2017 Resolutions

As Henry delighted in putting together his 734 piece “expert level” winter train Lego set, we had to interrupt him and test for lows multiple times. He hung out in the 60s and 70s no matter how many glucose tabs and airheads we threw at the lows.

In fact, it wasn’t until my husband asked, “Do you think the Legos are making him low?” that I put two and two together. I remembered that about six months ago Henry worked most of the morning on a complex Lego set and he remained low most of the time. Then I recalled reading about 504’s, and many parents explained that the mental energy of standardized tests often drove their children low, likening complex mental activities to a kind of sugar-guzzling exercise.

While I don’t make specific resolutions at the start of the year, I do believe in rededicating and refocusing attention and efforts periodically.

While Henry happily put his Lego set together in a state of mild hypoglycemia, I resolved to pay attention, not only to how food and activities affect his blood sugar, but to how our law makers handle healthcare.

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In a few days, a new administration will take office, and one of the first items that will be considered is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I’m not sure how health and healing, particularly the health of children, got political, but it is, and it shouldn’t be. I’m not a Pollyanna, I understand it’s really about money; a few phone calls to an insurance company to discuss $1.40 test strips makes this very clear.

I understand that the ACA is not perfect. Thankfully, we have private insurance, and since the ACA passed a few years ago, our premiums and co-pays have increased. We pay more for our coverage, which appears to be increasingly less. However, it means that people like Henry, who came into the world with a quarter of a million dollar hospital bill for a stay in the NICU, who was diagnosed with a costly, chronic disease at three-years-old can never have a lifetime maximum. He cannot be refused for a preexisting condition, and he can stay on our insurance until he’s 26. But more importantly, the ACA provides access to health care for people who are not able to be a part of the privatized market. Imagine guessing at your blood sugar because you could only afford a test strip a day or rationing your insulin and choosing not to eat or not give insulin because you couldn’t afford it.

This morning, when the governor of my state called for a “move to one comprehensive statewide health care contract for public employees,” I was paying attention. When my House Representative was re-elected, I wrote a letter and explained the role of the ACA for people who live with a lifelong condition. I urged him to support medicare coverage of a continuous glucose monitor, and thanked him for signing the letter for the Special Diabetes Program.

In 2017, I’m paying attention. Here’s how to contact your lawmakers. Tell them what’s important to you. Make them pay attention.

A Time Diabetes Bossed Us

Henry’s recent love of Angry Birds Star Wars on his iPod and the curvy roads back East let us know that he gets car sick. About 40 minutes into our 571 mile trip back from the beach, (which should take about 9 hours) he began to feel sick.

Car traveling jacks up Henry’s blood sugar, so to compensate, we increase his basal temporarily to deliver 80% above his normal basal rate, which usually keeps his blood sugar between 80 and 150. However, one look at his continuous glucose monitor (CGM) told me his BG was falling. I tested his blood for the glucose level and ketones. His blood sugar was 62 and he had moderate ketones. We’d entered the terrible T1D paradox of nausea. Insulin and fluids are what flush ketones out of the system, but with a low BG and a sick tummy, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to take in or keep down carbs so that insulin can be delivered.

I climbed to the back seat and canceled the temporary basal increase. I coaxed Henry to eat or drink any carb he wanted, but apple juice and Airheads made him gag. We pulled into a gas station, and after some really dramatic moments, he managed to swallow a Dramamine with some apple juice. We walked around, and I panicked purchased a number of candies that came in a gel form, a sleep pillow, and a roll of paper towels.

Within half an hour we were back on the road, two arrows up on the CGM, Henry drinking sugar free liquids, insulin delivered, and ketones gone. It took a while before he felt like eating, but when he did, we stopped at a place Henry named. When it came time to place his order, big tears welled up in his eyes, and he said he didn’t want to eat there. Normally, Henry loves mealtime, so this behavior threw us. Finally, he decided on a bowl of rice, black beans, chicken, and cheese, and we bolused for half of it.

