Logbooks, Lows and Larry

Before, much earlier, a year or two prior to Lia’s diagnosis when all of our children still lived at home, including our now-collegian son, one of the kids would be given the task of setting the table for dinner. Then if they lingered too long afterward we would ask them to call their siblings to dinner when the time arrived. Normally that task would fall to Krista, because she was the middle child and because John, as the oldest, was pretty much head-dishwasher designee. So Krista, when directed, would turn and face the rest of the house from wherever she stood in the kitchen and lowering her voice as deep and as authoritative as she could muster would bellow, Time to eat (thus raising the ire of both of her parents — and our parents before — as with that kind of effort we could have done the job ourselves!).

But occasionally we’d feel sorry for John and his dishpan hands or, more likely, we would be thinking that soon he’d be leaving and Krista required some on the job training for when she assumed his dishwasher role, so he would be called to set the table. John is a funny fellow. He loves theatre and performance. For him, the world is truly an apron upon which life’s tragedies and comedies unfold. He takes nothing too seriously. The joy for him is in the presentation and the art of participation. On one of these role reversal occasions, instead of just calling his sisters to dinner, he walked to the bottom of the stairs and cupping his hands around his mouth as if speaking into a microphone, called out with curt, radio-announcer precision: Krista Bear to the office for a brain scan. Lia Rosa to the office for a brain scan.

It was funny and amusing, in a teenage kind of you-had-to-be-there-to-appreciate-it moment. For the sake of preserving the performance in my memory, I assigned his character-voice a name: Larry.

Larry is a solid guy, one facing life’s struggles head on, with purpose, optimism and resolve. He tells it like it is, without sugar-coating or dancing around the issue. Come to the office for a brain scan. No please. No handholding. No discretion. Just get there and get there now. I like Larry. He ma not be the kind of guy I’d want to share a beer with on a Friday night, but I respect him for that. His kind of stoic, no-nonsense way about him is admirable when it comes to addressing life’s more difficult challenges.

We all have a little bit of Larry in each of us. He’s the voice in our head who tells us what we should have said minutes, hours, or days after a particularly emotional incident. That take no crap kind of voice. That tell me you understand one more time, I’m going to lose it on you kind of voice. He’s forthright and bold and at various times we all wish he could be real.

I think of Larry whenever I sit down to decipher Lia’s diabetes logbook. The logbook is one I special ordered because we didn’t like any of the ones that came free with the meters or were given to us in the hospital. Designed like a teacher’s weekly grade book, this one has some real oomph behind it. It’s serious business. There are places to record blood sugar six times a day. Places to indicate food, exercise, carb counts. Places to record blood sugar before exercise and after. Places for daily notes and comments. Places to indicate normal and night basal rates for the pump. This logbook has everything. It is the bee’s knees of logbooks, as far as I can tell, thus justifying a $30 price tag.

Our practice has been once the week is finished, usually on a Sunday afternoon, I take the logbook off the counter and sit down at the table and highlight the blood sugar recordings in the following fashion: Low is red. Normal is green, and High is yellow. It gives us then a colorful visual image of how the week just went. The result is normally a neon-salad mixture, the week is never just green or yellow or red, though there have been days we cheered about where it’s normal all the way through. Mornings and evenings, however, seem to be the best bets for green. At night and the late afternoons are when the reds appear, and for whatever reason late morning and the middle of the day has the best chance of turning up yellow.

These are not rules, you could not set your watch to them, but they are the best information I have. So I sit at the table with this wondrous and marvelous tool at my full disposal and I try to interpret what exactly it means, something beyond just the colors. I analyze the food, the carbs consumed, I consider the dosage and times of the blood sugar reading. I compute and total and average and sum and divide and break all these figures back down again into their simplest denominator. Nevertheless, I glean very little as to why on one day the eggs and banana she had for breakfast caused her blood sugar to rise more than 150 points by lunch and on another day it dropped. Tuesday is pasta night at our house, always, for ever and ever. Last week on Tuesday her blood sugar dropped 100 points before bed. This week on Tuesday it rose by 100.

I scratch my head. I search for clues. I sift among this color-coded rubric of my daughter’s innermost recent history tormented by what it won’t tell me. I wonder what more I could do, the values we aren’t tracking, the variables not plotted, and I worry that it’s this very lack of knowledge that brings her to her mother or me several times a week saying, Mommy, Daddy, I feel shaky.

