By Shawn, April and Logan Doerr
Logan was diagnosed in September of 2007, he was one month into kindergarten. We had noticed Logan was constantly going to the restroom, at first we were annoyed and told him to stop drinking so much. After several days, on a Sunday afternoon, we called our pediatrician, Dr. Schilsky, and she said to meet her at her office immediately. We didn’t want to bother her on a Sunday but she insisted. Logan’s blood sugar was over 750, (should be between 80 and 120) that day our lives changed forever. We had no idea how life was going to change as they immediately sent us to Children’s hospital in St. Louis. We spent 3 days learning to take care of Logan with a pancreas that was hardly functioning. Count every carbohydrate he eats, test blood sugar, give multiple shots a day, and worry about too much insulin, not enough insulin. This disease was going to consume our lives forever.
We were attached to Logan. He was 5 years old and no one knew how to care for him but us. No birthday parties alone, no sleepovers, school parties had to be attended with Mom or Dad. Five to six shots a day, carbohydrate counting, glucose monitoring was our life. Once, in the middle of the night, Logan’s blood sugar dropped too low and he had a seizure. Many sleepless nights after that for Mom and Dad. After 5 years of this daily grind, Logan went on an insulin pump. Life became a little easier, still counting carbohydrates, but one shot every 3 days was glorious. He still has to test his blood sugar by a finger poke at least 5 times a day. Logan’s life became somewhat easier.
Living with Type 1 diabetes as a patient and parent is not easy. You’re frustrated and scared a lot. A lot of late nights checking low blood sugars and force feeding carbs to bring it up. People with Type 1 cannot do anything to get rid of diabetes. Their liver does not produce insulin. Their diagnosis did not come from eating too many sweets or because of their weight. Even though this disease is awful, we are so thankful for the medicine and doctors that help us keep Logan healthy. Logan still lives a normal and active teenage life. He can still do whatever he puts his mind too. He is a great soccer goalie & plays on the Turner basketball team. He will not let this terrible disease stop him from growing up to do what he loves to do.
By Chad and Melissa Gerard
Eli was 18 months old when he started drinking a lot of water and wetting through multiple diapers a day. He began to be very lethargic. We had multiple trips to the ER over a month’s time and were sent home each time saying he had a virus. On November 19, 2004 his babysitter noticed his lips were turning blue and he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He immediately was back in the ER, and after taking more blood, they found that his blood sugar was over 800(normal is between 70 and120). He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. His pancreas had shut down and was no longer making insulin. He spent 5 days in the hospital at St.John’s and a lot of education was given on giving this 18 pound, 19 month-old 4 shots a day and doing finger sticks to check blood. Eli was so young when diagnosed and having diabetes is all he has ever known. After 7 years of getting four shots a day he decided he wanted the insulin pump. This is attached to him all the time and it delivers insulin to him as needed. Having this pump has allowed for more independence and controlling this disease a little more. We are currently looking into a continual glucose monitor sensor that he will wear and will check his blood every 5 minutes. He will be able to see what approximately his blood is at any time of the day without having to do a finger stick. We are hoping this will be yet another way to gain control over this disease by figuring out insulin dosages and managing his highs and lows.
Diabetes never sleeps, and he can never “take a break” from it. If he wants to eat something, he has to check his blood and dose his insulin accordingly. At age 12, Eli feels that diabetes has impacted his everyday life by not being able to just eat whenever or whatever he wants. He always has to stop and check his blood before anything goes in his mouth. He gets irritated by it, but has been doing it for so long that it is like second nature.
Eli says “Even though I have diabetes, it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I like to do. I still play football and baseball and I wrestle for Turner Jr. High. It is a little harder because if my blood gets higher, I get more emotional and it lowers my performance. I also have to take time out to check my blood and treat if I am low. I don’t ever let it get in the way.” As a mother, I would like the public to know that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not the same. Eli didn’t get this because he was overweight or ate the wrong foods. His pancreas stopped working. There is no cure, only ways to control it and make it manageable. He doesn’t have to stay away from sugar. We count carbs and give insulin according to that. A healthy diet is a plus and is definitely better for him, but we don’t deny him food. He can have candy or sweets, but just in moderation. I was not aware of any symptoms of this disease at the time we were going through it and wished we had known them. Excessive thirst, sudden bed wetting, weight loss, lethargic and extreme hunger are the most common symptoms. I wished I would have been more proactive in the beginning and pushed the doctors to test for diabetes instead of accepting the diagnosis of a virus. It would not have prevented this from happening, but we could have caught it sooner. If you let the blood sugars get too high a diabetic coma can occur.