Henry ate half, and saved the rest for later. Later arrived, and we bolused for the rest as Henry grazed in the late afternoon. I  watched his blood glucose rise to 200, then 265, then 310, then 381, then HIGH (on a CGM this means it’s above 400). All the while, I rage bolused more insuiln, .5, then .75, then 1.5. I poured on the fluids. With a high blood glucose and lots of fluid, we got to visit no less than 7 gas stations (and a bucolic roadside) before dinner, which we were holding off on until his blood glucose was below 300, so the kids had an 8 p.m. dinner.

Recently, we were at the Friends for Life Conference in Orlando, FL, where the closing keynote speaker challenged the audience to think of how diabetes had enriched our lives. When presented with this question, my first thoughts were sardonic. It’s easy to think of all the negative ways that diabetes has altered my life, and most significantly and importantly, my son’s life. However, the easy type of thinking is not very useful. Diabetes is difficult, and demands a complicated response. The way I see my son is beautifully difficult. I see a five-year-old with a generous spirit, a kid who has endured more medical procedures than me, even though I’ve been alive seven times longer than he has. I imagine the courageous person he is already becoming because he has to live with type 1. Diabetes has allowed me see me son, and yes, I mean, “I see you,” in James Cameron Avatar kind of way: a great empathy that is a heart always breaking open to need and contentment.

Super T1D in blue with blue d-bag. #bluefridays #projectbluenovember

A post shared by Semisweet (@semisweett1d) on

 

A few more gas station stops later, we were finally at our destination eleven and half hours after we started the trip. We’d blown right past bedtime, and when I tucked Henry in he said, “I don’t like diabetes.”

I said, “I don’t like it either. Why don’t you like it?”

“I don’t like diabetes because I have to wait to eat yummy candy like Airheads, and they taste delicious. It’s not fair”

Henry’s starting to realize that his diabetes makes him different. The times when he tells me that he doesn’t like diabetes are hard, and I know it’s imperative for me to be really present in these moments, but my thoughts spill out like paint splatter. Immediately, I think it was a poor decision to introduce candy as a treat for lows. I wonder how we could have been so shortsighted. I think about watching family members who are able to give their kids lemonade, crackers, juice, and candy without a second thought. I’m with Henry, it’s not fair.

“You know what, Henry,” I said. “It’s not fair, but because you have diabetes, that means we take really good care of you, and you’re going to be healthy when you grow up.”

I think about telling him that candy is like medicine for him, but think better of it. I want to keep as much of his childhood diabetes free as I can. I want candy to be just candy.

 

A Time We Bossed Diabetes

We travel a lot over the summer, and while staying with family this summer our kids saw real live commercials for the first time. And they wanted Airheads, Fruit Loops, Num Noms, and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

Thanks to a talk, “Hypoglycemia Prevention and Treatment” given by Gary Scheiner at Friends for Life 2016 we learned about candies that have dextrose, which are a quick rescue for lows, and Airheads just happen to be on the list. We jumped at the chance to hand over candy without consequence instead of chalky glucose tabs to treat our son’s low blood sugars.

It’s true that people with type 1 diabetes can eat anything they want to, and we don’t make foods off limits in our house. Instead we practice a little bit of all things. However, bolusing for extemporaneous juice or candy is an exercise in certain failure. Often, the carb will peak before the insulin starts to act, and the sugar burns off while the insulin is still acting, so there’s a high high, then a low.

Due to summer activity, we’ve often had to dial back basal and bolus settings. We know certain activities like the beach, swimming, or playing outside when it’s hot are likely to drive Henry’s blood sugar low. In fact, for Henry, lows can come 12 hours after activity.

With a summer of beach trips ahead, I rigged up a pretty neat way to keep Henry’s insulin and pump in good working order, and my husband bought lots of Airheads. In fact, he bought every flavor of Airhead, and even doubled up on the White Mystery flavor.

When Matt showed Henry all the Airheads ready to treat his lows, Henry said, “Give me some insulin so I can go low and try one.”

