recall a time earlier this year when this very scenario played out once before.  I was so proud that I quickly shared the story online.  Jazmine was proud too, and rightfully so.  She was a hero that day and repeated that heroic act again yesterday.

And this isn’t the only heroic act worth celebrating, although it may be the most obvious one.  There are countless other times that I’ve become aware of Jazmine’s quiet patience and understanding when Jenna has, out of necessity, been in the spotlight for a prolonged period of time, perhaps due to persistent blood sugar problems.  Or maybe she’s been taking the brunt of Jenna’s hyperglycemia-induced foul mood and has had to show maturity and understanding in dealing with that.  In fact, Jazmine is a hero everyday just by being a loving, protective, big sister to Jenna.

So I got to thinking - shouldn’t there be a day when we, as a diabetes community collective, recognize and celebrate their awesomeness in its many various forms?  We all know that, out of necessity, our children with diabetes often require more attention to manage this disease.  But our non-diabetic kids are often expected to go above and beyond and because they are such great kids, that’s just what they do.

So another awesome D-Mom, Alexis from Justice’s Misbehaving Pancreas, and I got talking and we both agreed that our non-D kids deserve a day of recognition.  It could be celebrated in as many ways as there are D-families to celebrate it.  Maybe you make a favourite meal or dessert.  Perhaps it can be one big family fun day!

Or it might be as simple as telling your non-D kid, either with the spoken or written word, just how incredible you think he or she is.  Because, really, can you ever say stuff like that too much?  I don’t think so either.

So the date we decided on is November 28th.  However you decide to mark the occasion, we’d like to hear about it.  Perhaps you can share your ideas here or on Alexis’ blog in the comment section of our posts.  Or if you have a blog, grab the button and blog about your Special Sib of a D-Kid!

Let’s show our non-D kiddos that we know how awesome they are and we love them for it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A World Diabetes Day Toast

It’s still dark out.

The furnace is droning on, working to take off the night’s chill.  Oatmeal bubbles and snaps as it simmers on the stove.  My oldest daughter is lounging in her bathrobe on a chair in the living room watching cartoons.  Jenna is still in bed, sleeping soundly.

I’m here tapping away on the keys of my laptop, being tantalized by the smell of coffee brewing, thinking about the bolus I gave Jenna almost two hours ago to correct the high blood sugar she was knee-deep in at 5am.  I wonder if she is going to wake up for breakfast before her blood sugar drops too low.  But I’m confident her blood sugar will indeed come down, thanks to that precious liquid - insulin.

And on this World Diabetes Day, I’m filled with heart-warming, tear-summoning gratitude for it’s discovery.  Without the tireless efforts of Dr.’s Banting and Best my little girl wouldn’t be here today along with countless other children -  children who were given the gift of life and allowed to grow up instead of becoming another tragic, heart-breaking statistic.

So, on this day I would like to raise a glass (or at this hour, a mug) to the good doctors, Banting and Best, and to all the scientists working to find a cure for the disease that was a death sentence before their discovery of insulin.

Happy World Diabetes Day.  May we one day soon be celebrating a cure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Six Things I Want To Get Off My Chest

Today is D-Blog Day so I’m going to share my 6 things I want people to know about diabetes.

  1. Neither I nor my daughter did anything to cause her to develop type 1 diabetes.  It didn’t occur because she ate too much candy or was overweight.  It wasn’t  because I over-indulged during my pregnancy.  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder caused by the immune system mistaking a person’s insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas for a foreign invader.  The immune system destroys the beta cells leaving a person without the ability to produce insulin.
  2. Without working beta cells a person either needs to inject insulin several times a day or infuse insulin via an insulin pump.  Without insulin a person will die a slow and miserable death.  Before Banting and Best made their miraculous discovery that is precisely what happened to people.  Their misery is documented in pictures.  I’ve seen the pictures.  It is most horrifying and deeply disturbing.
  3. People with diabetes constantly need to monitor their blood sugar and count carbs.  They must always be conscious of their activity and hormone levels and their overall physical condition to dose accordingly with insulin.
  4. Humans are poor substitutes for working beta cells and are constantly at risk of either overdosing or under dosing on insulin.  The immediate consequences can range from feeling unwell to seizures, unconsciousness, coma or death.  The long term consequences are kidney, heart and peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy and loss of vision to name just a few.
  5. My daughter Jenna is a remarkable little girl with a zest for life and a sense of humour beyond her years.  She deserves to live a long, full life filled with love and understanding.  I want Jenna to live in a world full of compassionate, educated people who won’t judge her out of ignorance.  In fact, I want that for both my girls regarding life in general.  Understanding and compassion come from being educated.  If you don’t understand something about diabetes or have questions I will gladly educate you.  Just ask.
  6. I too am guilty of being uninformed in the past regarding diabetes, even though I have a medical background.  I cringe every time I recall conducting physical assessments on diabetic patients and asking them if they were “well controlled”.  I’m surprised no one told me to go fly a kite, quite honestly.  Control of diabetes is fleeting and can change from moment to moment.  It is a constant battle with far too many variables to be a walk in the park.  It never ends.  If there is one thing I would tell health care professionals it’s to not judge a diabetic.  Don’t think that because you are a medical doctor or a nurse that you know all there is to know about this disease.  Odds are you don’t. This disease is harder than it looks to manage.  And even when you seem to be doing everything right it can still mess with you on so many levels.  And for goodness sake, don’t ask a type 1 diabetic if they are “well controlled”.  It’s just about the most ridiculous thing you could ask.