In 1991 I began first grade with Mrs. Robinson as my teacher. I enjoyed school, and since my mother taught me to read the summer before, I had an advantage in class. Learning to read and understanding new words was something of a thrill for me. I was always a very happy child, and made friends quite easily. All of this combined made school fun for me.
I started getting stomachaches and headaches once or twice a week, usually having to leave class and spend a few hours in the nurses office. Sometimes they got so bad, I had to have my mother pick me up from school. I started to lose weight rather quickly as well. I was a small child, but by October you could see all of my ribs.
My parents were terrified and had no idea what to do. They took me to the family doctor in early October, who then referred us to a specialist. I was very nervous going in to see the specialist. This was a very large hospital-like building, very different from my pediatrics’ office. I was taken in the back where they did a number of test and then they sent my father and I in to a waiting room. There was a toy section for kids to go and play. I went over, somewhat nervous, and played with the large lego type bricks. Still being anxious, I put the blocks down and went and sat down beside my dad. As I looked up in to his eyes, expressing my fear, he assured me that everything was going to be ok. We waited for about 15 minutes, then finally a doctor came out.
He lead us back to his office and there, he talked directly to my father. Being just 6 years old, I was terrified. A million nightmares were running through my head. I thought I might be forced to stay in this sterile place, only getting to see my family once a month. Or I might lose my vision, or ability to walk…as a 6 year old imaginative kid anything and everything flashed through my mind. My dad held my hand as the doctor was talking to him, looking down at me ever so often to reassure me he was there for me. I didn’t understand a word the doctor said, but luckily my dad said we were leaving.
As we were headed to the door, my father had to stop at the front reception and use the phone. I didn’t know at the time, but he told my mother what the doctor had told him. We then got in the car and he started to explain to me what was going on. I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It wasn’t going to change anything with my life, I just had to watch my blood sugar. He continually said that many people have this disease(Mary Tyler Moore, Jean Smart), and it isn’t bad at all. He then went to tell me that we needed to go to the hospital, because we were going to stay there for a while until my blood sugar was normal and controlled.
Checking in at the hospital, I was relieved as I had a large private room with huge windows looking outside, and my own television! Over the next week either my mom or my dad would stay the night with me at the hospital. The doctors and nurses had to continually check my blood sugar every 2 hours, making sure I was steady. My new doctor, an Endocrinologist, introduced herself and worked closely with my parents on how to properly administer shots, what signs to look for, for low and high blood sugar.
I was still so nervous of being alone that I begged my parents not to leave me alone at the hospital. I look back and realize just how incredible both of my parents were, as they never did leave me alone. With my 3 siblings, my parents had a lot to juggle.
Halloween had arrived, but as I was stuck at the hospital, I wasn’t able to trick or treat. This was my favorite holiday and I wasn’t able to enjoy it at all. A child not being able to get dressed up, go trick or treating and unable to eat candy…it was heartbreaking. My grandmother arrived at the hospital, bring my three siblings with her. She had found some sugar free candy and brought it to me. I was so excited, as I thought I would never be able to eat candy again. Sugar free candy back then was awful, hard candy that tasted horrible. My parents, still hesitant on what I could and could not eat, allowed me to have 1 piece that night. They both checked with the nurses before I could have that one piece however, just to make sure.
The final days of my hospitalization were upon us. My parents had to show the staff that they were both able to give me an injection. For a while, I switched back and forth who I would allow to give me the shot. There really was no reasoning as to why, I am a creature of habit so that could be it. At the hospital I would only allow my mom to do it, but the staff said I could not leave until they see that my dad could do it too. So finally I allowed him to give me the injection, and I was discharged the following day.
Over the years I have had low attacks and high attacks, I have been hospitalized and have been lucky enough to survive. More of that to come later, though.