Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-jig

And so here we are home again. Living some semblance of living amidst the glucose readings, needles and counted carbs. You start to think: How in the hell did this happen? To her. To us. To me. Why? Was it something I caused? Some plague I’d escorted unsuspectingly into our home, a danger I’d failed to perceive, or was it merely the sentence of just punishment for my own unresolved past behavior employed by an absolute, vengeful god. You start looking, digging deeper, searching for reasons where no reason could, or should, possibly fit.

What changed in the last few months? Our diet, her hygiene, the weather? Had she been wearing a coat and a hat to ward off the chills in the air?

Was she washing her hands before meals? Perhaps it was in the water itself — how long since the well to that underground sea had been tested?

There were the flu shots taken in October, for H1N1 and seasonal influenza. Were the conspiracy theories I’d seen flooding the internet on to something? At the same time her doctor reported a slightly elevated cholesterol screening, which we nonchalantly dismissed. She’s eight years old. We eat good. We eat healthy. There must be some mistake.

Maybe it came from the garden though. An infectious diabetic microorganism that burrowed past the flesh of the tomatoes, zucchini or cucumbers and was feeding and breeding and otherwise doing its part for the life cycle, until one of us came along with snippers for the evening harvest.

Or was it the chickens? Six months earlier, in the late spring of last year, I had just finished work on a novel and took a weeklong break from work to construct a backyard chicken coop. A farmer friend of ours was moving and getting rid of his seventy-strong flock of layers and as we had recently ventured ourselves on a promise to live closer to the land, my family and I welcomed thirteen of the hens into our family. Lia and Krista went with me to the farm to pick them out and by the time we got them home, a few of the girls bore names: Nugget, Speedy, Bob, Brown Chicken. Could one of those gals be culprit? Was this onset of diabetes a half-sibling to avian flu?

And so on and so on and so on it went, in the days following her diagnosis. I wanted answers. I wanted something or someone to blame, even if it was myself. I wanted to know why my daughter was having to face such an obscured disease. I’ve never been a strong believer in faith, other than in one’s self or family, and with my child facing such an obstacle there was nothing I was not willing to question. No entity or belief that did not warrant scrutiny. These were my rules for how the new world operated and caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

But at the same time there was reason for optimism of a different sort. The mindful human kindness of friends and from people we’ve met in these past few days has been overwhelming. In the midst of this misfortune, their acts of compassion and our further understanding of diabetes may eventually, I hope, prove that the things that happen in life are not random and for my daughter and all of us, one day some good will come of it.

If you’re finding it difficult to cope with diabetes and need some support, or are just wanting someone to listen, please follow the link We’re here to help.

Sweet Jesus: Diabetes For the Holidays

Wednesday morning, December 23rd. Starts out, almost, like any other. I say almost because the kids are out of school; we slept later than usual; and our littlest one, Lia, is seemingly slow to recover from both a cold and a busy weekend. She comes downstairs as my wife and I are headed off to the gym.

I couldn’t sleep, she says.

Do you want to go lay in our bed, one of us asks.

No. Can I watch TV on the couch?

So we settle her in on the sofa, feel her forehead and ask is she feeling well and she nods and we leave.

An hour later, my wife realizes she has missed a call from home. She calls the house  and learns from our son, who is home from college, that Lia has thrown up. She gives him instructions on cleaning up the mess and making his sister more comfortable and then she dials the pediatrician.

At the doctor’s office they do what they’re paid to do and ask lots of questions. A urine test is ordered, then a blood test. A few minutes later the doctor comes in and asks would Lia mind waiting alone a moment while she talks to her mother and father. We follow her, our hearts trembling, down the hall.

We found a great deal of sugar in her blood, she says. Normal is less than 140. Hers weighs in at 480. There are ketones in her urine. Something to do with acidosis.

I am quiet. My wife is quiet. We look at one other. These are strange words to us.

It looks like diabetes, the doctor says.

Now I can look at no one. Not my wife. Not the doctor. Not even Lia, who is back in the tiny examination room reading a book and waiting quietly for us to return. Perhaps with some medicine. A little something to make her feel better, less tired. She has no idea.

At the ER they poke her and draw her blood and further confirm the diagnosis, then she’s sent to the PICU where she will spend roughly the next thirty hours before moving to a room in the pediatric wing. It is Christmas Eve. Lia is told we won’t be going home today. Now she, too, is heartbroken.

Christmas Day. We wake. Lia and her mother in the hospital. I, our son and other daughter at the house. We all are exhausted. But Santa came, delivering stockings and gifts and treasures in the middle of the night to whichever place we happen to have laid our heads. Lia is delighted, of course, to have not been forgotten or misplaced.

He came! she smiled and said. He came! Santa knew where I was all along.

Yes, he did, my sweet little girl. Yes, he did.

It is late in the afternoon and we are finally heading home. We have Christmas opening still ahead of us, while the rest of the world wrapped that up hours ago. It is something bright to look forward to, other than just being out of the hospital. Something that does not involve counting carbs, or calculating doses, or fretting over the rotation of injection sites. It is Christmas and we are all children again.

We sleep soundly that night from exhaustion.

Tomorrow, a daunting and strange new day awaits. It starts at three a.m. Her blood sugar is 409.

To read more about blood sugars and warning signs, please follow the link High Blood Sugar: Definition, Symptoms.