Tuesday, May 09, 2006


"Zack and Michael are gonna see Ice Age: The Meltdown tonight . . . and, well, they invited me to come
too . . . "

A pause.

" . . . so can I go with them?"

"What time does the movie start?" I ask with a smile.

The look on Joseph's face is priceless.

"It's at six-- does this mean you'll let me go?"

"Yup," I say with a nod. "Hey, is anyone else going?"

I'm hoping he says Zack's mom will be with them. While Michael is a really nice guy and a terrific dad, his wife is a nurse.

"No-- just me and Zack. But Michael will have his cell phone, and I'll have the black bag."

"Sounds good, bud."

At quarter to five, Michael calls to tell me that he's leaving with Zack in a few minutes to grab a quick dinner before the show.

"Joseph is welcome to join us. We're going to Delitalia."

With that, my heart sinks because we've never eaten at this place. And I know Michael wants to go right from the restaurant to the movie.

I ask him to call me back in five minutes.

A quick internet search yields the restaurant's website, a menu-- but no nutritional info.

Damn . . . well, we're just gonna have to wing it.

When he calls back, I tell Michael that Joseph can join them (which prompts some major arm pumping by my son)-- just call me from the restaurant and we'll figure out the carbs.

Thankfully, Joseph eats a sub sandwich and a bag of chips-- no problem there. But then there's the movie popcorn.

Michael waits patiently on the other end of the phone as I figure out the total carbs for Joseph's bolus.

"Okay, here's what I want him to do-- we're gonna bolus 60 grams for the sandwich and chips, then add another 20 for the popcorn. I'm going real conservative on the popcorn because he had a low earlier, and was pretty active this afternoon. So tell Joseph-- 80 grams, 1 to 20. And it's a combo bolus-- 60/40 over three hours."

I can hear the boys horsing around in the background as Michael writes this down, and then says "Great, we're all set."

And just like that, Evan and I are back filling containers with potting soil and flowers, while my son -- just like any other 10-year-old kid -- is off to dinner and a movie with a friend.

It's after eight when a silver CRV pulls into our driveway. Joseph steps out, looking at the ground, his small black backpack slung over one shoulder. I open the front door, wave to Michael as he backs out, and suddenly find my son's arms around my waist-- his head buried in my chest.

"Honey, what's wrong? Are you okay?"

I take his face in my hands, and am startled by the miserable expression I see there.

"Mom, I'm so sorry" he cries, tears rolling down his cheeks.

"What is it?"

Now I'm scared.

"I just bolused for the popcorn, in the car on the way home. For 35 grams. And I was saying it out loud, and I said a unit and a half, and then I did it. Then, like a few minutes later Michael said I already bolused for the popcorn at the restaurant."

Oh no.

"Calm down, honey. It's gonna be fine. Let's just check your sugar, and we'll deal with it. It's okay. Really."

"Mom, I told Michael, I said 'you should have told me before I bolused-- I just gave myself insulin.' But he didn't say anything. He didn't even care."

"Well, he doesn't really know as much about this stuff," I say -- while fighting back a flash of anger at Michael for being so callous, but then:

I should have made sure he knew more.

Still crying, Joseph checks his sugar. He's 344. No surprise given how upset he is, the usual rebound from an earlier low, and the fact that it's so soon after he ate dinner and all that popcorn. And his meal bolus is still active.

Still active . . .

"Wait a minute! Honey, we did a combo."

"I know. I cancelled it in the car."

"You did?"

"And I suspended my pump for the rest of the ride home."

Now I'm crying too.

"Honey." I say, his face again in my hands.

"You are brilliant. You did all the right things. What happened was a mistake. People make them. But, my God, you knew just what to do. And you realized it faster than I did."

"Mom, I was so afraid to tell you. I thought you'd be really upset with me."

I was stunned.

How much pressure must this boy be under? And how much of it comes from me?

"No, no, no," I say gently, wiping the tears from his cheeks.

"Please don't ever be afraid to tell me anything-- no matter what. You're gonna make mistakes-- and so am I. We wouldn't be human if we didn't."

And then, for a long time we say nothing.

I just hold him close.


Caro said...

So I made you cry earlier... and now you've made me cry too.

Joseph is an amzing to kid. To be able to make that decision... the right one, to cope with it like that.

I can't help but feel that is because you always work on diabetes together, as a team. That is something that always strikes and impresses me no end.

I hope Joseph always reamins able to talk to you about this stuff: that you continue to work as a team. Somehow I can't help but think he will.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Hi Sandra,

What a great post. A tough situation for the both of you, and you both did so great.

I wish I remembered more about the details of how things worked when my mom & dad started letting me go out and do more - I'm sure it's very tough for you to you let the strings loose a bit.

Like you said - mistakes will happen, and like what happened, you both will learn from it.

I think you handled the situation very nicely, and man - what can I say about what Joseph did?! Amazing. And you tell him I said so. :-)

Beanie Baby said...

Thta's really great, Sandra. Scary, but great. Even more important than knowing how to do everything right is knowing how to fix it when you don't do everything right. Well done kiddo.

Vivian said...

Are you sure Joseph is not 20? He seems so mature for his age. How great that he did everything right and that he did tell you. I always have a hard time with how much of the responsibility should be Daniels and how much should I take so he can just be a kid. You seem to always know where that line is, kudos.

Nicole P said...


