My friend Tom Karlya asked the question, “Do you wish you had a lot more knowledge about what ‘it meant’ when you or child was diagnosed with diabetes?” It got me thinking back to our life in the early years of diabetes. I think, for me, I am glad I was ignorant about the realities of life with a child with type one diabetes.
Before my son was diagnosed, I had no real knowledge of diabetes. My mom had a friend with a son with type one diabetes. That was in my childhood days before insulin pens, home blood glucose testing and the popularity of insulin pumps. He was just a child who sometimes got to lay on the couch and watch tv rather than play outside with the rest of us.
Some knowledge about type one diabetes would have been a good thing. Having more knowledge of the symptoms may well have empowered me to ask more questions and demand better answers the very first time my son was taken to the hospital. Hindsight is always 20/20 however.
After my son’s diagnosis, there was again a period where I was ignorant of life with type one diabetes. In the hospital, I learned about Dead in Bed Syndrome and I was suitably terrified. I understood the dangers of high and low blood glucose levels and really didn’t want to leave the perceived safety of the hospital.
When we were forced to go home, terrible things did happen. One day my son was whining and demanding to go inside. It was the first nice day after a long winter and I was enjoying getting some yard work done. I made him wait. He passed out in the dirt. I didn’t know that his whiny toddler behavior was also a sign that his blood glucose levels were dropping.
I felt like a failure as a parent while I shakily fed juice to his sleepy little body. I watched him rouse like I had put new batteries in him. I learned quickly after that.
Our first illness and broken arm were also dealt with in relative ignorance. I was still trying to wrap my head around what to do and how things worked.
I gave him insulin no matter what. I had seen what a lack of insulin could do. I prayed he would eat–he often didn’t but when he was sick, that seemed to be okay. I think, for me, I am glad I was ignorant about the realities of life with a child with type one diabetes. My ignorance allowed me to continue to function somewhat buffered.
I didn’t fear all of the things that could go wrong. I was clinging to my own sanity, overwhelmed by what I did know and not able to begin to think of all that I didn’t.
As strange as it may sound, I think that being ignorant of life with type one diabetes allowed me to learn at a pace that I could psychologically handle. A bit more knowledge about the symptoms of type one diabetes before diagnosis could have saved my son from intensive care. Not having more knowledge after diagnosis, however, is probably the only thing that kept me a tiny bit sane. The learning curve was steep enough as it was.
Are you having a hard time coping with life with diabetes? Try taking things four hours at a time.