I took my phone to class with me yesterday. It’s rare for me to do that nowadays as I’m confident my boy can manage his diabetes. Yesterday I woke feeling uneasy as he was playing in a rugby competition at school. Lots of short games with only seven players on each side.
When my phone rang, the students in my class jumped a mile and started frantically groping their pockets until they realised that the TEACHER was the guilty one. Students’ phones aren’t allowed in class. I put on my most serious voice and said, “medical emergency” (wondering what I’d say if it wasn’t) and took the call at the door.
My son’s teacher explained that my boy had been involved in an awkward tackle and had a suspected fracture of his wrist. My husband collected my son and I met them at the emergency department.
Fast forward several hours and lots of questions around how he hurt himself and was his the kind of diabetes where he had one or two injections of insulin per day. The first time someone asked the insulin question, I was quite surprised but by the fourth or fifth time I had my answer down pat. ‘ He is very healthy, has Type 1 diabetes and injects insulin six times a day’. Without fail, these health experts, nurses and doctors, were shocked. I’m not judging. They must have so much information to retain and they did want to learn about how he managed his diabetes and asked about the story of his diagnosis. My boy was gorgeous, especially for some one who rarely talks about having diabetes, and patiently explained his symptoms, diagnosis and how he manages it.
He was asked a couple of times why he wasn’t on a pump and he took these conversations in his stride. It did strike me that there aren’t boundaries for some people when they talk about diabetes. To pump or not is such an intensely personal choice, when you have to make it, but for those with limited personal experience with diabetes, it is seen as a natural progression.
We then met the orthopaedic registrar who told us that an operation to realign the bones would be needed. We rocked up bleary eyed first thing this morning and the only hitch was an eager anaesthetist who wanted the usual full dose of fast acting insulin to be taken just prior to surgery, with no food, as his levels were rising. I questioned the wisdom of this as my suspicion was that this would then make his levels go very low. We compromised on a much smaller dose. I felt I could be proactive in getting what I believed to be the best dose of insulin. My experience, with the staff we had met, had led me to realise that my son and I, between us, were in possession of a vast amount of knowledge.
After a successful surgery, I then met up with my son in the kids’ ward. This was familiar territory as its where he’d gone when first diagnosed. My son was in good form and I asked him to do a blood glucose test. We laughed as he tried to figure out how to do this one handed. Suddenly from the next bed came the voice of another mum.
Looking over, I saw the most gorgeous little boy, arm in a plaster cast, just like my big son but his tiny form took up a third of the bed whereas my boy had to bend his big, lanky legs to fit in the bed.
She looked at me and said. ‘We are the same: diabetes and a broken arm!’
This little button was five years old and it had been six weeks since he was diagnosed. I wanted to scream ‘Where is the cure for this disease?’, but I didn’t. Instead, a lovely connection was made between me and this mum. She so reminded me of that sense of being shipwrecked on a foreign land that I felt when my boy was first diagnosed. In a few sentences, we forged a bond. We talked in a language that she was just learning. I’m at intermediate level and I realised that the rawness that comes on diagnosis has gone. I wrote this poem then. We swapped numbers and I hope we can meet up soon! In the midst of chaos came something positive.