Sunday, March 25, 2012

Remembering D-Day

Normally, I really enjoy reading other blogs, they make me laugh, cry, and sometimes even inspire me with new ideas to write my own. Last night was no exception, thankfully I had a box of tissue and a  few hours to spare when I sat down to start reading. My usual blogs of choice contain recipes, family photos, and current events, but last night, something caught my eye. A fellow mom of a diabetic had updated her blog after a few months, and I was curious to see what new obstacles life had thrown at them, and how they handled the unexpected.

As I read one writer's post about the diagnosis of her daughter, it reminded me about the day Laila was officially diagnosed. I can remember exactly what she was wearing, what I packed for her to eat at school that day for lunch, where I was standing when I heard the news, and how my heart sank to my stomach when the doctor told me to sit down. My initial response was feeling like my entire world was over, I knew she would never be free of this disease and it took only seconds to truly sink in the severity of what was happening to her at that very moment. It all made sense, it added up so clearly: the extreme thirst, the excess fatigue, the weight loss, lack of appetite-every single symptom, she had them all. How could I have let this go on for as long as I did? I can still picture her thin bones and sunken eyes. It took a hold of her so fast, it was literally an overnight transformation from my smiling little girl to someone I could hardly recognize.

It was a Thursday night when I mentioned to Dustin I thought something was wrong. We debated taking Laila to the emergency room, what we thought it was, and what we may be able to do to help her before taking her into the doctor. By Monday morning, things were looking so bad I kept her home from school. She was literally wilting away before my eyes, and I felt solely responsible. After a handful of blood tests and some cream for her dry, cracked hands, we were well on our way home. The very next day when my phone rang, I knew the results were in. Rush her to the children's hospital? Pack her a bag? Find a sitter? I was dizzy in my own thoughts, I didn't know where to begin. Dustin picked up Laila from school and drove her into Phoenix, and I made arrangements for Kenadi and Dustin Jr.

Walking into the hospital to find Laila in a hospital bed with tubes in her arm was extremely difficult. I painted on a smile and unloaded my things. I brought a coloring book, markers, crayons, puzzles, music, and even her favorite stuffed animal; I took along anything I could think of that would help this awful transition go just a tiny bit smoother. Seeing her there made it so final, so serious, so real. Once a room was available, Laila was admitted to PICU (pediatric intensive care unit), and our diabetic journey began. Hourly blood sugar checks ensued until her blood glucose had dropped low enough on its own for her to be able to eat and adapt to insulin injections. Holding her still so the nurse could check her sugar,  it was grueling. Her screams pierced my ears, while her tears broke my heart.

The "diabetes bible" the nursing staff armed us with was easily four inches thick, full of information, statistics, and terrifying facts. I felt as though I'd never be able to take Laila home and feel confident enough to care for her, I immediately programmed the hospital's phone number into my phone, and started asking questions. I knew the road ahead of us was going to be a long one, I better jump on board and set the bar high. Each meal was a learning process, how to count the carbohydrates for each item on her plate, how to calculate her blood sugar corrections, and how to determine how much insulin to administer. We learned how to "draw up", using a syringe and bottle of insulin, and I gave Laila her very first butt shot. It took two people to hold her down, and one to hold my arm still, I still don't know who cried harder, Laila or me.

Having to leave her in the hospital for four nights in a row was one of the hardest things I've ever faced. Trusting the doctors, nurses, and my husband to care for her, it ripped at my heart. I cried to myself on the drive home each night, I went to sleep and cried some more. I wallowed in my sorrows of my life and how it had changed, and how this was going to shape her every day, her entire future. Each night was worse than the one before as images of the life she'd never have flashed before my eyes.

