My biggest fear has happened to my child…..

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.”




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20 responses to “My biggest fear has happened to my child…..

  1. Connor is very lucky to have a father that can help, guide, educate, relate to, and comfort him…It sounds like he has a great attitude too 🙂

  2. Denise Rucker

    Derek: My twin brother is a diabetic since he was 19 years old. My grandmother found him in a coma and he was rushed to B’ham for treatment. No one in B’ham could find out what was wrong- a local doctor in Talladega discover he had diabetes. He lead a good life- going fishing- bird hunting etc until 1 1/2years ago Then his world fell apart. He had insurance when he was first diagnosis but BC/BS kept rising his rates and he had to make a choice support his young family or keep insurance- He chose to support his family. He took twice daily shots and did good- then he had a mild stroke that affected his eyesight and he had to quit a very good job. He now is in a nursing home in Anniston because he cannot live by himself after he got sick. His wife left him because she did not won’t to care for sick person. Anyway I visit my twin brother almost daily and he is in good sprits despite what he has been thru. God made it possible for me to get him to both of his sons wedding this year. I truly know what is happening to you and your family. Stay strong as God has got this.
    Denise Rucker.

  3. Karen Loftin

    I often wondered what you thought about growing up diabetic! You have expressed yourself eloquently and thoughtfully and insightfully. Your son is lucky to have you for his dad since you can help him through his initial learning period. We do what we have to do as parents–I know you’ll be there for him.

  4. God bless you. You and Amanda are wonderful parents and your son will always get the best care possible.

  5. Wow, thanks for sharing Derek! Before reading this my only insight into diabetes was the Babysitters Club books I read in elementary school. Conner is so blessed to have a father (and a mother and sister) who is prepared to handle this.

  6. Diane Tucker

    What a touching story you have written here to so many who may have needed to hear this story. You and Amanda as parents, had the right to be scared, concerned and saddened by one of your children inheriting this disease, but it has a happy outcome as Conner has a dad who can relate to what he will be going through and a great mom who will have open ears to him as well. I loved the ending to this writing where Conner learned from his dad that this is one disease that can be managed where other diseases cannot not be. You have taught him well and will continue to do so, but most importantly, Conner knows he has a God he can trust and know He will take care of him along the way. Thank you for sharing your heart and this too is part of healing in writing this in words.
    Love your family,

  7. Sarah

    I can’t say I agree. If we continue to lie to ourselves, the world, the reason why this disease has no cure is evident. Even though it is fatal without insulin (or conversely too much insulin), and we struggle with acute and chronic side effects, it is ” easily manageable”. Sure.

    • Thanks for responding, Sara. One’s frame of mind can adversely affect any situation especially with a chronic disease. After living with type 1 diabetes for thirty-nine years, diagnosed at the age of two, and successfully staving off any complications I am grateful. The foundation that was laid upon my diagnosis has played a major role in my good health as well as genetics. Have I told my son a lie by stating that diabetes is manageable? No, because I have lived with it successfully and he can too by managing the disease daily. I am not tied to the diabetes industry but am thankful for the technological advances that have made management of the disease much easier. I used inadequate hypodermic needles, peed in a cup daily, measured food due to the exchange method and survived successfully. I was twenty years late to the pump and seven years late to the CGM. Has it been easy all of these years? No! Were I to say yes THEN I would be lying to myself, my son and the world….. From your statements it appears that you are having a rough go with the big D. What do you attribute your view to? Unstable blood sugars, resulting in poor control? I pose the question seeking to determine the root cause of your negativity. I look forward and anticipate your response so it may be mutually beneficial to both of us!

  8. Peg Henderson

    Derek, I knew you were amazing when you babysat my kids in Jacksonville. Now I truly know it. Your son will be fine with your guidance. Diabetes is controlable. I have had it for the past 10 years. I fought to keep from getting it. My mother, two sisters, brother and I all have it. Each has their own problems with it, but it has a lot to do with attitude, diet and exercise. God bless you and your son. I wish you all the best.. Peg Henderson

    • Great to hear from you, Peg! Attitude is the key. Tell Fred I said hello!

    • Sarah

      I’m not sure what you mean. You can’t fight from getting Type 1 diabetes. Unless you have figured out how to stop your immune system from destroying your beta cells. Which is a bit of a feat.

      If you mean Type 2 diabetes, it’s nit only controllable, but usually reversabile if one makes the right choices. It’s usually triggered by allowing yourself to be overweight and eating the wrong foods, plus inactivity. It’s very easy to control.

      Type 1 diabetes is a completely different disease.

  9. Lyndsey

    Thank you for posting this. As I read your post I relived the moment I tested my daughter and my worst fears were concerned. As a parent with diabetes you have been able to put into words the moment the moment you check your child and the confirmation of your worst nightmare. I read this in tears because I realised I am not alone and others have felt the same. For that I thank you. I also know that I share an extra bond with my daughter as we know what the other is feeling without having to explain. Together we are stronger and we fight as equals on the diabetes battlefield.

    • Thank you for sharing, Lyndsey. I am glad you are there for your daughter! My son and I have become a lot closer just over the last month due to the diabetes bond. Let us all keep up the good fight and show our children that we can successfully live quality lives. Keep up the good work.

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