A New Year, A Lifetime of Change

January 1, 2011 was the beginning of a New Year.  I did not realize that my ‘year’ would last three.

Today is January 1, 2014.  It is traditionally the beginning of a New Year.

Thoughts, discussions, intentions and commitments for change shared. Summaries spoken and written of the year gone by.  Sentiments of regret and thankfulness for the past year or for the start of a new one expressed.

The thought of taking one year out of my life, summarizing it as a huge event and determining what the sentiments of regrets and/or what I am thankful for seems like such a small measurement of time in the 44 years I have been on this earth.  My ‘year’ is defined as a stage as opposed to a calendar year.

My last ‘year’ began in 2011.  Many events and themes which I did not want and which I thought would never happen occurred.  These events and themes have been on the front lines of my life since 2011.

My Mom and Dad gave me this coffee cup for Christmas.  When I opened it I fell in love.  It will be my ‘go to’ cup for my new ‘year’ because since I was a little girl it is who I am.

In my ‘year’ I have experienced death of a marriage, loss of a six figure income job, multiple, costly court hearings, moving 3 times, unemployed with no income for 2 years, major illness, major surgery, a sick parent, new love, the purchase of 3 houses, selling 2 houses, new job, managing a rental property, becoming engaged, living with my fiancé, moving my daughter twice back and forth to Toronto, my daughter living out of province in a remote area that provided little communication for 8 months, my son’s up’s and down’s as 20 year olds do, ‘adopting’ another son, on-line harassment for the past 2 years by my fiancé’s ex, commuting 2 hours a day, acquiring a puppy and a 4-year-old kennel dog and finally, living with Type 1 diabetes for 38 years and being a Mom of a young adult living with Type 1 diabetes.

In my ‘year’ I cried, I cursed, I have been so angry and so sad that I said things to people I didn’t mean and regret.  I made decisions that I regret.  I beat myself up daily and wish I could say and do differently in certain situations.

Why do I write this and open myself to you?  I do believe that I need to share my experiences to help others.  I have decided this is the end of this ‘year’ of events.  I want to move on.  It’s time for a new stage in my life.

Even though I feel it is time to start a new year and celebrate this, based on the events and experiences of the past 3 years I have learned some very important lessons.

1.  Change is inevitable.  Despite posts and quotes online about the fact one CAN control their life and think themselves into the perfect life, I don’t.  I can plan all I want but my plans are not God’s.  That is different then having a cup half full attitude.

2.  Acceptance creates change.  Acceptance of what I can’t control allows for freedom to focus on what’s important and what I can change.

3.  Let go, selectively.  In my life, I have experienced 3 lives.  My childhood, my first marriage with my children as a family and my current life with my fiancé Steve and blended family.  Advice is abounding, telling us that if one doesn’t let go of the past and move forward then one will never grow.  I refuse to ‘forget’ my past and ‘move forward’.  If I did that I would be letting go of the experiences my children and I have had that are important to us, good and bad.  My past has made me and my children who we are today.  When I dwell on a moment and it creates an emotion, I have learned that it is time to decide why I am dwelling on it.  What is the lesson?  How can I use that moment for my present life?  I believe past and present are a marriage which promotes personal growth.

4.  Always know there is a Plan B.  I am a dreamer.  Dreams come true.  Dreams stay dreams.  When the dreams don’t come true, know there is another way or leave it as a dream.  Not all dreams come true.

5.  It is okay not to be spontaneous.  Spontaneity is fun and I will always be a spontaneous person.  BUT, I have learned that when I really think I have a brilliant idea I want to carry out NOW, it’s time to step back and give it 48 hours.  I have a team of people I trust that I consult with.  I get their thoughts which gives me a different perspective which allows me to make the right choice.

6.  Be thankful everyday.  After I think of all the people and ‘things’ in my life, I imagine all of those that are less fortunate than me.  Those that are lonely, abused, destitute, unloved, sick, dying and sad. I have met those living in such circumstances and they are thankful for what they have.  They have a ‘cup half full’ attitude.  I ask myself, what reason do I have to think my life is anything less than abundantly blessed?  What reason do I have to express less than a ‘cup half full’ attitude?

