Saturday, 31 October 2009

Life in the short lane, with diabetes

Sometimes I blog about my adventures, or spin a yarn about something that amused me. But most of the time I'm just getting on with day-to-day life, and my regular existence doesn't usually involve climbing mountains, pontificating on the BNP, or harvesting unusual vegetables. So how did today go? Today was a typical day, centred round Frank, this picture showing how I look from his height!

Frank woke us fairly early, and I elected to take the early shift with him. His diabetes means we cannot just relax and have a lie-in. We have to test him to check he hasn't sunk into a hypo overnight. The fingerprick testing didn't go well, and Frank had a lengthy painful process before we got a reading (and he was normal). He said he was hungry, but is he really, or is it another diabetes thing? Making breakfast, I talked up the possibility of porridge as that's always a good option for a person with diabetes, but Special K called him, and he had several small portions, before I said "enough". My attempts to charm him with fresh fruit were scorned, and I couldn't persuade him to have peanut butter on toast, which would be a source of protein. I was feeling bad about the unbalanced diet he was taking on ship.

He was most averse to the whole idea of having his usual insulin injection, and it took me ages before I could get it done, causing my self-esteem to sink even lower as I was aware I was unable to care for him as well as should be done. It's just the practicalities that any parent is aware of, dealing with a three-year old with their own will. But the problem we have is that it's bad for his health in the short, medium and long term if we don't do what is best for him. It is physically and mentally exhausting dealing with this condition. By the time I had got him round to the idea that he really will need an injection, even though he was one every morning, he had probably gone hyper, which is cumulatively damaging his health, and makes me even more anxious.

Our outing for the day was planned to be the Exhibition of the Ipswich Model Railway Club, which I knew we would both enjoy. It took us ages to get out of the house, as Frank was unco-operative, possibly linked with high blood sugar, or possibly just typical three-year old stuff. I packed our travel bag for the day, making sure I had his day-to-day blood testing and insulin kit, as well as supplies in the event of an emergency hypo. Before I went Julie surfaced, and we discussed what Frank had eaten, knowing that Frank's diet could have been better, which made me feel bad as I am doing my best, and we already know our best is sometimes not good enough.
We headed off to Ipswich, and Frank fell asleep in the van on the way, so we parked up near the exhibition hall, and he had a doze. For most parents a sleeping child is a welcome respite, but for us it's another worry, as some of the visual signs and clues that he is hypo- or hyper- are then unavailable to us. I thought about doing another blood test, but decided that on balance it was better to give his poor tiny fingers a rest from all the stabbing. But it's such a worry, wondering if he's slipping into a coma, and my head ran through the fuel in/ energy out calculations a dozen times before I had the confidence to just let him rest.

It's a constant and continuous process, looking after a toddler with diabetes. Most people assume that once a child is diagnosed, and "they, the medical profession" get the insulin dose right, our family life carries on as normal. And of course that is what we aim for. But the reality is very different. It's not just about the blood testing and injection events, it's the literally hundreds of other checks we do all through the day, and often through the night. We are ALWAYS looking at his behaviour, for physical and mental signs that his glucose levels are too high or too low. It's a very inexact science, with so many unknowns about how much he will actually eat despite our best planning, how much he will exercise, and hidden factors such as growth spurts or his body dealing with mild illness. We manage quite well, all things considered, but we are are painfully aware that his readings could be much better, and that bad figures make complications and side-effects more likely.

As Frank had a sleep, I read more of my Raymond Chandler novel, which I had picked up at an American Literature evening class. And I played Joni Mitchell's "Hejira", a bit of Rory Gallagher's "Irish Tour", and Love's "Forever Changes". Frank awoke, and I checked him over, deciding to give him only a small ginger biscuit low-sugar snack, as he had woofed a fairly high carb breakfast. After a wee stop, a frequent occurrence for a person with diabetes who drinks a lot, we made for the show. It was a small exhibition, and one of the less impressive shows, but they are always good fun, and Frank hugely enjoyed it. One friendly modeller had made a Sodor layout with Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. This was a good contrast to the "Upper Snoring station, exactly how it looked on 24 April 1921" type layout, which, to be authentic, would have no trains actually running, and everything brown or grey.The refreshments on sale were totally unsuitable for a diabetic, (or indeed anyone else interested in healthier eating), principally being white flour fairy cakes with 120% sugar icing. We went to the local cornershop, and found a tasty chicken and bacon wrap, which was just right for Frank once I'd taken out the green salad items. Pah, heaven forbid he might ingest a scrap of lettuce! We ate in the van, and headed home.

Back home, Julie and Severine had been baking, sorting the house, and preparing for Halloween supper. It was such fun to celebrate this evening meal as a family. The bedtime routine went as normal, though we had the worry of a high blood-glucose reading before eating. We just don't know if the reading is a true indication of his current blood mix, or if he really is too high, or has been too low and rebounded as his liver kicks in.

Overall, a splendid day, but as always, dominated by diabetes. We would love to be more relaxed about it, but it's an invasive matter, and it is our job to do our best for him. It would be bad for his health for us to be laid-back about it all; the monitoring he needs is constant. We try hard to be positive about our situation, but sometimes it is difficult. Believe me, rainy autumn backpacking in the Cairngorms is much easier than having a toddler with diabetes for the day. But I can truly say TODAY WAS FUN. Hoping for a good night tonight, and another FUN day tomorrow with my brilliant little family.


  1. You are a star and I love you. You do a fantastic job of being a Dad to Frank and of explaining the issues that we deal with day to day.

  2. Hullo Swifty,

    What a braw wee laddie!

    It must be really stressful coping with a condition like that on a day to day basis and my heart goes out to those like you in that situation. To do it with a toddler with all the confusion of mixed signals and communication problems must make it doubly worrying.

    Dont think I could cope to be honest, but I'm sure as a parent you just do. He'll understand and appreciate one day I'm sure and perhaps like my brother and I did for our parents, may even return the favour.

    Its all part of being a family isn't it....

    Nice post.

    Kind regards.....Al



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