It has now been 18 months since Laila's diagnosis, and I'm proud to be the mother of a type 1 diabetic. The things I've learned about Laila, myself, my husband, our marriage and family don't even compare to the fears I felt that dreaded day. We all have bad days, sorrowful times that remind us where we've been, and what's in store for us, but without those days, the good days wouldn't be as important. Every once in a while, I find myself reaching into the back of Laila's closet and pulling out her purple plaid shirt. I take it down, hold it in my hands, and remember that day. She has long grown out of that shirt, but I still can picture a time when it hung so loosely on her. The days of syringes are long behind us, as we have been "pumping" for 6 solid months. For Laila, school is going great, dance class is a blast, and weekends are always packed full of fun. Life these days is pretty amazing, even with type 1 diabetes. For me, life is as busy as ever, so busy sometimes I even forget about that dreaded day. Lucky for me, I kept that gorgeous purple shirt, it's just the reminder I need.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Snap Back To Reality

Diabetes is such a common term in our house, I rarely realize I say it, it's so common. Words like sugar, carbs, strips, lancets, juice, ect. are language that's become so regular, so ingrained in my mind, I don't even hear them, That being said, I am know to have moments where I slip into an oblivion, my mind wanders and for a brief moment, I forget about diabetes. Moments like this don't happen often, but when they do, they shake me to the core.

Riding in the car on the way home from dance practice, Laila grabbed a snack from her diabetes supply purse and, without skipping a beat, entered the numbers into her pump and shouted from the back seat to let me know how much insulin she was receiving. I stared at the red light in front of me, confused, wondering what on Earth she was telling me, and she had to remind me she was talking insulin, not just chanting some random numbers from the backseat of my van. She laughed and said I must have been daydreaming, and daydreaming I sure was. I was remembering a simpler time, a simpler place, a simpler life. Life before diabetes, finger pokes, 2am blood sugar checks, mios and insulin.

Recently, my husband and I have been discussing adding just one more sweet child to our family. We have been toying with the idea, crunching numbers, laughing over crib bedding and bouncing names off each other. At the end of the day, neither of us are sure we're prepared. The big pink elephant in the room has been hanging out with us through each conversation, silently reminding us of the possibility of another diabetic child. It sure is great to consider the great things we want, but at the end of the day, reality strikes again. With two "health" children, our odds sure look good, but Laila was "healthy" once too. Every time one of our other kids get sick, they use the bathroom too much, seem like they're wanting a lot to drink, my heart sinks. I'm paranoid, I'll admit it, but can you blame me? Dare I bring yet another innocent child into this world knowing what they might be up against in the future?

Laila, to me, is so much more than "a diabetic". She's beautiful, spunky, smart, sassy, strong, independent, and brave. She's also mine. I know whatever obstacles face us in the future, we'll face them together. Diabetes or not, we're unstoppable, both here, and in my dreams.

Guest Blogger: Nessa Dixon

Our most difficult task as a friend is to offer understanding when we don't understand. ~Robert Brault

I recently took a "time-out" to go visit my friend Joli in Arizona. I didn't have any of my own kids to take care of while I was there, so I spent a lot of the time either chatting with Joli or just watching her kids, seeing their personalities and how different and similar they are to my own kids. Laila is 6 but you'd never guess it. She looks younger, and acts so much older. The level of responsibility she has just blew me away. I can't get my 9 year old to remember to change his underwear and this tiny little girl checks her own blood sugar multiple times a day. She shyly asked if I would like to watch her change her pump site on Saturday morning and I sat there in amazement at how brave she is. I am so proud of her. She and her Mother for all they have been through since Laila's diagnosis. I used to babysit her back in 2007 when I was pregnant with Olivia. She was such a good kid, so mellow, didn't talk much just kind of, hung out with Audrey and I. She's still pretty similar, though she has her own younger siblings now. I can tell she just loves being a big sister.

As a Mom, I know I want everything for my kids. I don't want anything standing in their way. As hard as I may try, I will never understand just what Joli and Laila go through dealing with her diabetes, but I do know one thing... Laila will not be held back by it. I know it kills you as a parent to watch her struggle with it now, but I can tell by watching her the short time I was there, that she is so strong that she will beat this thing and it will not beat her.