Excerpt from the book Kids First, Diabetes Second written by Leighann Calentine about being released from the hospital after your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and going home to take care of your child on your own.
To this day it still astonishes me that they just send newly diagnosed kids home with their parents who have to suddenly act as their child’s pancreas and make any number of daily decisions! Now I’ve got a handle on things (except those days when diabetes throws me for a loop…thanks, growth hormones!) and I am not very frequently stressed about helping my daughter manage her type 1 diabetes. But I remember that first night on our own.
Your child’s blood sugar has stabilized, you’ve learned how to count carbs and figure out insulin dosages, and you’ve even given a few injections to that poor little protesting child. Just when you start to feel comfortable performing these duties with the nurse looking on, they send you home. Wait, can they do that?
I remember thinking at that moment that my child’s life was literally in my hands. She needed constant medical supervision, and, after a scant three days of training, they were sending us home, and we were supposed to somehow keep her alive. Leaving the hospital with our child newly diagnosed with diabetes, tightly clutching our binder of information, was incredibly scary.
Looking back, our departure from the hospital was kind of comical. If you thought our trip down there on the day of her diagnosis was chaotic, we had a heck of a time getting back home.
The hospital overlooks a large park, which includes an awesome zoo. Since we had to leave that day, we prodded the staff to let us go as early as possible so we could squeeze in a little fun. We did manage to visit the zoo, ride the carousel, and take a quick ride on the train before it closed. We hopped back on the highway and, when we crossed the state line, we stopped at a Denny’s for dinner.
In the hospital, we had a menu that included the carb counts. But did Denny’s have nutritional information available? Uh, no. In fact, the waitress was dumbfounded that I would actually need to know the carb counts. So there we were, enjoying our “breakfast for dinner,” and I had the logbook, pen and paper, The CalorieKing, and various diabetes supplies spread out across the table. I tried my best to figure out how many carbs were in that meal. I called the endocrinologist on duty to tell her Q’s blood sugar and the number of carbs she had eaten, and to explain my math to make sure I was about to give my daughter the right amount of insulin for the meal. How frustrating!
(In defense of Denny’s, they now have laminated nutritional data at their restaurants. Q and I have made it a tradition to stop at Denny’s to have “breakfast for dinner” every time we make the long trip to see her endocrinologist.)
By the conclusion of dinner, it was getting dark. I don’t know if we were overwhelmed or just tired, but we missed our exit and didn’t realize until it was too late that we were headed due north on the wrong highway instead of northeast on the right one. Both highways get us home in about the same amount of time, but the highway we inadvertently took has far fewer rest areas, towns, and gas stations.
At about 8:00 PM we pulled over to check Q’s blood sugar, give her a bedtime snack, and an injection of long-acting insulin. The test showed that her blood sugar was really high. I freaked out and was back on the phone with the on-call endocrinologist. She explained that it was probably a combination of factors, including guessing the carbs at dinner, a long day, and sitting still in the car. I thought to myself, “Seriously? Not five hours into caring for her on our own and I’ve already messed up?” The endocrinologist told me to give her some fast-acting insulin. She reassured me that everything was okay, and said she’d speak to me again in a few hours when we returned home and checked her blood sugar again.
Could I really do this? Well, I had no choice. I had to gain confidence in myself and my ability to make decisions for her care. Eventually, it would become routine, but, on that day, it was simply overwhelming.
If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can read more on the Kids First, Diabetes Second book page. It’s available widely in print and as an eBook from book sellers such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. And if you do read it and find it to be a valuable resource, I would greatly appreciate if you could write a review on any of the online retail sites. Thanks!
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