You and Joseph are two amazing people. I think of him everyday when I boot up my machine and see "Silver is the Color of Progress" dancing across my screen. I think it's amazing that you're giving him permission to make mistakes without fear of punishment and you're telling him he should honest with you if something happens and he feels ashamed or afraid. I promise you this will be of the utmost importance to him as he grows older.

Re: your last post. You shoud not feel like Joseph is a "poster child" in his position as a Youth Ambassador. Just as you so gently explained to Joseph last year in regard to complications, the ADA is trying to motivate people to ride for a cure and advocacy for people with diabetes. Youth Ambassadors inspire (read: motivate) people, because they are normal children -- with hopes and dreams and adventures to share. Diabetes is just something they have to control. I'm proud of you -- I'm proud of Joseph! I hope he relishes this experience.

Penny said...

I know I sound like a broken record, but Sandra, your kid is wonderfull. You have obviously done a wonderfull job of teaching him what he needs to know.

(BTW I typed this with tears rolling down my face and a teenage son staring at me like I've lost my mind.)

art-sweet said...

Sandra -

I'm so glad that Joseph knows that you love him 24/7/365. You love him when he forgets. You love him when he gets it right. You love him when he doesn't. I think it's so easy for kids to take in that sense of shame.

Anonymous said...

sandra. what a rough time. it is posts like this that make me hesitate to have my 10 yr old pump. your calculations seem so much more complicated than ours. lately, i've been having her calculate the correction/coverage dose and then checking her. we discuss when we disagree and then either i change or she does, but we understand why. have you read about the untethered technique which uses daily lantus with a pump? it sounds good to me. of course, a tubeless continuous monitor pump sounds good to me. a cure, too. take care.

Sandra Miller said...

Everyone- thanks.

What happened that evening is just one of many fears I have surrounding this disease -- accidentally administering a dose of insulin. But Joseph's quick response to the situation went a long way toward calming that particular fear.

Nicole- the thought that Joseph's comment about his loaner pump still flies across your screen each day just makes me smile.

And yes, your comment and others have made me better understand and appreciate Joseph's role at the Tour. The best part is that he's so dang jazzed to do this thing!

Anon- the calculations I include in this post may sound daunting, but really, once you get over that learning curve, it is sooo much easier and more flexible than shots. Check out this post for book recommendations on pumping (Insulin Pump Therapy Demystified is the best place to start).

On the untethered regimen-- we did try this last summer while vacationing on a lake, with pretty good results. My only problem with doing this all the time is that Joseph's activity level is frequently unpredictable, Those times when we need to substantially pull back his basal insulin (to prevent a later hypo) would be difficult if not impossible if he had Lantus still in his system.

Oh, and the "tubeless continuous monitor pump"?

Yeah, I'd be totally on board with that.

Take care :-)

Missmaryjennifer said...

Very moving Sandra, and what mother of child with Diabetes cannot relate? Beautifully written. Thank you

Jenifer said...

Sandra you have a great by the sounds of it he knows his stuff thats all that matters

melissa said...

The pressure comes from the disease, not you. Diabetes is not always very forgiving and begs for near perfection on the part of the humans who must cope with it every day. It is apparent in the knowledge Joseph has that you are giving him the tools he needs to handle his disease on his own and knowing how to fix mistakes is a huge part of it. Kudos. In my mind, that is the best gift you can give him.

Regarding your previous post: When I was a kid I was interviewed for the front page of the second seciton of our local newspaper for an article on diabetes and later I was in a commercial for the local diabetes bike-a-thon - those are some of my most cherished memories. I got tell my little corner of the world a bit about what it is like to have diabetes and raise awareness, I was proud of that. I got to be on tv and in the paper - how cool! If it weren't the diabetes Joseph would probably be a 'spokesperson' for some other great cause.

Sandra Miller said...



Joseph is supposed to be interviewed by a local news reporter at the Tour-- after his time in the spotlight, I hope he feels exactly as you describe here :-)

Jess Riley said...

I am humbled reading this, both by your wonderful relationship with your son and the fact that you and he handled the situation so well. My hat is off to both of you.

Sarah said...


You are teaching Joseph (amazingly WELL) how to live his life with diabetes independantly. He may not be 100% ready for it now, but think about it. HE KNEW WHAT TO DO! For a 10 yr old to have that much understanding of the workings of insulin and combo boluses and basal rates, to stop the combo and suspend the basal??! AMAZING! Joseph is one smart kid!

I still wonder how parents of D kids EVER have the courage to allow their children to face the world alone. Its a scary enough world, without D.

I'm constantly in awe.

Shannon said...

Oh Sandra, I missed this post. Everything you wrote about brought tears to my eyes.

You did a great job in showing Joseph that it was OK for him to make a mistake.

And what a great job he did in preventing a low!!

As a mom I could feel your anxiety about letting him go out to dinner and a movie...something people don't bat an eyelash at...but we have to. You're a great mom. I hope you had a great Mother's Day :)

J said...

oh poor guy I think he is just trying to figure it all out and YOu did all the right things too MOM you checked everything and made phone calls no one could ask for a better mom than that. You know about calorieking .com right? usually can give you a carb count on everything if you type in what you plan to eat .. and they have a book think Joseph would carry that in his back pack or to much for him? I keep this pocket size book in my back pack and it is my bible tells me almost everything I need to count once in a while it doesn't but online most things I type in comes up.. I am sure you probably already know about this just a thought . HUGS