7.  Act on it.  What I have learned in my past ‘year’ is by delaying action on deadlines not only causes inconveniences for others but consequences for many levels of mine and my loved ones life.  I have learned in this ‘year’ that the stress I have caused over the years by choosing to delay the demands of life has been far more painful than acting on it right away.

8.  Move.  From 1992 to 2011 I have taken very good care of my body by moving.  Through various sports and activities I kept myself well and in good shape.  In this ‘year’ I have put that on hold.  I conjured up many excuses as to why it was okay not to keep the commitments I made to my body.  I am only blessed with one body.  I may think it feels good to sit around and relax after all of the stress is laid before me instead of moving but after a few years my body has sent me a very different message.  I am re-learning that if I move my face glows, I sleep better, my muscles ache from stressing them from movement, they become stronger, my thoughts flow easier, my mood is brighter, my motivations increases.

9.  Try to keep it simple.  Living in this day in age is so complex. I’m learning in this ‘year’ it’s okay to let go of what isn’t important.  It’s okay to do nothing.  It’s okay to not always be thinking about something.  It’s okay to turn off the radio in the car and have it silent.  It’s okay not to worry.

10.  Love.  Don’t let past experiences stop you from falling (in love) again.  It feels so good AND yes it hurts sometimes.  And some loves that are no longer will cause sadness to the end of time OR until you cross paths again.  Don’t hold grudges over past loves unless you are committed to change it, they don’t know you are.  It only takes up space in your mind and robs your energy.

11.  Own a hairy or furry pet that is not nocturnal.  I have always had dogs and cats in my life.  In February 2011 I had to leave my dog behind but took mine and my children’s 3 cats.  I thought that would be enough.  It was not the case.  In October 2012 we brought 8 week old Samson into our lives.  In May 2013 4 1/2 year old Belle became the newest addition to our Samoyed husky family.  With 4 cats & 2 dogs our home can be a hairy circus but the personalities and activities that entertain us every day keeps us laughing and counters the work involved.  I can feel the stress leave my body as I see their excited faces looking for me as I ascend the steps to enter through the door returning home.  As I walk into the house and see their ‘smiles’ I feel an overflow of joy swell up within me by their unconditional greetings.  As I pet or hug one of our pups any stress I have experienced melts.

This is my ‘year’ in summary.  These are the lessons I have learned.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.  I open my arms to the events that will unfold and the lessons that will be re-enforced as well as the new ones I will learn.

Happy New Year and Cheers to you and yours, Tracy

An Unexpected Anniversary

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An Unexpected Anniversary

October 30, 2000 I am in the kitchen baking up Halloween treats for the kids Halloween parties at school. I loved these moments. The excitement, the energy, the creativity. Halloween was so much fun.

But…that day transitioned into a life I never thought I would ever entertain on October 31, 2000. That was the day I learned I would become the parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes.

On the morning of October 31st I got the kids ready for school. I packed the plastic containers with Halloween baked goods & saw them on the bus.

That afternoon as the kids unloaded off the bus & I walked them in the door asking how their day went & how their Halloween parties went, Kurtis say’s the words a parent does not want to hear.

“I didn’t eat any treats today because I felt sick to my tummy & drank & peed all day.”

I felt the energy drain out of my body. I didn’t even have to test him. I knew.

I asked Kurtis if Mommy could poke his finger like Mommy does to test her sugar. He flat out refused. I was on my own so did not have the help of another adult to convince him otherwise. Luckily I happen to still have Keto-Diastix in the bathroom. After I dipped & confirmed what I already knew with 4+ sugar & negative ketones, I placed the call to my GP’s office. He reassured me that based on the fact he had no ketones, take him out for Halloween as usual but don’t allow him to eat any treats loaded with sugar & bring him in first thing in the morning. At that point we would begin the transition to insulin with education to be a parent of a child with Type 1 & subsequently living with it.