Sure enough, our second day at the beach caused a low of 62, which he felt, and uncharacteristically needed a little time from which to recover.

 

With each low, he bounced back, declaring what flavor of Airhead he’d try next. So far,  we’ve visited Edisto Beach, SC, and St. Augustine Beach, FL, and tried an orange, cherry, and blue raspberry Airhead. Lots of summer and sugar stretches joyously ahead.

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Orange Airhead, Cool Hat, St. Augustine Beach, July 2016

Diabetes, from Clinical to Personal

In this guest post, Rhonda Morgan, a registered nurse, describes how type 1 patients in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and severe hypoglycemia were treated in the emergency department in the 1970s and 1980s. Rhonda’s understanding of type 1 diabetes changed in 2014, when the clinical became personal.

I began my career as a registered nurse in 1974, the summer I graduated college and passed my board exams. This was one of the sundry times there was a nursing shortage, so I started to work as a new graduate in a very busy emergency department (ED) of a 500+ bed hospital. It was grand. The ED affords ample opportunity to see just about everything. And we saw a lot of patients with diabetes in those days, primarily adults in DKA. Another frequently seen diabetic-related emergency was hypoglycemia (“insulin shock,” as it was known then), and these patients all too often presented to the ED, unconscious, with seizures, and with a very low blood glucose. Many doses of D50 (dextrose 50%) were administered empirically to known patients with T1D presenting with these symptoms. Likely no state of unconsciousness is as easily and instantly reversed. Occasionally, a child would present to the ED and be diagnosed with type 1, but children were always admitted to pediatrics, and never hung around in the ED for very long.

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Rhonda Morgan, RN in the ED, 1981, preparing an IV

The adult type 1 patient in DKA was one of my favorite patients to manage and care for in the ED, because the course was so dynamic, and one could see the favorable results of treatment over a short period of time. One of the really great ED physicians, with whom I worked for many years, would elect to keep these patients in the ED and treat them, as opposed to admitting them to the hospital, if they did not have insurance. This was much more financially feasible for the patient and family, plus the patient had constant care.

In those days, we had no bedside (point of care) blood glucose testing. We tested for glucose in the urine of our patients with diabetes using clinitest tablets. The clinitest method involved shaking a tablet out of the bottle into the test tube (because you could not touch the tablet with your fingers), adding 6 drops of urine and 10 drops of sterile water and waiting for the chemical reaction to occur. The contents of the test tube would fizz and generate heat, and then change color. After 30 seconds, one would compare the color of the liquid in the test tube to a color chart to determine the corresponding blood glucose. The test was very imprecise, but none the less we used this method of testing for glucose, along with blood tests that were sent to the lab, and took an hour or more to get the results.

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A few years later, test strips were available, but again, this method tested for glucose in urine and was not a direct or current measurement of blood glucose. DNA recombinant (Humalog/Novalog) insulins and basal insulins were not yet developed. We had regular insulin, NPH, Lente insulin, and ultra-Lente, the last two being longer-acting insulins. All were bovine origin.

Later in my career, I worked in critical care as a clinical specialist and helped institute computerized, and then later, web-based algorithms to manage hyperglycemia of critical illness, prevalent in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients in the ICU.

So, I have been around a lot of folks with diabetes. I have managed treatment and cared for of a lot of folks with diabetes in DKA, and in critical illness situations. However, I knew nothing about how to manage and oversee the maintenance of T1D until my grandson, Henry, was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 3.

Then, I saw the “other side” of diabetes— the personal side, not the clinical rescue, critical, immediate treatment regimen, but the everyday, every night, day-in, day-out routines that must be undertaken to keep him safe in the immediate, and to offer the best odds of avoiding the long term complications of diabetes. This side of diabetes management is just as critical as the side of diabetes care with which I was so familiar.

