We live in Houston Texas. Up until January, 1990, I knew very little about diabetes; I had one grandmother with Type 2, controlled by diet, and the extent of my "knowledge" was that the only sweet to be eaten was angel food cake!
Our life changed forever on Jan. 26, 1990. My daughter Meredith, then 10 years old, had been making night trips to the bathroom for most of a week, so I took her to the pediatrician to see if she had a bladder infection. What a shock! Like the rest of the 90% of Type 1 families, we had no type I history--I thought the lab test must surely be a mistake, when it reported a blood glucose reading of 800! Meredith went immediately to Texas Childrens' Hospital for two days of education, and then we went home, scared but determined to go on with life.
We asked our clinic about the boys--Corbin was 12, and Ryan 16--they said not to worry, it wouldn't happen because we didn't even have family history of diabetes. Seven months later, as we arrived with Corbin at the diabetes camp in Kerrville to bring Meredith home, he said, "Mom, I think I need to test for diabetes--I've been really thirsty & going to the bathroom a lot." I just thought it was because it was August in Texas and of course HOT! We tested him on the way home after he drank his way through San Antonio, and when 388 came up, Mike & I felt like we'd been run over by a train. He wasn't hospitalized--just some R that night, then to the clinic for education the next day.
I'd psyched myself into being glad it was my quieter, complacent girl with diabetes and not one of the boys--now I had to adjust mentally to Corbin's dealing with it. He has done great, just like Meredith; their blood sugars are up and down, varying with exercise, hormones, etc., but their HA1c's run from 5.6-6.4, which shows how hard they work at good control. We are very fortunate; although we have changed clinics several times as our doctors have moved, we have always had wonderful education and support; their care has been top-notch. Our pediatric endocrinologist now is Dr. Willim Riley, who did research in Gainsville, Florida before going into practice here; he is both a sensitive caregiver and, still involved in research, a tremendous source of information and encouragement for our whole family.
I started volunteering for JDF and was put on the board the next year as education VP, did that for 2 years, and am on my third as government relations VP. I also started a support group for parents in the west end of Houston; we are now into our sixth year. Neither Corbin nor Meredith feel a need for a support group--maybe because they have each other! They are not interested in a pump right now--maybe because of a study they were part of in Sept. of 1990 with an insulin pump in one arm and a Somatostatin pump in the other for a week, a very uncomfortable situation. Barb Schreiner, our R.N. educator, told me on our last visit that their control would not improve over their current control (they are on U&R at breakfast, R at lunch, U&R at dinner, and R any other time they want to eat; 4+ blood tests) on a pump, it would just be a matter of personal choice.
The teenage years are full of challenges; but they live very normally, I think, with obvious modification and inconvenience. The Ultralente makes life bearable as a teenager; it allows them to sleep late, do "brunch" instead of two a.m. meals on Saturdays and holidays, eat pizza at midnight, go to dinner at 8:00 with the group, and so on and so on. NPH, while medically as good a therapy, would probably have caused rebellion at the minimum and possibly insanity during these years! Teenagers just don't want to be different, and eating at 7:00 am, 11:30 am & 6:30 pm is NOT the way teenagers live! Having an older child without diabetes to go through high school before Corbin & Meredith helped tremendously for me to prepare, make allowances, and just understand how important the "normal" crazy routine of these years is! Corbin played varsity football this year; he goes duck hunting at 4:00 a.m., camps out on the beach, whatever he can do outside and active. Meredith dances on the drill team, stays up until 3:00 am when she spends the night out (OTII meters tell all!) and sleeps until noon, works out at the athletic club--and is a new driver! It was hard to see each of them drive away for the first time--as it was with my non-diabetic son, but with a twist...I keep reminding them to keep candy in their cars, and I pray for their safety. Each step is hard, but allowing them the independence they deserve is my job as a mother.
The first summer after their diagnosis, each of them went to non-diabetic camps as well as a session at the diabetes camp. Both of them go skiing with a school group (without mom and dad!), go on weekend trips, spend the night out, and last summer Meredith even went for three weeks to Wales with a friend. Do I worry when I'm not around? You bet! But I would never deny them a reasonable opportunity, and I never want them to feel handicapped or blame their diabetes for limiting their lives. They certainly have to make allowances, and take care of themselves; they have to test a lot, and make decisions about insulin changes and food choices. They make mistakes, just like all of us; but diabetes, while a burden, has also made them responsible in many ways. They have to deal with it, and they do; I couldn't be prouder of them.
Next year, Corbin will go away to college. I will miss him, and I will want to call every night to ask "have you done your test?" and every morning to make sure he isn't too low to wake up. I can't do that, of course (he'd never be able to keep a roomate, and he'd never come home again!!), and I will adjust. And, judging from his past history, he will be responsible and careful. He'll make mistakes, and he will sometimes have to learn the hard way; but he will do well, I am confident.
I told an interviewer one time that the real heroes for parents of kids with diabetes are their children. They don't want to have diabetes, and sometimes they rail against it; but they learn to make a full and happy life in spite of this hovering monster. I am confident that Corbin and Meredith won't have to live with diabetes forever; the research, while never as rapid as we all would like, is more encouraging every year. One of these days, we will sit down to dinner and think--"hey, we didn't even think about insulin shots!" That's the day we look forward to with great anticipation; but until then, we will all do whatever it takes to keep Corbin and Meredith healthy and happy.
I hope this helps give a perspective of life with my diabetic teenagers. I am certainly willing to correspond and share my experiences with anyone going through these years or who dreads them; it is hard, but it is fun, too. I have made some wonderful friendships through the years with parents of children with diabetes, and we share both consolation and celebration as needed. Alone, we can feel isolated and afraid; hand in hand, we can do anything!
Corbin and Meredith Haley
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Last Updated: Wednesday March 16, 2005 16:44:54
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