Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Mother's Nightmare - Learning Her Seven Year Old Has Type 1 Diabetes

We all know that life can change in a split second. I experienced three such changes in less than one year, two which brought the greatest joy to my life—the pregnancy and birth of my fourth child! And a third that brought great sadness. The night of November 4, 2011 shockingly was a tragic time for me and my family. It's the night that my 7 year old daughter was rushed in an ambulance to downtown Charlotte Hemby Children’s Hospital, because the doctors at an Urgent Care Clinic found sugar in her urine. Within hours, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes-a disease I was ignorant of, a disease my prophetic logical mind could not predict.

Ironically, the signs were there a month prior. But I didn’t recognize the signs and messages; or should I say, I was too exhausted from being a new mom to pay attention to them or think they were anything serious.

Going back in time, one month earlier, my daughter, Madison, (after participating in a diabetes lecture at school) asked me if she could catch diabetes. I chuckled and paused for a split moment, wondering why she would ask me such a bizarre question. Her eyes filled with water, knowing there was something going on within her body that I wasn’t ready to face. I gazed into her big, glossy hazel eyes and said, “No, you can’t catch diabetes.” I then went on to share that my grandfather had Type 2 Diabetes when he was older, but it was because he didn’t take care of himself. She looked at me and said, “I think I have diabetes." Madison’s comment left me dumb-founded, unsure what was going to happen and to whom. I actually thought perhaps one of my parents may come down with diabetes. Never did I expect my daughter to be diagnosed not even a month later.

But that was only the beginning of the signs and messages. Madison had also started to wet her bed, urinate constantly, and drink more than usual. My husband even asked me once if I thought Madison had diabetes. My mind just couldn’t wrap itself around her all of a sudden getting diabetes. She was thin. She ate well. How in the world could she get it? So instead, I attributed all the changes to her adjusting to me having a baby and then taking care of the baby. I was pregnant and delivered October 7, 2011—the day I thanked God for being blessed with four healthy children, not knowing that one of my children wasn’t healthy.

Weeks went on, and Madison continued wetting her bed, and drinking and urinating more than usual. I was consumed with being a new mom, trying to catch up on sleep and doing the necessities when my kids got home from school that I chalked up her behavior to simply adjusting to having a newborn sister. But on November 4th, I couldn’t ignore the signs and messages any longer. She was thin. She was weak. She was stupor.

That afternoon, Madison stepped off the school bus, floating in her clothes. I thought perhaps I had purchased her the wrong size, because she looked anorexic. I checked the inner tag of her pants which said size 8, the size she had been wearing for several months. I followed her into the house, confused with what I was witnessing. She sat on the couch, leaned back and just stared out into the room in this dazed look. Thinking she may be anorexic, I asked her a simple question, “Did you eat your lunch today?” She just continued to stare in this stupor state, never responding. She looked like she was on drugs. Then I thought perhaps she had mono because my neighbor’s two girls just had mono a couple weeks back. I had my husband take Madison to Urgent Care, thinking they would be back home within an hour and a half. But instead, I received a text from my emotionally shocked husband around 6:10 pm stating Madison was being rushed to the hospital because they found sugar in her urine. My body and mind became numb from the words I read. How on Earth could I have missed all the signs? Within seconds tears flooded down my face and didn’t stop for weeks.

For four days, with my newborn baby in tow, I spent twelve hours by Madison's side in the hospital, learning everything I could to be able to take care of her. I tried so hard to be emotionally strong, but my hormones were everywhere, having just given birth four weeks earlier. Every time I cried, she would cry which broke my heart even more. But I was able to bring a smile to her face when I would say, “Princess, the reason I’m crying is because I'm so happy you are healthy again and you will be able to run around and play like you always have.” But down deep inside, I was mourning. I was angry. I was sad. I was in shock, especially when the endocrinologist said her Type 1 Diabetes was triggered by a virus and it was just pure bad luck. Words I really had a hard time wrapping my mind around.

After two days in ICU and a total of five nights in the hospital (where the first three days my husband, nurses, doctor and I spent begging Madison to allow us to give her shots, always resulting in us holding her arms and legs while she screamed and cried so we could give her the insulin that was keeping her alive), we were able to take her home. But with it came an enormous responsibility and change in lifestyle. We were now responsible for checking her blood sugar by pricking her finger every couple of hours, even throughout the night. We also were responsible for administering her insulin by giving her four to six shots a day. And we were responsible for keeping track and calculating every carbohydrate she ate at every meal. We now were responsible for making sure she didn’t go into a stupor state again, and for that matter, coma.

Things aren’t simple in our lives, but whose life is really simple. The good thing is our life is becoming more manageable. As of Christmas (2011), we were able to transition Madison to a pump, giving her and me a little more freedom and control. It’s not picture perfect, but its allowed her to have less shots and to eat snacks.

I’ve learned and grown a great deal over the past nine weeks. What I've come to realize is that when tragedy happens, there are people ready and willing to help you, if you open up your heart and life to them. Those people were my family, friends and neighbors. I wouldn’t have been able to get through this rough period without them, especially Tracy (a mother of a type 1 diabetic daughter who has become a great friend and mentor)! Madison’s diagnosis has truly made me stop and appreciate my family, friends and neighbors.

Yes, I still have moments of crying, experiencing disbelief, and getting angry. But in the same breath, I'm very grateful that her disease is manageable and she can still run around, play and be her silly sassy self.