Initially, the next 2 nights were the hardest. Halloween involved me trying to portray it was a normal night out with the kids trick or treating. With the exception that my 7 year old baby had just learned he had diabetes like his Mom. He would have to take needles & poke his fingers & have low blood sugars that didn’t look nice. As we walked up the road, from house to house, Kurtis would throw himself on the side of the road belly first & wail “I don’t want diabetes” or “I hate diabetes.”. I would leave him briefly then say as I tried not to cry “Okay Buddy, l know it sucks. Let’s go to the next house & trick or treat.” I honestly didn’t know how else to be. I knew he had to grieve even though it was about something he didn’t quite understand in it’s entirety but knew starting tomorrow he would begin to learn the essence of what living with diabetes was about. He only understood the external ‘bad’ things with diabetes….severe lows, needles & finger pokes. He didn’t yet understand the other side….how he’d feel being low, high, going to the Dr’s the next day to have blood drawn or the complexity of counting carbs, the demand it would have on his body & mind 24-7-365 & the ridicule he would receive at school for years to come.

The next day was emotionally distressing for both of us. I was the only parent present. His father refused to come home from out of town to support this critical event or his family.

While Cayla went to school, Kurtis & I made our way to the GP’s office. After a lot of coercion we finally tested Kurtis’ sugar by finger poke to determine his fasting sugar was 13.5 mmol/L. I blamed myself. I felt guilty. What have I done to my child?

The GP called the Paediatrician’s office & the hospital to arrange an appointment at the Adult Diabetes Clinic as there was no Paediatric clinic at that time.

We knew the Paediatrician from 6 years prior when Kurtis had an anaphylactic reaction to Benadryl & severely ill with chicken pox in which he almost died at the age of 1. We chatted briefly & said to me…”Mom, you have Type 1 & you’re a nurse, you know what to do. I’d rather not put him in the hospital so here’s the prescription for the insulin.” He gave me the dose to give him & sent me off to the hospital to learn how to carb count.

Once at the hospital I sat with the dietician as she taught me how to carb count. The entire visit Kurtis had marker in hand. Standing in front of a flip chart he wrote time & time again in big 7 year old letters “I HATE DIABETES” “I HATE DIABETES” “I HATE DIABETES”. It hurt so much to watch but I knew it was good for him to get it out. Me? I was on robot mode. Survival. Take it in. Learn it. Function. Sacrifice emotion for taking good care of my baby. Helping him through this time so that he accepted & transitioned into such a terrible diagnosis.

Once home, I explained to Cayla what had happened during that day. She was 9 & a mature 9. She grasped it fairly easily & knew she had to step back & let me care for Kurtis for a little while. Closing into supper time I explained to Kurtis that just like Mommy he will test his blood & take a needle. That’s where it didn’t go so well. Testing his sugar was a bit of challenge but doable. He tested at 32 mmol/L. I explained to him that he really needed his insulin to bring his sugar down as I didn’t want to have to take him to the hospital & have someone else do it. He didn’t care. He just didn’t want the needle.

After about an hour of trying to convince him, going into another room & having a little cry on my own, I called my Mom. Knowing she had been through worse then me with my diagnosis, I asked for her help. When Mom arrived my head was spinning, Kurtis was crying & Cayla was trying to keep the calm in a whirlwind of frenzy. I was also angry because his father wasn’t present in a time we all needed him.

In my mind I can still see Kurtis sitting on the kitchen chair on an angle from the table explaining to me in tears how he doesn’t want the needle & his rationale as to why he doesn’t need it. His eyes swollen with tears pleaded to me & it broke my heart. Thankfully my Mom had already been through the heartache of my diagnosis at age 5. She had raised a child with Type 1.

In her calm, she finally convinced Kurtis to let me inject in his arm.

After I got the kids settled to bed, I cried & cried. I felt it was my fault. I caused this.

How did I move forward? My Mom asked me a question that changed my attitude which helped me transition to a Mom accepting she has a child with Type 1 diabetes. “Would you have had him if you knew he would get Type 1?”

No regrets. It sucks but attitude & the choice to transition to a new life is essential to living life with Diabetes Beyond Borders. This year is another Diabeteversary. October 31, 2013 Kurtis has lived with Type 1 for 13 years. The transition continues.

Once a Mom Always a Mom

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Once a Mom Always a Mom

What drives a Mom of a teen & young adult crazy? That our child living with Type 1 thinks they are invincible. With or without Type 1 most teens & young adults do. My biggest worry as a Mom of a 20-year-old son living with Type 1, who is very, very active working as an apprentice in the construction industry with his Step Dad & driving on his own, is being low on the job site or while driving. He usually remembers his insulin pen but sometimes forgets pen tips.