Our entire family had a learning curve that was fast paced. It was not easy, and it is not for the short term. It is for life. Henry was started on multiple daily injections at diagnosis in March 2014. Needless to say, this approach was filled with anxiety and unpleasantness for all. Thanks to his smart and advocating parents, he got his insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor in late May, just shy of 3 months into his life with diabetes. The pump ushered in a new learning curve, and the continuous glucose monitor gave us an eye on previously unseen data.

How I wish Henry did not have to live his life with diabetes, but he does.

I think back to 1974 and putting those 6 drops of urine in the test tube and feeling the warmth of the chemical reaction in my hand, and I contrast that to a direct blood glucose value we get multiple times daily in just seconds, CGM data transmitted over an iphone around the world, and insulin delivered with a pump, and I am confident Henry can have a happy, healthy productive life.

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Henry and his Nonna in 2014

Richard’s Diagnosis Story

Diagnosis stories are powerful teaching tools that help people learn to recognize the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. For the person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis is the day his or her life changes and goes forward. Semisweet is sharing “Richard’s Diagnosis Story” in his own words. Richard has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 70 years. In 2006 he joined the diabetes online community, where people were fascinated to hear Richard’s story of living with T1D in the 1940s and beyond. In 2010, Richard published his autobiography, “Beating The Odds: 64 Years Of Diabetes Health.”

Richard, diagnosed at age 6, September 1945

I was born in 1939, in Roanoke, VA, and I had several illnesses before my fifth birthday: three different kinds of measles and my tonsils removed. When I was five I had chicken pox and mumps, and while recovering I began showing the classic symptoms of diabetes— excessive peeing and drinking so much water. My parents took me to three different doctors, but they did not recognize my symptoms, so there was no diagnosis. I lost my appetite, and refused to eat. I just wanted to drink.

One doctor prescribed a tonic that was supposed to restore my appetite. I still remember the bad taste and tall glass bottle filled with dark brown liquid. It was like the snake oil medicine that we have read about from the past. The tonic did not help at all. It probably made my condition worse because it contained sugar. By the time we saw a fourth doctor I was very weak, and had lost a lot of weight. My ribs were very noticeable when my shirt was removed. The fourth doctor recognized my symptoms, and took a blood sample in his office. The sample was sent to a lab, and we waited a few days before returning to his office for the results.

His office was on the second floor of a building on Main Street in Salem, VA, and I struggled to slowly walk up the long flight of stairs. My father was carrying my three year old sister, but I was too big to be carried. In the doctor’s office, my mother and I sat in chairs while my father stood behind us, still holding my sister. I do not remember the doctor’s face, or his words, but I’ve never forgotten my mother’s pale and frightened face. In September 1945, a few days after my sixth birthday, we were told that I had sugar diabetes. I was hospitalized the next day, and don’t remember much about the stay, except for the injections and the blood that was collected. Insulin, taken from pigs or cows caused me to gradually regain my appetite, and I stopped losing weight. By the time I was home, I looked like a human being again, and my strength was very much improved.

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Richard and his family a few months after his diagnosis

While in the hospital, I was treated by Dr. Davis and he became the doctor for my whole family. I saw him every six months, and he took blood samples, testing them in his office lab while I waited. My blood sugar was always high, but I don’t recall him ever mentioning numbers. We were not concerned though because we did not know about the complications that might occur with my eyes, kidneys, and other body parts. One shot per day, one urine test, large portions of food, and no worries. Ignorance was bliss.

There were no meters for testing blood sugar at home until the 1980s, almost forty years after my diagnosis. We tested my urine at home, every morning, but the procedure for doing that was very awkward. The first thing I did each morning was to pee in a cup. Some Benedict’s solution was placed in a large test tube, and several drops of urine were added. The test tube was placed upright in a container of water on our stove. When the water had boiled a while, the test tube was removed, and the color of the solution was observed. The original color of the Benedict’s solution was blue. If the solution containing the urine was blue, after boiling, then there was no sugar present in the urine. If sugar was present in my urine, then there would be colors: green, yellow, orange, brick red, or brown. Green showed a low amount of sugar, brown showed very high sugar.

