I worried when Jessica was diagnosed that she would lose her childhood. Of course, as fate would have it, she was diagnosed right before Halloween. There is no good time to be diagnosed, but we had already picked out costumes and Jessica had begun dreaming of bags and bags of candy. We coped as we had to. We read a book to Jessica about celebrating Halloween with diabetes. My mommy guilt fostered creativity, and the "Halloween Fairy" paid a visit, leaving a path of glitter across the kids' bedroom floor. Jessica still had fun trick or treating with her friends, and then both her and her sister saved 5 pieces of candy and put the rest in a bag that they decorated for the Halloween Fairy. I woke that morning to the gleeful sounds of their laughter and squeals as they saw not only the glitter path, but the presents that had been left in return for the candy. One big, huge milestone was successfully crossed.
Of course, the hurdles continued and many more lie ahead.
It has been an interesting year. I never realized how much every holiday revolves around food until Jess developed Type 1. Suddenly, the holidays were not just to be looked forward to. They were each a challenge to figure out how to maintain their magic, all while keeping Jessica on a strict meal plan. Candy and donuts poured into Jess's classroom and car rides home were full of tears of what no longer was to be. But, we survived and we learned from each experience.
Suddenly, the school year was ending and the big question loomed...what would we do about the summer? Jess and her sister have always gone to summer camp. They love it. They love meeting new friends, and all the fun summer camp brings. I don't think it ever even occurred to Jessica that she wouldn't go to camp this summer. My husband and I explored resources and struggled with what to do. I remember being so frustrated as I could not find anyone else who had sent their Type 1 diabetic child to summer camp...normal day camp...not the one week diabetes sleepover camps that I know are amazing, but leave working parents with the question of what to do with the child the rest of the summer. We called the local camps. None of them have nurses, and one downright refused to take her.
We took the leap and with great fear enrolled her in a local day camp. The beginning was incredibly rough...a future post will provide details and recommendations. I arrived at work crying and shaking with fear that I would be getting a call any moment that she was on her way to the hospital in an ambulance. The camp counselors are not allowed to use glucagon. If she gets that low then no one could help her and the ambulance would be called. She was only 7 and the camp counselors and director had no experience or knowledge about diabetes. We and a good friend have taken turns going at lunch to give her an insulin shot and check on her. It has been a terrifying summer.
But, with now only two weeks left of camp, I can take a step back and look at the victories and the growth that have developed. I have always felt that without fear and uncertainty there can be no growth. This summer has demonstrated that beyond leaps and bounds.
Jess has done it, She has learned to manage her diabetes almost entirely by herself. She came home one day so excited to tell us that there had been ice pops at camp. She had asked to see the box, looked at the serving size and carbs, and made the decision that since they were only 3 grams of carbs she could have one. We were blown away. I can't even teach half of my adult patients that concept. She has managed her lows. She has managed the increased activity of camp by adjusting what she eats. While we are not out of the woods yet, and I am still nervously counting down the last two weeks of camp, Jessica's accomplishments have surpassed our wildest dreams.
And tonight, we nervously checked her HgbA1c, and were surprised and elated to see the number 7.3 pop up on the screen. We had decided that it was more important to us that Jessica have a normal childhood this summer then have good blood sugar control. Once again, she surprised us and was able to do both.
Do not let diabetes stop your child. They can do anything at all if you just help them. Children are capable of so much if we give them the freedom and wings to obtain it. Support them, problem solve with them, and believe in them. But, don't let diabetes steal their childhood. It doesn't have to.