I know, there is much we still have to learn about this invisible intruder. There is much we don’t understand, and might never understand. This is indeed very serious business. It’s the kind that a made-up guy named Larry would tackle just for its incurability, because somebody has to, somebody must. We’re fortunate real people do, and in remarkably exceptional ways. But even Larry knows when it’s time to back away and let things cool a bit, and so it is with his same confidence and his same good judgment that draws me to close the logbook, forget about what was and disregard for a while the things that we don’t know and focus instead on the things that we do, such as family and sharing and life’s little funnier moments, and let these inspire our performance.

7 thoughts on “Logbooks, Lows and Larry

  1. Hello,

    My son has type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed Nov 16th 2010 at the age of three. It was a Thanksgiving I’ll never forget being that we didn’t have dinner that year. But I just wanted to say that I appreciate your blog, I also purchased the log book thanks to you. Like you, I thought I could be my son’s pancreas. I have tried to figure ever equation, only to return back to square one. I’ll continue to take detailed logs but I’ll also try to simply let the numbers be what they are and focus more on who my son is and less on what he has…diabetes. Though it is important to know your enemy, it is also important to know when to stop beating a dead horse. I think our responses are normal for loving parents who care for their children. Like me, I’m sure that everyone who has commented on this would trade themselves for their children to live happy healthy lives, and it’s hard to be happy and enjoy life when you are constantly worried and stressed over something that is really out of your control. You have inspired me to let go a little and do my part by living healthy, giving his medications and taking necessary notes but most importantly I need to enjoy my bouncing 5-year-old little boy, especially since I was too busy trying to conquer diabetes to enjoy my 4-year-old. We all should put the log book away sometimes. Thank you for helping me see that. To you and everyone that is experiencing the pain of diabetes, just know you are not alone, I know that now. 🙂 thanks again.

  2. I came across your blog while searching for a better logbook. I’ve had diabetes for 19 years and have spend the last 9 of them not really recording any information until my annual pump basal rate checks come around. So, to avoid being embarrassed when I visit the doctor, and to provide a good example for my newly diagnosed brother, would you please tell me the name of this awesome logbook?

  3. I, also am new to your blog. I “found” you on Six Until Me and am so glad that I did! My 4 year old little boy was diagnosed at 20 months. We have the everyday struggles of figuring out why his bg went high at this time or why after 3 days of highs he is suddenly low. I think that type 1 diabetes is like a puzzle that you never actually fit all of the pieces into. Sometimes you get darn close and those are the great days. Some days the puzzle looks like a mess and those are the not so great ones.

    Really, I just wanted to thank you for your very wise words! It is very comforting to read your insightful posts!

  4. We religiously log BG’s, boluses, and #carbs eaten.

    We also keep a little notebook where we write down what Q eats. More so that we can count the carbs.

    We also only test 4 times a day (more if needed).

    For us (and this is at the advice of our care team), it can become TMI (too much information) that doesn’t really even give a return for your efforts. For instance we did check BG’s 10x a day when beginning the pump. But this was only to figure out basal rates, the goal being to get back to checking 4x a day. Because the pump is supposed to make life easier, not harder.

    That being said, when we notice two lows in a week or if her numbers are creeping up, we take a look and see if there isn’t something going on. We fax in our numbers and we talk with the nurse and tweak.

    But I really think you could drive yourself crazy with all the data.

    If there’s anything that we have all learned from diabetes, it’s that what works perfectly fine one day will not work the next.

    What would happen if you were to take a step back for a week or two and not pour over the numbers trying to make sense of them?

    Maybe her numbers would be no worse, no better. But maybe you will have a little less stress.

    (And I still long for the day that I get a netbook so I can plug our pump and meter in and download the data!)

  5. It’s a first. I just started crying reading a blog.
    I am new to your blog having read your guest slot over at sixuntilme. My boy has Type 1, since he was two, and he is only now three and a half. I am horrified and continue to be so. Every day. Reading what you have just written, with such intelligence and eloquence, gives me hope that there are others that understand how this is a full on task. Diagnosis is only the very start. Friends are asking me this week why I have been so quiet and seem to be avoiding people. I can only tell them I need all the spare capacity I have to get this job right. It’s non-negotiable. They pretend to understand.
    And yes, there a moments, minutes and hours and hours of pure joy at the fact that my little man is growing and being cheeky and learning new phrases to make me laugh every day. It is hard to find a balance in all kinds of ways with diabetes. But sharing our feelings and thoughts within this wonderful community on line is a great step in the right direciton.
    Thank you for your place in this.

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