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testing blood sugar with Benedict’s solution

It was nice that there was only one injection each day before breakfast, but there were no fast and slow acting insulins, so control of my blood sugar levels was not good at all. The animal insulin was a 24 hour insulin, so the morning urine test result determined the dosage, but urine tests do not approximate blood sugar well. The glass syringe and metal needles were kept in alcohol, and sterilized with boiling water on the stove once each week. We had our own well, and the water contained limestone deposits. After boiling, there was a white film on the needles and syringe, so we had to use a whetstone to remove the deposits. The limestone frequently clogged the insides of the needles, so we had to push a small wire through the needles to unclog them. If the deposit was not removed it was difficult to push the needle into my skin. The needles were almost three quarters of an inch in length. I was supposed to push the needle into the muscle on top of my legs, or on my arms. My father gave me my injections until I was ten.

During the night I would sometimes have hypos. Some of those hypos became seizures. I would thrash around during my sleep, my teeth clinched, my muscles would become drawn, and I was almost unconscious. Mother poured small amounts of the sugar water they kept nearby on my lips, until I had enough in my mouth to partially awaken me. Then I drank the liquid more freely. I was always drenched with sweat, and very weak after a seizure. My body was sore the next day and the sugar water caused my urine test to show high the next morning. I continued to have seizures for many years, but they occurred less frequently when I was older. There was never any effort made to call an ambulance. Perhaps it was because the nearest hospital was at least 10-15 miles from our house, and I doubt that the paramedics in the ambulance had glucagon injections. Home care was probably the best solution. I think my mother saved my life many times during the years I lived at home.

Dr. Davis told us that I should not eat sugar, but no other instructions about an appropriate diet were given, so we didn’t know about carbohydrates. We lived on our little ten acre farm, and we had cows, chickens, pigs, and a horse. There was a very big garden, and an orchard. We bought very little food at the grocery store, so processed food was rarely part of my diet. Our own milk, eggs, vegetables, and fruit were readily available. We had meat from the chickens and pigs. Mother canned food each summer and fall. I helped my father with the farm work, and I was very hungry, so I ate big portions at every meal. I ate all the same food that my parents and sister ate, except items containing sugar. Mother used saccharin to sweeten the pies, cookies and cakes that she made for me. I ate lots of bread, potatoes, and other things that were not good for me, but we thought all foods were okay, if they did not contain sugar.

My parents did the best they could for me during my childhood and Dr. Davis gave no instructions that helped. We did not know there could be potential problems, and I led a rather normal day to day existence. There were no health problems with my diabetes throughout my childhood, despite my very irregular blood sugars. I have often wondered why I did not have DKA back then. Was something protecting me? All the fast acting carbs I ate each day (without correction boluses like I take now) must have kept my blood sugar very high. I’m sure my parents were devastated by my diabetes, and not knowing how to care for me. My parents raised me in much the same way that they were raised in their mountain homes. They were raised on farms, and they loved that kind of living.

When I talk to parents of T1D children diagnosed today, I advise them to join online diabetes support groups for parents. Children with Diabetes, created by Jeffrey Hitchcock, and the many parents’ support groups on Facebook are very good sources of advice and information for parents. Getting support from experienced parents can help so much! There are books that are available, but I think the online community is best. Having T1D children meet other children in their communities is a very good idea. Diabetes camps in the summertime are an excellent idea. Attending the Friends For Life conference in Orlando, FL is another source that I have seen work so well with children who are type 1.

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Richard at 76, having lived with T1D for 70 years

If you’d like learn more about Richard’s life with type 1 diabetes, then check out this video interview where Richard shares his experiences with Daniele Hargenrader. Richard was also interviewed about living with T1D for over 7 decades on Diabetes Mine. Richard will also be a speaker at the 2016 FFL conference in Orlando, FL. You can follow Richard on Twitter @Richardvau157.

Tom Hanks Sausage Links! a.k.a.: Co-Parenting Children with T1D

Presenting, in comic strip form, texts with my husband and fellow co-caregiver, wherein I just text letters to get his attention about a rapidly dropping low blood sugar, and autocorrect adds title inspiration: hanks link.

