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The Highs and Lows of Type 1 Diabetes – A Mother’s Perspective

As if single motherhood wasn’t hard enough, God was like, “Hey, I’m going to give your son Type 1 Diabetes!” And just like that, my life got a little harder.

I always looked at Derek like I hit the jackpot. My pregnancy was textbook. My labor and delivery were textbook. I guess the only thing not textbook about Derek being born was that his father (my husband at the time) left me when I was only 4 months pregnant. But even so, I had Derek, and Derek had me, and we fell in love the very moment I knew he was in my tummy. He was the very best thing that ever happened in my life, and I’d live my life exactly the same, all over again, if it meant Derek was the prize at the end of it all.

A mother’s intuition is a very powerful tool, and I will never take it for granted. Derek was showing a few odd signs in the weeks prior to his diagnosis – signs I didn’t want to ignore. He had been wetting the bed every single night for 10 days straight and he was more thirsty than usual (getting up in the middle of the night for water). He was also getting in trouble a lot at school. Nothing worthy of phone calls home or anything, but he was telling me daily that he wasn’t listening in class and would have to sit out of activities or be spoken to by the teacher. He could never give me a reason why he was getting in trouble, and he was pretty hard on himself about it. I made excuses for it all. “Oh, it’s the holidays! He’s just off schedule.” “He’s only 5…he’s allowed to wet the bed!” Or, “The air in the house is so dry from the furnace running, so of course, he’s more thirsty than usual and therefore wetting the bed!” So on a whim, I took him to the walk-in clinic. My doctor wanted to test him for a UTI. I was hoping for a kidney infection, but I ultimately already knew what was going to happen. “Your son has Type 1 Diabetes.” The P.A. he was seeing wanted to give him a shot of insulin and send him home and have us follow up with a specialist in the morning, but all common sense led me out the door of the doctor’s office and in the door to the emergency room. I’m so glad I followed my gut, because being educated on Type 1 Diabetes now, there is no way I would want to be home by myself with a child who just had a shot of insulin for the first time. 

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Within a few hours, we were in the back of an EMS heading to Detroit and were admitted to Children’s Hospital for 2 days. (I could write a whole separate piece on Children’s Hospital and how incredible the facility and staff are. Top-notch experience for sure. It was like the Disney World of hospitals). 

The following 48 hours were a complete blur. My son went from crocodile tears after having his finger poked for the first time, almost passing out from having an IV put in, to sleeping through insulin injections and pointing to which finger we should poke next. Just when I thought my son was absolutely amazing and perfect in every single way, he became even more amazing and more perfect. “Brave” is a word I will always use to describe my son from here on out.  

Bringing Derek home from the hospital felt like I had a newborn at home all over again. I didn’t know what to do with him. I was nervous, scared and was tired in a way I’ve never been tried before. My brain was literally shutting down. I was having a hard time forming sentences. I was forgetting everything and I just wanted to shut down and recharge. My brain was constantly reeling. Did I give him the right insulin? Did I give him the right amount of insulin? Did I give him too many carbs? Is there sugar in his vitamins? What if he crashes in the middle of the night? Do the bruises on his legs hurt? Why is he so moody? Will he be able to play soccer in the spring? How am I ever going to find a babysitter if I need a night out? What if he crashes at school? What will he eat when kids bring cupcakes to school? 

After I got a “decent” night’s rest, I decided to get myself organized. I emptied my junk drawer in my kitchen and made Derek’s “Diabetes Drawer.” It’s basically my work station for injections and sugar checks. I labeled a container for insulin needles. I put a note on my front door saying, “Don’t forget insulin bag.” Because, you know, I DON’T WANT TO FORGET THE INSULIN BAG! I also ordered Derek some bracelets that say, “Type 1 Diabetic.” I bought him a carrying case for all his supplies for when we leave the house. Being organized is about the only control I have with this illness. 

Through this new journey, I have learned so much about Type 1 Diabetes. Derek was born with this. It cannot be cured. There was nothing I did that could have prevented this from happening. The fact that I caught the early signs of this was a major factor too. Had I ignored his symptoms, we could have been in a very different place down the road. My advice is if something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it. 

This new reality is scary. I’m scared. I’m sad that my son might lose a piece of his innocence. I don’t want this to hold him back. I don’t want this to be an excuse as to why he can’t do something. In all of my sadness, I’ve also found an amazing community of people who are going through the same journey. I was able to reach out to a support group on social media. I had some friends with T1 reach out to me. I had my friend’s mom (whom I’ve never met and who raised a T1 child) check in on me every day to see how things are going. My mom and dad sat through the training at the hospital so they can give Derek injections. Derek got so many gifts from so many people that he thought Christmas came early. My village is remarkable.

Derek is a special little boy. While we are only days into this new life, I know it will be full of ups and downs, but we will do our best to handle it with brave faces, one injection at a time.   

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