Back to Parents' Voices Clare Pattison

Being Flexible, Being Human

My 18 month old daughter was very quiet one morning so I went in to the kitchen to see what she was doing. There she was on the floor with an entire box of cereal dumped in front of her, eating her heart out. I took a picture to show our dietician how carefully we measure her food: one BOX of Crispix!

For the first year, we did everything exactly by the books as if our doctor were looking over our shoulder. It made real living rather difficult. Then we realized that our goal was to keep her healthy by keeping her blood sugars within target range and giving her a balanced diet. When we started living by the spirit rather than the letter of the law, our lives became far more normal and our daughter felt more like a person and less like a diabetic. Even so, we never compromised her control.

We learned to be flexible with our twins' schedule the first time we went camping. We tried to eat meals and snacks on time, but it wasn't working very well. Instead, they tested themselves at what should have been mealtime, and if they were low they would have a little snack to tide them over until we got to the campsite. It worked really well. It was kind of like putting a couple of gallons in the gas tank every few miles without filling it up. They really appreciated the freedom that flexibility gave them.

When we first came home from the hospital, we were terrified of making a mistake with our daughter's insulin or food. The responsibility of doing it all right was really heavy. Then one day she moved when I was giving her injection. The needle bent and popped out, and insulin went shooting across the room. I was panic stricken. When I called the doctor, he reassured me that I hadn't killed her, and that if she went high that day, we would know why and not worry about it. What a relief. It taught me that we would make mistakes now and then, but the world wouldn't end.

I cooked our 2 year old son a scrambled egg and toast for his breakfast one morning. Because it was so hot, I put it into the freezer for a few minutes while I got the other kids off to the school bus. Then I had breakfast. When we were all done, he was really fussy and whiny, but I sent him off to play. At lunch time, his test was very low and that was when I discovered his breakfast frozen solid in the freezer. I felt awful, but he forgave me by eating a really good lunch!

We have two children with diabetes, and their insulin doses are quite different from each other. One day, after I had injected the younger child, I had a funny feeling that his insulin had taken a long time to push in. Had I given him his sister's needle? I really couldn't be sure. What was worse, he had to leave for school right away. So just in case, I gave him an apple to eat on the way to school, and an extra snack for recess. Better to be on the safe side. Now our daughter gives her own needles so it won't happen again!

We learned one lesson the hard way when we were on holidays last year. We were travelling with my parents in two cars and our daughter wanted to ride with her grandparents. Unfortunately, we got separated in traffic in a strange city for six hours. The problem was that she had her needles, and we had her insulin. Since then, she has always made sure that she has all her supplies with HER including on the school bus. You just never know when the weather will turn bad and she will have to spend the night in town.

When we left the hospital, our doctor gave us instructions to try to keep our daughter's blood sugar level between certain target levels. "Okay, no problem. We'll do just that." Or so we thought. We worked really hard to get her there, only to have something mess it all up again. It took us a long time to realize that there wasn't some magic combination of food and insulin that would always work. We started to see the bigger picture of overall control and learned to be patient with adjusting her insulin. Once we stopped looking for instant results and final solutions, we were a lot more relaxed and accepting of our situation.

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Last Updated: Wednesday March 16, 2005 16:44:52
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