Tom Hanks

Parenting a young child with diabetes is a mixture of all-the-time-low-level-anxiety and anger/worry/warrior/defeated super vigilance, so it’s better to have two capable people on the front lines. My husband and I have a complementary approach to care; I’m the letter of the law and he’s the spirit of the law, and for our son to balance the burden of T1D across his lifetime, he’ll have to be both.

One random morning in March almost two years ago, my husband and I were learning to test each other’s glucose, but now we’ve tested Henry’s glucose over 6,000 times (20 months X 10 or more times a day). Every two days we change a site for his insulin pump and every seven days we insert a CGM (constant glucose monitor). About every 45 minutes, one of us looks at our phones to see where his blood glucose is, and every time we ever give him anything to eat or drink for.the.rest.of.his.life, we calculate the carbs and apply insulin or sugar.

I’d do this for Henry for the rest of his life if I could, but I know that living a life of independence, freedom, and self-sufficiently means I’ll teach Henry to care for his diabetes little by little, and that crushes me, because right now my husband and I are working really hard to replicate a pancreas, and it takes sleep,

my nightly alarms

my nightly alarms

brain-space, sacrifice, hauling gear, literal hours from our day, money, and focus. Type 1 diabetes is a heavy burden to share, but it seems insurmountable to carry alone.

November is both Diabetes Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. Before my son was diagnosed with diabetes, I thought caregiving was typically something the younger did for the old. In it’s more raw version, caregiving reverses its normal evolution and becomes something the older does for the younger, either for a lifetime or a portion of a lifetime. Now that we’re parents who are also caregivers, I see how many other parents share this joint occupation, so this November, Semisweet will be highlighting stories of parents who are caregivers.

To kick off the discussion, please check out this great video, “I Am the Pancreas,” by Rick Suvalle, dad of two T1D kids. He followed his son and daughter around for a few days with his iPhone to show what caring for T1D kids is like. To the parents of young T1D kids: we are the pancreas!

Trick-or-Treat Cheat Sheet

When our children were very young, we trick-or-treated in a neighborhood of Los Angeles where our good friends lived. It just so happened many scenic and sound design, as well as prop folks, who worked in the movie industry, lived here. Hollywood loves Halloween. It was not uncommon for a home owner to create a haunted house in his or her front yard, or for macabre Halloween scenes to be staged in rented trailers and placed in driveways.

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As new parents, this holiday geared toward children, celebrated in a truly fantastic way, hardwired its way into the robust and fun experiences we wanted to give our children in their childhood.

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Fast-forward about 1,800 miles and almost two years, when our son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes; last Halloween was his first trick-or treating experience with type 1 diabetes. Halloween is just one of the many occasions that makes parents of children with type 1 diabetes more creative, vigilant, and exasperated.

I understand, there’s multiple ways for families living with type 1 diabetes to navigate Halloween: a candy buy back, or perhaps a “switch witch” leaves a desired toy in exchange for a pile of candy.

Last year, I fretted and worried. We put out a teal pumpkin, and yet I was determined that our son would experience every ounce of this holiday, just like any other kid with a fully functioning pancreas. Secretly, I was prepared for a candy buy back. I had a roll of quarters ready, as well as a really neat Lego set two swap for candy, but we didn’t need either.

What we did need, was a really cool cheat sheet that listed common candy servings and carbs. There’s lots of lists out there, but we used one from the JDRF. Here’s this year’s JDRF Candy Carb Counts. I printed several copies to keep in my back pocket and invested in a nice Surefire flashlight. I cranked Henry’s basal up a bit, and in the oncoming cold midwestern winter, this fireman raced door to door, eating chocolate along the way.

Henry's first Halloween with type 1 diabetes

Henry’s first Halloween with type 1 diabetes

You know what? He went low, a couple of times, but no problem. We had a whole bag of fast-acting carbs to deal with that.

New Insulin? Apply Glucose!

