Checking my (other) child
Z-Dogg has been having a rough time lately. He doesn’t sleep, he cries a lot, and he he’s got a couple of brand-new sharp teeth ripping through his gums. He’s also is hungry most of the time, although he’s not a particularly good eater (his older brother Jay, by the way, is and always has been a very good eater!).
The one-year-old’s diapers have been much wetter than usual. No, wet isn’t quite accurate. Saturated is more like it. You know those commercials where they pour a gallon of blue liquid into a Pampers and then into “another leading brand”? That kind of wet.
At his pediatrician’s appointment last Friday, his weight had fallen “off the chart”, below the shaded range that is categorized as “normal” for his age, and his height was trending in the same direction.
“Naturally, this leads me to wonder…” I mentioned to his doctor. She knew what I meant, but quickly dismissed it.
“It’s not diabetes. At this age, kids with diabetes ‘look’ sick, and he looks perfectly healthy.” Well, he didn’t have the sweet breath, the extreme tiredness, and the insatiable thirst that normally comes with diabetes. And most of the time, he’s happy. But it seemed he was peeing more than he drank, and his expected weight gain was virtually absent.
I bought the doctor’s explanation because, well, it sounded like a good deal. If someone could sell me a diagnosis of “not diabetes”, I’d buy that too. But there was still some doubt. If not now, then when? I wondered – as if it were inevitable.
It’s not the first time I wondered about one of my kids having diabetes. You may recall when, not too long ago, I checked J’s blood sugar in the middle of the night. But he was five. Z-Dogg just turned one. That’s just too young. Too young to subject himself to a life with D. His body is too small and delicate for the fingersticks and the needles and the sticky robot-part adhesives.
So, one night, in the middle of the night when he woke up and seemed inconsolable, my wife asked me to check him. So I did. It’s easier to test your child’s blood sugar the second time around, even if it’s not the same child. Mentally, I’d already begun the preparations months ago.
I popped in a fresh Delica lancet and held the baby’s kicking heel as still as I could. Click.
Nothing. Adjust the depth setting and try again. Click. (No, this isn’t a Ninjabetic.tv episode, but you really should see it if you haven’t already!). I’m so glad the NextLink uses less blood than my previous meter.
The result: 90 mg/dL. So he’s off the hook – for now, but he’s still got a lot of years ahead of him to worry.
Getting off on a bit of a tangent, he had a chicken pox vaccine at that pediatrician’s appointment. They didn’t have chicken pox vaccines when I was a kid. In fact, it was my chicken pox, along with strep throat, that threw my immune system into a tizzy and started its attack on my pancreas cells (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
Maybe they’ll develop a diabetes vaccine someday. I hear grumblings from some groups about how a vaccine isn’t good enough, that only a cure will suffice, but I disagree. Any parent with diabetes or parent of a child with diabetes will tell you that they, themselves, would rather have the malfunctioning pancreas than their kids. If I can be included among the “Last of the Diabetics”, then that would make me happy. (note: I generally don’t use the term “diabetics”, but it just works here, in a literary sense).
Back to the story.
My wife was happy at seeing the number 90. Relieved. And as she tried consoling the baby, now even more ticked off because of his lanced heel, I went back to my bedroom and checked my own sugar level. What I saw really wasn’t surprising.
She was happy, I wasn’t. Because I’ve been struggling with high nighttime sugars lately (and daytime too, for that matter). A few minutes earlier, I was thinking about how I would take care of my little boy, no matter what the meter might show. But now, I was reminded, once again, of how vulnerable I was, and how I might not be able to take care of him. If a 90 is healthy, than a 167 isn’t, right?
That stark contrast, just three minutes apart, between him and me really bothered me. He’s 90, I’m 167. He’s healthy, I’m sick. That misguided truth was stuck in my head, and it really bothered me.
Now, 167 isn’t a particularly bad number for a person with diabetes. But my hope for the future isn’t to live a long, healthy, and satisfying life – to the extent a person with diabetes can.
My hope is to live a long, healthy, and satisfying life. Period. The bar has been raised.
And I have absolutely no clue what’s going to happen.