Pictured is what I pack for him to help him keep with managing his diabetes daily as well as ease some of my worry. One kit is for his car, one kit is for working on the job site. He is on multiple daily injections so after treating a low blood sugar with juice & reaching a blood sugar of 4.0 mmol/L he needs a carb/protein snack to prevent him from going low again.

I bought a 6 quart/5.83L Rubbermaid plastic container with lid for $2.00. I can fit 10 Minute Maid orange juice boxes which contain 23 grams of carbs, 6 Nature Valley chewy protein bars which has 17 grams of carbs,11 grams of protein & 1 box of 100 NovoFine 6mm pen tips. The only items I am missing are a Frio® pack http://www.readycareco.com/splashpage_frio.htm & 1 Novolin Pen Echo®.

We never stop being Mom’s or Dad’s but we assume once they enter into their 20’s they have enough figured out to survive & thrive BUT they don’t. They aren’t going to tell you that. Our job parenting a Type 1 teen & young adult is to slowly let them go while gently supporting them when they need it. This kit is one way I can support my son Kurtis without looking like I’m in his face about his diabetes. He will never tell me this but I believe it gives him a sense of security knowing he has the kit when he needs it & that he is supported by his Mom & Step Dad.

Gaining Perspective

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Gaining Perspective

This is me at age 8. It was 3 years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I am standing at the entrance of Camp Huronda, a summer camp sponsored by the Canadian Diabetes Association for Type 1 children & teens. It was the first time away from home longer than a day since I was diagnosed with diabetes & hospitalized for 10 days in 1975. I learned to inject myself with insulin within a few days of being at Camp Huronda. From that day forward I didn’t want anyone else injecting me. I liked that I could control how my injections felt & when the needle was going in.

Fast forward to 1987. At the age of 16, one morning my Mom finds me in bed, unresponsive, laying in my vomit. After calls to my Paediatrician & attempts to give me fast acting sugar with no success, my parents rush me to the hospital. The things I remember of that morning are Dad standing me in the snow in my bare feet to get me into the car as I refused to, seeing my church as they drove by it & watching my Mom cry at the foot of my bed in Emerg. A few days later as I lay in my hospital bed I noticed that the nurses caring for me didn’t know a lot about diabetes. I mentioned this to my Mom. To this day it seems almost unbelievable to think my Mom prophesied my future career without knowing how big of an impact I would make in the world of diabetes. When I told her my thoughts, she said to me, “You can change that. You can educate them so they know.” She encouraged me to go into Nursing.

If you go back to several of my Blogs you can read about the many experiences I have had living with diabetes & being a parent of a child, teen & now young adult living with diabetes.

Fast forward to 1999. After working in a Licensed Daycare as the School Nurse & caring for 2 children with Special Needs for 2 1/2 years, I decided to start a Home Daycare so I could be home with Cayla & Kurtis. Within 6 months I had a ‘full house’. It was a very busy time but I loved that I could be home for my children & create a home atmosphere for the little ones who couldn’t be home with their parents. Once Kurtis started Grade 1 I felt it was time to gain some hospital experience. While running the home daycare I completed my Critical Care Certificate. Working at the daycare & running the home daycare taught me so many things; time management, communication, creativity, nutrition, working with Special Needs, how to be calm when chaos is all around.

I still remember my first interview at the hospital. The 2 managers interviewing me mentioned I didn’t have any experience. I asked them how was I going to get experience if they didn’t hire me? I surprised myself that I asked them that question. I wasn’t one to challenge anybody. They were surprised too. That got me in.

After several years of working in several areas at the hospital & particularly the Intensive Care Unit, which I loved, I didn’t like the fact I was caring for people with complications, mostly from Type 2. There was one patient who died from complications of Type 1. It devastated me. She wasn’t much older then me. My colleagues would ask me certain questions about diabetes. I liked that. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was at the wrong end of the diving board. My time in ICU was invaluable. I learned time management, critical thinking, stamina, diplomacy, focus, patience, perseverance, when it was the right time to cry when I lost a patient & when I needed to hold back my tears,. I also learned that there are times that the truth needs to be told no matter how hard it is to hear. Working in ICU made it very challenging for me to keep my sugars in check. A critical situation would drive them sky high & a missed break could bring me low.

