Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Little More History

Yesterday Violet, from Pumplandia, wondered "if some kids have greater resilience than some adults in their ability to adjust to a life-changing illness." saying that she imagines "this depends very much on the individual." She got me thinking back to the hours and days after that awful diagnosis moment. And in thinking back, I believe there is a great deal of truth to Violet's statement.

Immediately after discovering that he had diabetes, Joseph was devastated.

But obviously that's not where he is now. Nor, incredibly, was it the place he occupied later that very same day.

We were told, in those first minutes, that Joseph needed to be admitted to the hospital that afternoon. A bed would have to be found. And because three other children in the area were diagnosed with type 1 that day (that's right-- three other children), there would be a wait to find out where we would land. During this time I had called Ryan to tell him what was going on, and to have him come with Evan to the pediatric office. When he arrived, we just looked at each other, and communicated volumes in the exchange. Then Ryan grabbed hold of Joseph, and held on so tight I thought he might break him. Later Ryan would tell me that after he'd gotten my call he had briefly looked online, wanting to know what we were dealing with. He'd read some of the worst case scenarios for the disease. It was the first time he'd really cried in years.

After nearly two hours of waiting in a tiny exam room, we were informed that Joseph was in. We were to drive to the hospital-- 5 minutes from the doctor's office-- and plan on being there until Sunday night. This was Thursday afternoon.

Yes, when Joseph discovered he had diabetes he was scared-- for about half an hour. After we reassured him that everything would be all right -- that we would learn how to deal with this, and he would be fine-- he calmed down. And then it dawned on him that there was now an explanation for his bedwetting, and that we could DO something about it. His spirits began to lift. And when he found out that in the hospital he'd have cable TV, Playstation and diet soda -- all things he did not have access to at home -- he was positively psyched.

At the hospital, Joseph was a model patient. More like a guest really. No IV. No real signs that he was sick. Ordering in room service, a little extra for any friends who happened by. And with me and Evan sleeping in a cot next to his fabulous adjustable bed, it felt like a slumber party.

On Friday, Joseph listened patiently to the Dietician as she explained to him the basics of nutrition. And after she gave him the definition of a carbohydrate, Joseph said in a calm, and not the least condescending, voice, "I think you must be used to talking with kindergarteners. I already know this. I learned about nutrition in first grade."

When he met our Diabetes Educator on Saturday, Joseph listened carefully to everything she said -- knowing that when our session was done he could go back to playing a video game. Checking his blood sugar was a snap. Joseph has never been one to shy away from needles. It's always been the emotional stuff that's gotten to him. He immediately began, not only doing his own finger sticks, but giving himself shots in the top of his leg. Amazing.

And when I expressed my concern about how he would feel dealing with all of this at a new school, with new classmates, Joseph took my hands and said "Mom, you're the one who's worried about that. Not me." And I thought "Who is this child? This boy who can take in all of what is happening and handle it so calmly, and with such grace."

By Sunday, they told us we were ready to go home. "Huh?" I thought. How can we be ready for this? It was so big. There was still so much to learn.

But Joseph was ready. He couldn't wait to show his friends his meter.


terrilynn said...

My son was diagnosed just a couple of months before he turned three, so he has no memory of life before diabetes. He has always been very matter-of-fact about it; it was just part of him, like brown eyes.

I've often thought that that was a blessing in many ways, if you can call anything about this damnable disease a blessing.

Now as he is beginning the journey that will lead to pumping, a lot of emotions are being stirred up for him, in much the same way I imagine that he might have experienced his diagnosis had he been older.

Martha O'Connor said...

Hi Sandra,
I have our diagnosis story tucked away to post sometime after this book stuff calms down a bit. It's hard to read, hard to talk about, because he was so sick, in serious DKA and close to coma.

Your son is beautiful. Congratulations to you both on the strength and wisdom you both have. I'm adding you to the blogroll right now. Xx Martha

Sandra Miller said...


You know, I've thought it was a blessing that Joseph was diagnosed at an age when he could communicate when he was feeling low— that he was old enough to understand what was happening to him and why. I guess we can find blessings in both situations.

Good luck with your journey toward the pump. If you'd like information about pumping or just some support as your son moves to the pump, I'm here.


I've been extremely grateful that Joseph never got sick at diagnosis. Writing about the time just before his diagnosis was painful— like experiencing the loss of my pre-diabetic son all over again. I'm sure it's far more difficult to even think about that time when you came so close to losing your son all together.

My heart goes out to you

Violet said...

Sandra, thank you for sharing this story. It's a great testimony to the resilience of Joseph's spirit. And a testimony as well to COURAGE--yours and his dad's and his. The moment when he took his courage from your assurances that together you would all figure this thing out made me teary-eyed. That sense of safety must be among the most valuable gifts a parent can give to a child. It is no wonder to me that Joseph is thriving. Please keep writing.