Back to Parents' Voices Robin O'Callaghan

Our daughter Caite (pronounced Katie) has had diabetes since 9 1/2 months of age. Now almost 8, our daughter has grown with the disease and our family has learned that although there are sacrifices we all make, we can help Caite to lead as normal a life she can with this disease.

Caite was diagnosed while on vacation in Oregon. She was only 9 1/2 months so the warning signs of constant urination and thirtiness didn't registered as easily. When she started to breathe heavily, we became very worried and rushed her to a local rural hospital. Within a few hours they had diagnosed her and soon she was heliported to Dornbecker's Children's Hospital in Portland. We learned about her condition and had our first learning experiences here--we have always been grateful to the staff and doctors at Dornbecker for this solid foundation they began us on.

Yet traditional education does not prepare you for the lifestyle changes implicit for caring for a very young diabetic child. My husband and I both worked--we still do, but now we have schedules that allow us both to be home a great deal and if one of us needs to work away from home, the other is there. We have had babysitters come for limited times and these young women have taken the time to learn our routines and backup procedures for Caite's care. We have never had a vacation or extended time away from Caite since birth--we hope as she grows she will one day attend one of the diabetic camps available in our area. School has always been a challenge, and the one lesson learned is 'get to know the staff, educate the staff, provide the staff with all necessary equipment, and spend as much time helping the staff as you can taking care of the child'--this too will change as Caite becomes more self-dependent.

Currently, Caite can poke herself, read her numbers, and understands what she needs to do if her numbers are too low or high. Caite is a true brittle diabetic, whose numbers are affected by moods, growth patterns, and other factors not easily known. This has led to a thorough test procedure, including testing at school during morning snack and PE times to assure her insulin is matching her needs. We have switched Caite to a regime including Humalog which has resulted in closer maintenance capabilities. But Caite will still sometimes bottom for no reason some mornings after snack, and be coherant, but exhibiting 'racoon eyes' at 34 mg. Conversely, some early afternoons she will rise to over 280 even though she has eaten properly and exercised accordingly.

Caite has danced ballet since 4, went to a half time preschool (where I became known as the 'other teacher' since I was ther most of the time), has played on both baseball and basketball teams, rides her bike, and loves to go exploring in the woods of our island with friends. She is an accomplished artist for her age and has created two books about her cats living on our island. She is a normal child and thus doesn't always want to eat what has been prepared, sleep when it is bedtime, or stop playing when it's time to go--these simple decisions can at times upset her regime--thus we as her parents have had to learn to balance keeping our child on a regime with allowing our child to be a kid.

What we hope to share in this message is just that--while there are ways to control this disease, it is also important to remember that our job as parents includes allowing the child to grow up in as normal of an environment that is possible for a child with diabetes---this attitude wouldn't be possible without the doctors we have had luck in having in our lives--Jim Hansen now in Portland with Emmanuel, and Dr. Mauseth here in Washington state.

We hope all parents who have the frightening and disheartening news that their child, especially a young child, has been diagnosed with diabetes, will be helped by this message to know that it is possible to raise that child as a normal, healthy member of the community -- but this is only possible through constant interaction and education of the populations your child will interact with throughout her/his young life. Get to know your teachers, school staff, community people who work with children and let them know about diabetes--its true dangers, its limits, and how education and preparation can reduce not only the occurances of perceived problems, but the occurance of ignorance and discrimination against children who exhibit nothing but great courage and fortitude throughout their young lives.

Thanks for listening!

Robin O'Callaghan

Published July 4, 1999

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