In 2002 I attended the JDRF Walk For the Cure. To this day, I don’t know what possessed me to do what I did. Kurtis & I used a Lifescan glucose testing meter. I heard there was a new one on the market & I wanted one for each of us. I walked over to the Lifescan booth & began talking to the rep. He gave me 2 new meters. After a few minutes of conversation, my mouth opened & without plan or thought I asked him if his company was hiring. Huh? What did I just do? It just so happened that he was being promoted & his position was opening. WHAT?!? Timing is everything they say. So it was with this as well. The interview process went smoothly, the offer was ready to be presented when an internal applicant surfaced. As with most companies, he was given the position. How did I feel? I was okay with it. I didn’t think it was the right time. The kids were still young & I had a great job-share position that was flexible with shift work. It worked for our family at the time. The Rep I met from Lifescan told me he would keep me connected & that he did. My foot was in a door I didn’t even know existed.

In 2004 I ended up with one of the best jobs I could ever imagine having. I became a Diabetes Consultant for Novo Nordisk. It was one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs. I learned Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes inside out & backwards. The company kept me current in Clinical Studies & relevant literature. What I liked most about it was meeting Family Physicians for the first time & them telling me they don’t ‘do insulin’. Several years later I had these same GP’s thanking me for teaching them & how much easier it was then they thought. Through out my years at Novo Nordisk my Mom’s words echoed in my mind several times. I educated Nurses, Dieticians, Doctors, Pharmacists and Nurse Practitioner’s. I did business on all levels of health care including hospital contracts & nursing homes. Working at Novo Nordisk helped me learn time management, business planning, triaging, focus, drive, passion, knowledge about every insulin available on the market, knowledge about every oral anti-hyperglycemic agent on the market, every insulin pen, syringe & pen tip available & it’s implications on therapy.

One of the most difficult decisions I ever made in my careers was leaving Novo Nordisk to work for Medtronic. It provided me an opportunity to expand my career, work experience and meet more Health Care Providers working in the field of diabetes. It was a short tenure as Medtronic decided to restructure the Corporation both in the U.S. & Canada. I was one of ~ 100 in Canada who lost their jobs as a result. Being a Territory Manager at Medtronic taught me many skills I needed to become better at or hadn’t experienced. It was a valuable experience despite the outcome. I learned about all of the insulin pumps provided by the medical device companies. I got to know Pumps & Continuous Glucose Monitoring really, really well. Little did I know how much of an advantage that would be. I worked within a team of 3 & communication was essential to follow up & close each sale. I learned how to work directly with the consumer & their needs. Though out the years I learned how to read body language & verbal tone very well. It took a long time but I learned to listen to my gut. For the most part it was right.

After I lost my job at Medtronic, I decided I wanted to leave the world of diabetes. I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I was certain I didn’t want to be an educator. I couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk staring at someones blood sugars, listening to their excuses. Why did I have this perception? I have thought about that a lot. How could I think like that given I live with diabetes? I think that in my mind a diabetes clinic consists of Type 1 & Type 2 together, intertwined…somehow connected but shouldn’t be. I didn’t want to educate like that. They are 2 different animals & so they should be treated as such. It wasn’t the patients fault I felt like that, it is how clinics are structured that frustrates me. So…I went out on my own as an educator & consultant through my company “Diabetes Beyond Borders” to change that. As a result Diabetes Beyond Borders has over 6,700 ‘likes’ on Facebook. I became a Certified Pump Trainer for Medtronic & Accu-Chek. I had a contract with a large on- line pharmacy in which I created marketing materials, provided education on insulin pump infusion sites & cartridges.

I have applied & been through several interviews for diabetes sales jobs. I would’ve taken them if they were offered but I just didn’t feel it anymore. What was I meant to do? Where was my passion?

