A Day in the Life – Caring for a T1D Child

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed as a mother or just as a person; sometimes just going through life day-to-day can feel taxing. Anytime I begin to feel this way, I think of my sister and the strength she has to get through her everyday life. She’s a mother to four beautiful girls and works as a state certified in-home day care provider, so not only does she have her four to look after but several other children, as well. That alone is a lot, and way more than I deal with on the daily. But to add the proverbial cherry to the top of this sardonic sundae, her oldest daughter was diagnosed with type one diabetes at six years old. Rian is nine and a half now and doing amazing, but not without some restitution; there is definitely a heightened awareness you must have to treat a child with T1D. I asked my sister to tell me about a typical day in her life, and I’m going to share it with you.

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Morning on a school day: time to sit the kids down for breakfast. Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. We have 30 minutes until the school bus gets here, and for any other family it may be as simple as pouring a bowl of cereal or giving them a Pop-Tart, but not in our house. The oldest of my four daughters, Rian, is a type one diabetic so things run a lot differently around here.

Glucose check, carb count and a dose with insulin – and then she can eat breakfast. While she finally gets to eat, I make her lunch for school: packing a sandwich, snack and a little bag of chips along with a bottle of water, but that’s not all. I have to include a note detailing every carb in her lunch box – that way, if she doesn’t eat something, the school nurse will know what to subtract.

Two hours later, the kids have been off to school for an hour and a half now and I wait by the phone for the school nurse to call and let me know what Rian’s blood sugar is at. If it’s high, I tell her how much insulin to give her for a correction and if she is low, how to get her numbers up to where they need to be. Even her classes have an effect on her blood sugar; depending on if she has PE, music or art that day will decide how many carbs she needs.

All this while tending to my toddler and in-home daycare children.

I’m very fortunate to be able to work from my home, allowing me to be as flexible as possible with Rian’s doctor appointments and phone calls from the school as well as endocrine, pharmacy and insurance companies. Around 11:30 is lunchtime, and I can probably assume that if I don’t get a phone call, everything is fine; numbers are in-range and the day is going well. At 2:30, if I don’t get a phone call, I can assume all the numbers were good after lunch, also. This is on a good day.

We have a lot of good days, so I can’t complain too much – but that’s not to say we don’t have our bad days. Any little emotion can affect her numbers. If she’s anxious, afraid or excited, her numbers can skyrocket – but at the same time, they can bottom out from those exact same emotions. It’s never the same day to day with a diabetic. When her numbers are out of control, she doesn’t feel the best but she’s a trooper and she carries on with the day.

Around 3:45, the bus pulls in the driveway and she darts off the bus like any other kid after a day at school and runs directly in the house to tell me excitedly about her day. As she’s talking to me about all the flips she did on the monkey bars, my mind is racing with questions. “How were your numbers?” “Were you high?” “Were you low?” “Do you feel OK?”

As for after school snack? No problem. All she has to do is yet another finger prick. Yes, a finger prick before every single meal or snack to see what her blood sugar is, counting the carbs to figure out how much insulin she will need, then dosing and then she can eat. Two hours after every dose of insulin is yet another finger prick to check her blood sugar to make sure she’s in range.

I won’t lie. Being the mom of a T1D is exhausting emotionally and mentally. Time to regroup.

OK, now I’m done working for the day and I have to fix supper. What does everybody want to eat? Scratch that. What does everybody want that won’t make Rian’s blood sugars go crazy this late in the day?

Baths, homework, cooking supper and carb counting. It gets pretty wild around here! Supper is done, as is homework and bath time. Guess what we do next? That’s right! A finger prick to check blood.

We do dinner a little different, though. Since we normally have a dessert or seconds with dinner, I usually dose with insulin in the middle of the meal. Two hours after dosing we do a blood check … again. But if everything goes as planned, then that’s the last one of the night! But not the last poke.

Rian is on two different types of insulin. Humalog, which is a fast-acting insulin and Lantus, a basal insulin which helps to keep her steady throughout the day. Humalog is what she takes with every meal while Lantus is given at 8:00 p.m. on the dot every night. Assuming the last blood check goes well and she’s had her Lantus, I am in the clear to catch up on any house work, play with my kids and spend a little time with my husband.

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And that’s a day in the life of a mom with a type one diabetic child – just one day, because you can bet tomorrow is a whole new ball game!

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