Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Our New Normal: Type 1 Diabetes

"Your son has Type 1 Diabetes."

Those are words we never expected to hear spoken about our son. Our joyful, energetic, usually healthy boy? Really? He's never even missed a day of school.

Two weeks ago, we took Josiah to the doctor after noticing somewhat sudden changes in a few of his normal habits. He seemed to be going to the bathroom a lot, and he was drinking copious amounts of water. Internet searches for those symptoms included Type 1 Diabetes at the top of their list, and we began to be concerned.

The doctor's visit confirmed our fears. The lab found sugar in his urine, and his blood glucose reading was over 500. Our boy had Type 1 Diabetes.

A wild mix of emotions overcame me as I sat there listening to the doctor explain about what life would now be like for Josiah and what life would be like for me as a parent of a Type 1 diabetic. The doctor's own daughter suffers from the disorder, so he spoke from first hand experience and was kind and helpful.

He explained what Type 1 diabetes was.

Josiah had done nothing to cause it. He hadn't eaten too much sugar or lived an unhealthy lifestyle. For some reason, his immune system had attacked his pancreas. The pancreas was no longer producing insulin, which is necessary for the body to properly regulate carbohydrates in the food and drinks he consumes. He would now need to begin injecting insulin at least 4 times a day to replace what his body was no longer producing on its own. Without it, he would not survive for very long. He was now insulin-dependent. For life.

For life? The gravity of this fact, along with all the details surrounding diabetes management was overwhelming in those initial hours. It was even more so, when adding in the burden of my own medical realities of late...three rather unexpected surgeries in the past five months, the latest from which I've not yet recovered. But I stopped and reminded myself to breathe. The Lord has been with us this far, and He has promised that He'll never leave us or forsake us.

From the doctor's office, Josiah was admitted to Children's Mercy Hospital. We spent three days there participating in what they call "Diabetes Boot Camp," learning the basics of what we need to know to care for Josiah's new health reality.

We learned how to check his blood sugars with a glucose meter. We learned what signs and symptoms to look out for when his blood glucose levels get too high or too low and how to treat it. We learned how to count carbohydrates in the food he eats and then prepare the appropriate dose of insulin. And we also received hands-on practice giving him insulin injections.

Practicing injections on a ball
Paul was the brave one - he usually is - so he jumped right in and gave the first injection that the hospital asked us to perform. It took me until the last day of the hospital stay to find my bravery, and mostly this was because they wouldn't let us go home until both parents had successfully given him one of his injections. You should have seen my hands shake!

But if you want to talk about being brave, that would most certainly be Josiah. He had a difficult time at first with all the sticks and pokes (At one point he cried to us with sheer honesty, "I don't want this life! I'd rather die!") But as the hours and days went on, you could gradually see his confidence grow. He quickly relaxed and became more comfortable with each finger prick and insulin injection, eventually saying that he barely felt the needles. 

That helped my confidence grow too. If my sweet boy can get okay with having multiple jabs a day, then I can get confident about giving them, and I can also be confident that together our family can effectively manage his care.

As a good friend of mine, who is a Type 1 Diabetic herself, says, "It all gets easier in time."

And it will. It already is.

No one wishes a chronic illness on their child, but God saw fit that Josiah could handle being a Type 1 Diabetic. God saw fit that Paul and I could help him along the way. God knows. God cares. God is with us.

Our life will never be the same as it was before. Type 1 Diabetes creates a new dynamic for our family life, and we are now forced to wrestle with some big questions about our future plans. A lot about life feels uncertain.

But one thing we do know: God is certain. His promises are certain, and we can praise Him throughout every season of our life.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)