A few months ago I was invited to a conference. It is called Type 1 Think Tank. It’s mandate is to more or less “think out side the box” to provide better care & outcomes for people living with Type 1 diabetes. I didn’t realize I was that important! I didn’t realize my experiences were so valued. At the conference I met a long time friend & colleague. She is the founder of the Charles H Best Diabetes Centre. I called on her clinic as a Diabetes Consultant & Territory Manager from 2004-2009. My son Kurtis went there briefly after his diagnosis in 2000 before a Paediatric clinic opened closer to home. The founder, Marlene, approached me and asked if I would be interested in a position as a Diabetes Nurse Educator. I never turn down opportunity but I was pensive given it was a 2 hour/day commute & I would be ‘stuck’ inside 4 walls 8 hours/day.

As soon as I sat down to the interview I understood why I had experienced so much throughout the years. This is exactly where I needed to be, where I want to be. I just didn’t know it. I have travelled down a road of learning & ultimately making an impact though all levels of diabetes. It was time to share those experiences with the people that really, really mattered. It was time to share my experiences with the children, teens, young adults, adults & their families living with Type 1 diabetes.

Why?!?

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Why?!?

Did you ever go to bed with a normal or near normal sugar but wake up the next morning high? You increase your insulin or talk to the doctor about it & he raises your oral diabetes medication & it continues to go high. Why?!? What is going on? Among the many frustrations to experience, what appears a simple fix becomes a complex mystery.

Kurtis is in Grade 7. It is about late September. During that time, as most kids are, he is very active, back to school & still not ready to harness the energy he had from summer holidays. He plays football with his friends at every recess. He plays hockey in his local league. At that time he is in power skating to ante up his hockey skills for the upcoming season, with the primary reason to keep him active. When he isn’t at hockey after school he is outside jumping on the trampoline or catching frogs. Aside from sitting in a classroom his days are full of activity.

During that time Kurtis is on insulin pump therapy. It is very easy to manage him on this. Predicting trends in blood sugars is easier than injections. Between decreasing basal rates & temporary basal rates, I feel I am in control of his active lifestyle.

Within that time, there is a period of weeks where Kurtis is going to bed within the safe target for his age but waking up high. I automatically assume he is growing & needs more insulin. What does any parent do? Increase the overnight dose.

With Kurtis being on an insulin pump, I don’t feel the need to set my alarm every night to check him. If there are days where he is having multiple lows, I set my alarm to make sure he doesn’t have more through the night. Otherwise, I feel confident sending him to bed at a target blood sugar, he will wake up within a reasonable target in the morning.

One morning this is not the case.

At that time I worked for Novo Nordisk. I put in an average of 50-60 hours a week. I did a lot of driving. Working as a full-time Mom in a sales career, living & managing my own Type 1 diabetes & raising a son with Type 1 diabetes & keeping a balance for my daughter was very challenging.

This particular morning my alarm goes off. I am exhausted. As I hit the alarm, I say to myself, the kids need to do a few things before I get up with them anyway, it’ll be okay. The alarm goes off one last time. My feet hit the floor. As I stumble out of my bedroom into the Great Room where Cayla sits at the Breakfast Bar eating her breakfast.  I hear Kurtis’ alarm going off. I ask Cayla if Kurtis is up. I think to myself, “I don’t hear the shower?”. She responds, “It’s been going off for a while now, he won’t shut it off, he won’t get up.”

My heart starts to pound. My concern is overwhelming. At this point, Kurtis is not at the stage to sleep deep enough through an alarm.

Kurtis’ bedroom is at the end of the hall. His bunk bed is against the wall directly in front me. As I rush in the room, I see his back facing me. The alarm is still going off. I know something is not right.

