It's amazing how much we take for granted...until my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on October 24, 1997, my world was reasonably normal. I was eight moths pregnant with my second child, my husband of eight months (yes we planned it that way!), my then 6 year old daughter Caitlin and I had just moved into a new home, and we were just settling into life in the 'burbs when everything in our world exploded.
I'd already gone through one near-devastating diagnosis with Caitlin when she was just shy of 2 years old when it was confirmed that she had inherited from me a skin condition similar to eczema called atopic dermatitis (I was the most severe case Emory University's Dermatology clinic had seen at my best from age 10 to age 24.) I knew with that diagnosis that our lives were going to change and that Caitlin would most likely be deemed "different" from an early age, but we dealt with it and moved on.
I always knew there was a possiblilty that Caitlin might develop diabetes since her biological father is a Type 1 diabetic, but I also knew the statistics and that the odds weren't that higs, so I put it out of my mind. Then last fall we started noticing that Caitlin wasn't gaining weight. Then she started losing weight, enough to mildly alarm us. When we got more than one call from her school about not making it to the bathroom, we called the doctor. The day before the appointment I was talking to my mother about everything and I realized in a sort of slow-motion moment that all the symptoms I was describing to my mother I had seen in two of my uncles and my cousin. I wanted to call and cancel the appointment with the doctor, irrationally thinking that if I didn't hear it it wouldn't be true.
Caitlin's appointment was on Friday, October 24th at 3:45 PM. It was 45 minutes before she produced a urine specimin even after drinking what seemed like a gallon of water. Looking back I think she must have been a little afraid of all the goings-on, because I don't think anyone could drink that much and not feel like a water balloon. When the nurse put the test strip in the cup and it came out almost off the scale it was all I could do not to cry, but I didn't want Caitlin to see me upset. They came in to stick her finger for a blood glucose test which took another 10 minutes because she was afraid of the lancet. Her blood glucose was 352. Knowing that something like 70-140 was the average range and that she hadn't eaten for several hours I was crushed.
It's funny, at the time everything was a real blur but it's so clear in hindsight. Since it was late on a Friday afternoon and there was no hope of a crash course in insulin administration and her sugar had to be regulated as soon as possible I was suddenly faced with admitting her to the hospital and had been totally unprepared for that possibility. At this point I give all the credit in the world to the staff of Athens Family Medicine, Drs. Paul Haver, Michael Shiver and Phillip Morris and all the nurses and administrative staff for taking over and making things as easy on us as possible. I called my parents and gave them the news and they agreed to meet me at the hospital as soon as they could. Since my husband's car wasn't running well at the time he could only sit at home and wait for me to call periodically with news.
Within the hour Caitlin was in a room in the pediatric unit of Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens, Georgia, being examined and tested and having her first administration of insulin. We made arrangements to meet with the hospital's Diabetes eduactor, Marji Reeves, on Saturday, saw the doctor when he made rounds, ate, watched TV, and tried to cheer each other up. I called Caitlin's father to let him know the situation and he made arrangements to visit her in the hospital. My parents arrived and my mother stayed overnight with Caitlin so I could try to rest.
On Saturday we received a crash course in diabetes and insulin administration. Steve and I both stuck our fingers and he actually injected himself with sterile water to show Caitlin it wasn't so bad (I was excused from this since I'd been poked and prodded enough at 8 months pregnant!) and to try to encourage her to learn to do the tests and shots on her own. By dinnertime I was checking her sugar and giving her shots and feeling like I might actually be able to handle this without having a nervous breakdown. When I arrived home that night I did what any self-respecting web-surfer would do: I started looking for information. That's how I found this site, and it's been my browser's homepage ever since.
By Sunday morning it seemed like we might have things under control, both medically and mentally. When Dr. Morris came to check and see how Caitlin was doing he decided that we had enough of a grasp on the situation to send her home (we were later told that it was exceedingly rare for a newly diagnosed diabetic, child or adult, to be discharged after less than 48 hours...what can I say, I'm determined!).
Caitlin was out of school for 2 weeks, primarily because the school didn't feel comfortable handling a diabetic child until they were properly eduated. Unfortunately, the school (which will remain nameless mainly to protect those guilty of ignorance) was less than completely cooperative at the start, but once Marji visited the school and gave them a course in caring for a diabetic things went smoothly.
It's been six months now, we've made it through our first diabetic Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter. We've moved to another new home and another new school (that already has a diabetic student), Caitlin has a new baby sister, and things are finally settling down. Her sugar is still a little unstable from time to time but overall things are going pretty smoothly.
In a couple of weeks we're having Caitlin's first diabetic birthday...the doctor says we can let her splurge once in a while, as long as it's carefully monitored and it doesn't happen often, but birthdays are, of course, special occasions.
The week after she gets out of school Caitlin is going to Camp Adam Fisher...and for once, she will be in the majority instead of the minority. She will be with other "different" kids, but for once they will be the "normal" ones!
If it weren't for Children With Diabetes, I never would have been able to take an aggresive stance with this disease and I would not have been able to make dealing with her diabetes as easy as it is for Caitlin. Thanks to this site she has the smallest gauge syringes and lancets, the easiest to use glucose meter, a couple of pen pals and much more self conficence. For me this site has been a support system and a way of learning not only from the information on the site but from the parents of other diabetic children.
Thanks for giving us all a place to belong!
Amy B. Shenkel, mother of Caitlin Bozarth, 7, diagnosed October 1997
Amy receives e-mail at [email protected]
Original posting: 2 May 98
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