My son Max was five years old when he was diagnosed. I had noticed that he looked a lot thinner. That quiet voice in my head said something’s not right, but I told myself he must have just grown taller. His temperament had also changed and he would cry and throw fits over the smallest things. I still was unaware of the growing problem inside his body. Potty training was behind us but night time still required a pull up and his doctor said that wasn’t too uncommon. In the weeks before diagnosis however, the urinating at night increased to the point of great concern. Decreasing fluids in the evening didn’t help, getting him up to go in the middle of the night didn’t help. After tucking everyone in on a Thursday evening I climbed into bed myself and suddenly it hit me. Diabetes. He has all the signs. I laid there for a few moments trying to talk myself out of this thought. Don’t over react, he’s fine. The more I tried to convince myself the heavier the feeling became. I text my friend, whose son had been diagnosed years earlier, the symptoms we had noticed. She said she was coming over with her blood glucose meter. It was 10:30 p.m., Thursday, January 8.
633. That was his glucose level in the ER. Normal blood glucose is between 80 and100 and my scrawny little five year old was 633. Every day since and every day to come, his now calloused fingers are poked with a lancet four times. Every day, a 20-gauge needle pokes through his skin at least 3 times, giving his body insulin his pancreas no longer creates. Every day at every meal, carbs are counted and the insulin dose is figured. Every time I walk into his room while he is sleeping I can’t help but to search his chest for movement. For now his parents take on the burden, but soon it will be his to carry, and all I can do is teach him the importance every decision has. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It does not happen because of poor diet, and it can’t be cured with time. It can happen to anyone and its misleading symptoms almost always lead to a delayed diagnosis, which typically puts the patient in DKA, a life threatening condition. A simple finger prick is lifesaving yet overlooked in most doctor offices. Parents need to be aware and the medical community need to think outside of the box when it comes to signs and symptoms.
Kristen (Turner) Shepard
By Kristen (Turner) Shepard
The short story of how I discovered I had diabetes was that my family was driving home from a trip to Washington D.C. and I needed to stop way more often than my dad wanted to get a drink or use the restroom. My mom recognized those as two main symptoms of high blood sugar, which indicated diabetes, and they took me to Long’s Pharmacy when we got home to get my first finger stick. When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes that summer before 6th grade, I felt that my life was over. I stereotypically thought I’d never be able to eat anything sweet ever again and I also dreaded having to take shots. I was at an age where my social life seemed most important and I felt I was now different than my friends and that really bothered me. Luckily, all of my friends were very supportive of my new disease and they came to visit me in the hospital and really didn’t treat me any differently. I know that my family sacrificed the most that summer and in the years to come. They all learned so much about diabetes (my mom knew the most because her father had type 1 diabetes when he was alive) and they really took care of me and helped me become educated and comfortable as we learned together. They kept track of my schedule of when to test my blood sugar, when to give my shots, when and what to eat, and how everything impacted each other. My family has since shared with me that they kind of catered to my wants/needs and my sister often had to eat a meal that she hated because it was one of my favorites and my parents knew that I’d actually eat it, which was important because I was taking insulin based on eating a certain amount of food. (Poor Kim, she must have done it without complaining because I don’t remember that at all.) After several years of having help in those areas, I became proficient and was able to be more independent. These days, I don’t feel like I need help too often, but I feel very blessed that my husband wanted to learn a lot about diabetes and my insulin pump and is able to offer assistance whenever I need it. I also have awesome colleagues and students that are understanding and helpful too.
My life became much more scheduled after my diagnosis. I knew I had to eat 3 meals a day (same time every day) and 3 snacks a day to balance out the shots of insulin I took. I learned how to make healthy choices in the foods I ate and learned the importance of physical activity. Really, I became a much healthier person after becoming diabetic. When I got an insulin pump at age 21, I learned that I could be a lot more flexible with the timing of eating and the foods that I could choose to eat. I had to learn all about how many carbohydrates everything I ate had and how much insulin to take for each food item, but once I did that, I could really eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted as long as I remembered to program in the correct amount of insulin into my pump. It is still better for anyone’s health to choose healthy options but satisfying a craving is pretty easily dealt with on a pump. The advances that came with the insulin pump were huge and I am looking forward to finding out about the newest technology that comes out to help diabetics. The progress I’ve seen in 25 years is amazing.
First of all, there are 2 different types of diabetes. They are very different and the needs of someone with type 1 are not usually the same as someone with type 2. It is important to ask someone that is diabetic which type they are so that you can learn about the correct disease and learn the correct ways to help them. I think most people are open to questions about their diabetes and want to help people understand. Please don’t make generalized comments to a diabetic. It can feel like you are being critical and if the thing you’re saying isn’t accurate, that can be really annoying (i.e.: Why are you eating that, I thought you couldn’t have sugar. Or oh, you’re sick with the flu, is it because of your diabetes?). Having diabetes is a life changer but it can be managed and kept under good control with understanding of how your food, insulin, and physical activity work together. I control my diabetes, it does not control me.