I go over to him. He is a funny colour. My heart is pounding. I shake him gently & say “Buddy” (his nickname). His arm flops over & I see his face. His eyes are rolled back in his head & there is a lot of saliva coming from his mouth. There is not a moan or a groan. He is lifeless. There is a pool of vomit in his bed. My body floods with a warm rush, a pulse so strong I want to scream. I think my baby is dead. It seems so cold, but I check his pulse. It is barely palpable & fast. He is cold. I scream. I scream so loud. I yell at Cayla to get her father. I don’t have to explain. She can tell by my voice & what she is witnessing. I keep him on his side. His father rushes in and picks him up. He holds him on his lap while I run to grab the Glucagon. My hands are shaking so bad I can barely get the needle into the vial to inject the saline. What seems like forever, I pull the syringe out of the vial & plunge it into Kurtis’ leg. He’s not moving, he’s not talking, his eyes aren’t open. I pray, please God, please, I can’t lose my baby. I am trying to keep up my composure for Cayla. She is apologizing to me. She feels bad she didn’t check on him. I say “It’s okay honey, it’s okay.” as I try not to cry. Who do I call first…Kurtis’ Diabetes Educator’s home, not 911, but her home. Why? I don’t know to this day. At that point I have lost all sense. When she answers I cry to her “Shay, he won’t wake up, how long does it take?” My hands are shaking so bad I can barely keep the phone by my ear to talk or listen. She asks me, “Have you called 911?”. I feel so stupid. Me, a nurse, who has worked in critical care. I hang up & call 911. We live in the country. It takes 30 minutes for them to arrive. About this time, Kurtis is beginning to make sounds. He is trying to get on his feet but doesn’t have the strength. The lights are on but nobody’s home. Shortly after, Kurtis is hospitalized. It takes almost a day before he becomes aware of his surroundings & his Mom. I knew my Kurtis was back when he opened his eyes after who knows how many times confused & unaware & says “I’m hungry”. I knew by baby was OK!

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God that He left him here with me. Days, weeks, months & years later, I tell Kurtis that God kept him here for a reason. He has a purpose. As we all do living with diabetes (& those who don’t!). Weeks & months after I would be driving to a city in my territory to call on customers & I would visualize Kurtis lying in his bed, looking dead. I burst into sobs.

My discovery with what happened to Kurtis is that he wasn’t high all night. He was experiencing the Somogyi Effect. He was going low in the night due to all of his activity but his liver was overcompensating giving him such a surge of sugar to compensate he woke up high in the morning. That day, his liver had no more sugar stores left to save him from what happened.

I share this very emotional story with you for a few reasons.

1. Don’t assume. Nothing, not even an insulin pump is predictable with diabetes. When I worked in the Intensive Care Unit, I was taught to look at the patient not the the machine. (Although, don’t override the pump all the time that is telling you changes on the pump need to be made)

2. Set your alarm for 3 am & test your child/teens sugars for 3 nights.  It’s like fishing…you’re trying to ‘catch’ a low.

3.   If the sugar is high in the morning don’t assume it’s because he/she is high all night. If your child is on injections or a pump that does not give the technology to offer Continuous Glucose Monitoring to decide what’s happening, there is technology available that allows your child to go live with their sugars for 6 days that your diabetes clinic may offer which will help you & your diabetes team to find out what’s going on over night 24 hours a day for 6 days.

4. When kids are as active as I described with Kurtis, compensate for that. Whether your diabetes team has advised extra carbs & protein at bed or decreasing overnight insulin.

5. Journals rock!! As busy parents working long hours & being all that for our kids, we lose track. But, we don’t realize it. We think we are status quo, but eventually something has to give. A journal will tell you what’s really going on. It’s the story you think you know but  because I’ve been there, you really don’t.

I share my experiences because I learn from them & they are in the past. I write these blogs because if I can save one child & one parent from going through what I did, I have done what I have set out to do.

Looking Back – Being a Teen with Type 1

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Looking Back - Being a Teen with Type 1

I know what it is like to grow up as a kid & teen living with Type 1 diabetes. It’s tough!

I’m going to give you a snapshot of how I lived life with diabetes as a teen….

First, I had a huge, gigantic glucose meter. See the pic! I had the blue one for many years. There was NO way that thing was going with me anywhere. I hated testing! The test strips of this meter took a ton of blood compared to today. The finger pricker had no dial! It had one setting. When it made contact with my finger it felt like it went through it. If anyone has been to diabetes camp & used the single use, disposable prickers, you know what I mean! It took 2 minutes for the test. I had better things to do then stand in front of my meter for 2 minutes to wait for a number…so guess what I didn’t do a lot of? Test!! I mean, I knew how I felt. I could manage my diabetes without having to look at a number! At least that’s what I believed at the time.