Tonight, before dinner, Henry slid into the kitchen like it was home plate. He lay splayed on the floor and shouted, “I feel low.” Then he groaned, “I feeeeel looooooooooooow.”

He started a new vial of insulin yesterday, so we’d been on the lookout for lows. In fact, we increase his ratio so that he gets 10% less insulin on the first days of new insulin.

Just a couple of minutes prior, his Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) read 128, with an arrow straight across. Now the CGM read 83 with one arrow down. I can count on one hand the number of times Henry’s told me he felt low. Like many pediatric people with type 1 diabetes, he has hypoglycemic unawareness. If he was telling me he felt low, then I knew he was low, low, low.

I gave him a glucose tab before checking his blood glucose, then wiped his finger, tested his blood, and during the four second countdown Henry asked, “What do you think it will be? 21?”

Here’s my four-year-old son, guessing his blood sugar during hypoglycemia. It’s moments like this that slay me as I walk the diabetes tightrope that is anchored to the wind.

“Let’s hope not,” I said. “21 would be very low.”

“What if it’s 12? Would 12 be bad?” he asked.

“Yes, 12 would be too low,” I said.

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“43! Mama, I’m 43.”

Henry ate two more glucose tabs and sat in my lap as he sweated through a shirt. But sure enough, the sugar started surging and he glided up to 61 then 124. The low left him ravenous, so he ate dinner in five minutes. Then after dinner (and insulin for dinner) this:

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Here’s the irony. The only thing that’s going to bring down 314 is more really potent, new insulin— the same thing that caused the 43. 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Dexcom Share Data

Wallace Stevens, an American poet, wrote complex verse that uses precisely abstract language to scuttle between imagination and reality.  Check out his poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and “The Snowman.”

We’re three days into the semester, so I’m back in the classroom and Henry is in preschool. There are many moments where my thoughts zoom from reality to imagination before and after I look at Henry’s blood sugar on my Dexcom Follow App. I know he is being well cared for, but there’s always the reality of having type 1 diabetes. Here’s the thing: if you have type 1 diabetes, this means within a 24 hour period it will be difficult, and unlikely, to keep a blood sugar between 90-180. And if a blood sugar happens to remain within the 90-180 range, it is a good moment, but it’s only a moment before the insulin keeps working after the carb is digested, or an emotion elevates a blood sugar, or a correctly counted carb misaligns with correctly dosed insulin and the number soars.

If you’re not familiar with type 1 diabetes, here’s a quick primer. A generally safe blood glucose range (for the pediatric person with diabetes) is 90-200. Below 80 is considered “low” or hypoglycemic, and requires immediate treatment because the immediate consequences are seizure, unconsciousness, and worst of all, death. Above 240, or “high,” hyperglycemia, could result in ketones, and in the short term result in DKA or Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which (similar to hypoglycemia), could result in a coma and death. In the long term, blood sugars above 150 could result in complications to the eyes, kidneys, heart, brain, and feet

So, a caregiver or person with diabetes is always walking this impossible tightrope of insulin, carbs, emotions; trading now for later. There’s plenty of room to imagine, second guess, or worry. 

Here’s thirteen ways of looking at Dexcom Share data, with apologies to Wallace Stevens. The images come from one 24 hour period.

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1. Among too many highs from lows.

2. A lesson about banana muffins,

of a mind to never make these again.

3. Pantomime of pancreas is a

slapstick impossibility.

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4. The number is not one, but

frighteningly close. Mother + child

+ pump + glucose tabs = not pancreas

5. The moment before a gut punch

or just after.

6. The line traced in line,

the indecipherable cause.

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7. What do you imagine?

8. Lucid, inescapable numbers?

9. Illusion of perspective—

flown, offline, out of sight?

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10. Euphony, at a line,

a bird to horizon.

11. Not mostly, but once,

a fear usually pierces.

Even when it’s mistook.

12. The insulin or sugar is moving.

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13. It was all night into morning.

It was no sleep into half-sleep.