As my children have grown older I have discussed the potential risk of them becoming diabetic or their children being diagnosed with diabetes. Why, you may ask? They have lived their lives with me being diabetic. This fear, for me, has been prevalent since the day they were born and I have never wished this disease upon anyone and never will. For some reason my nine-year old son, Connor, and I discussed becoming diabetic as recently as four weeks ago and as usual he had a plethora of questions. Will I become diabetic? Would I be able to get an insulin pump? Do shots hurt? As always I entertained the whimsical questions and answered the query as I always had. “Diabetes is the easiest disease to manage of all the major diseases and it is the one I would want if given a choice.” I never delved into the roller coaster of emotions that one experiences with low blood sugars or the feelings one gets when their blood sugar is too high, the insatiable feeling of thirst or the agitation diabetics frequently experience. Are these symptoms indescribable to one without diabetes? To an extent, yes, because without experiencing the highs and lows for oneself it is very hard to comprehend.
On August 31st I lived one of my biggest fears for one of my children as the day before my family and I set out for an end of summer mini-vacation to see my younger brother, Ben, and his family near Savannah, GA. Over the previous ninety days all of the signs were there but his mother, Amanda, and I chalked them up to feasible conclusions. “My head hurts!” sinuses, I calculated. “I’m thirsty!” football practice will make you thirsty and tired, I surmised. Daily Connor showed signs of being diabetic. I even suspected, as early as May, that he should be tested but all of the events leading up to this day had logical explanations. With the car packed we hit the road and shortly thereafter a little voice in the back seat kept saying “I’M THIRSTY” or “I HAVE TO POTTY”. In the back of mind for a fleeting moment it crossed my thought process that he could be diabetic but that quickly abated as I assumed he was catching a cold. We stopped along the way for Connor to use the bathroom and drink whatever he could get his hands on. After midnight he stated that he had to go to the bathroom really bad and I obliged. “Surely not” I thought to myself. We arrive at our destination and bed down for the evening. Upon waking Amanda tells me that Connor had an accident while sleeping on the couch. I thought that was highly unusual but probably due to all the water he had consumed. Connor came to me and stated that his head hurt and his nose was running. I give him sinus medication before breakfast and assumed he was coming down with a cold. My son barely touched his breakfast and we were off to tour Savannah. Upon arrival, for our trolley tour, Connor asked for water and the bathroom. A red flag went up in my mind for a fleeting moment. An hour later and we are standing in Paula Dean’s gift shop and my son with a distraught, tired, pitiful look upon his face proceeded to tell me that he had a thirst that he had never felt before. I asked him if he was thirsty enough to drink out of his cousin’s sippie cup and he said yes which raised the red flag higher. I told him that we were about to go eat lunch and that he would feel better if we got food in him. We arrived at The Pirate’s House and were seated for lunch. Connor laid his head on the table and said he did not want anything to eat only something to drink. The red flag was at full mast and alarms went off in my head. I told Amanda that I was going to check his blood sugar. “NOOOOOOO, don’t!” my little boy exclaimed. I had checked his sugar on occasion before as well as my daughters with neither enjoying the finger prick. I did not relent and proceeded. My biggest fear regarding my child’s health had taken place as the glucose meter read 529.
For a brief second I was in disbelief. Surely this was not happening to my son. At the top of my lungs I yelled that we had to get Connor to the emergency room. Amanda was frantic and the restaurant patrons had no idea what was transpiring. I can only imagine what was running through our daughter’s (Brooke) mind or my family’s. I told myself that maybe he had something on his hands. He had touched the bread basket and I thought that is what skewed his numbers. Amanda told me to go wash his hands and I complied. I re-tested him and his blood sugar read 544. Connor was crying because of my reaction as well as his mothers. Thirty-nine years of being a juvenile diabetic flashed before my eyes. The emotional toil that he will encounter, the frustration and the burden he will face daily. That is what hit me more than anything else. I was in denial thinking of every scenario that would cause his blood glucose to be high and knowing there was only one…..diabetes. We rushed outside to await the arrival of the taxi to transport us to Memorial Hospital in Savannah. Connor and I sat on the curb and all I could do was hold him and cry. I apologized to him profusely for carrying my genes telling him that because of me he is now diabetic.
Upon arrival at the hospital Amanda and I had regained some composure for only an instant. We made it back to the emergency room nurse where Amanda and I were asked what was going on with Connor. I broke down as I began to explain our situation to Jennifer Lee the emergency room nurse. Again, I lost my composure and Jennifer proceeded to tell me ”get a grip as little eyes were watching my reaction” and how she understood what we were going through. Really?? Are you kidding me? ……. I proceeded to ask Jennifer if she had diabetes. She said no but she deals with it on a daily basis with her patients. I was flabbergasted and angry. I told her that without having diabetes she had NO IDEA WHAT WE GO THROUGH and that is why I was reacting the way I was. She told me to calm down or she would have me removed. I was dumbfounded but Jennifer was right. I reflected back to the week prior to this happening when I told my now diabetic son how diabetes was the easiest disease to manage. My reaction was speaking a lot louder than my words and I finally realized that fact. Reality set in and my wife and I accepted Connor’s plight. We go on vacation and come home with not one but two diabetics! Before leaving the hospital Connor’s endocrinologist (diabetic doctor) asked him “Connor, what do you think about diabetes?” Without missing a beat Connor stated “Of all the diseases in the world this is the one I want because I can manage it.”