Secondly, even though I only had to take needles twice a day, I hated it. They hurt! The needles on the syringes that I used were 13mm long. Now, the word “millimetres” sounds small but if you take out a ruler & measure 13 mm & imagine that going into a lean body with little fat, it goes directly into the muscle. I was small at 115 pounds & 5’1″. I always took my insulin, the only time I didn’t inject was when I truly forgot. Then I would call my Mom & she would bring it to me…usually at school or work. I knew I couldn’t live without my insulin.

Next, I didn’t eat much. I now know that many young girls & even women will decrease their insulin dose and run slightly higher or stop eating as many calories to keep their weight down. It is known, insulin makes one fat. It’s not that this was my intention or that I was aware of that at the time but I figured if I didn’t eat as often, my sugars dipped low so I could eat McDonald’s or candies. “Back then” (boy I sound old!) there was no carb counting to allow for ‘treats’. There was also no ‘correction doses’. If you were high, you dealt with it until it came down on its own with the insulin you had on board.

I didn’t think about my diabetes much. I remember being terribly embarrassed when I had lows. I hated having attention drawn to me. I remember being tired a lot. I fell asleep in class in high school a lot. I had a hard time focusing.

The one thing I didn’t do when I was a teen was drink alcohol. My Mom scared the life out of me about what it could do to me and my diabetes, that I am thankful for. It was one less variable I had to deal with.

With that being said, at the age of 16, my parents found me in bed one morning, lying in my vomit, barely responsive. That night I had been out with my boyfriend & when I came home I was really, really tired. Instead of testing before bed, I crashed. Little did I realize, because I hadn’t tested, I was very low before I had even climbed into bed.

Laying in a hospital bed with an excruciating headache, the next day was the beginning of realizing my diabetes needed my attention. Pretending it wasn’t there and omitting what needed to be done to manage it was not serving a purpose. I was punishing myself. I was letting my diabetes take control of me.

Keeping it Even

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Keeping it Even

As a parent do you worry about how being fair with your children?

What parent has not heard these phrases ring in their ears, “It’s not fair” or “You love him/her more than me” or “But you let/paid for/told/ agreed that ________________could so why can’t I?”.

It is difficult to learn what is ‘fair’ or how to keep it ‘even’, for that matter, if we should.

Not only am I speaking of rules, decisions, result, how many gifts, how much to spend for Christmas, Birthdays and the multitude of special events throughout the year, failing or passing grades. I think of all these things that I am mentioning and I will say that quality time is the one that is and has been a concern for me.

Why?

The attention required in a family with a child living with Type 1 diabetes is quite demanding. Add to that, the attempt to keep the balance ‘normal’ with their siblings.

I have written a few Blogs about my son Kurtis given that Diabetes Beyond Borders intention is to write about life living with diabetes.

Pictured in this blog is my 21-year-old daughter Cayla at her graduation from Sound Engineering. She has also lived with diabetes. Her life involves looking in from the outside and living with the demands it has on our family.

Cayla is the first person that will email me a link to pictures, articles and studies related to Type 1 diabetes. She has been an impetus for some of the writings I have posted.

I have felt guilt over the years as she saw her brother unresponsive and rushed to the hospital by ambulance from a severe low. She has watched her Mom being carried out of the bedroom with a severe low on the morning of her 5th Birthday. She could write a book of all the events she has experienced living with diabetes. Events and situations I hoped I could protect her from but eventually accepted I could not. She has been a part of it all as much as her brother and I have.

I tried my best to protect her. Give her what she required as a child living with her Mom and brother having diabetes. I tried to keep it even when it came to parenting despite it all. Upon reflection, I don’t think it was the balance I realistically dreamed achieving but I think I did okay.

In the past two summers Cayla has experienced episodes of low blood sugars. It concerns me. During one event, by the time I was able to test her, she was 3.2 mmol/L. She had just eaten. That worries me.

With that being said, all we can do is wait and watch. She is well-educated to the signs and symptoms of the onset of diabetes. She is miles away from me in Northern British Columbia now, but I am confident in the facts with her experiences so far and her education, that she is aware, intuitive and pro active in whatever comes her way. I am happy for her that she can take a break from living with diabetes. I pray that she continues to have that.

I am a Mom living with diabetes, I have 2 children that live with diabetes as well.