Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God's Timeout

One of the tough lessons we learned about Type 1 Diabetes is that is never goes to bed.  Ben’s body requires insulin 24 hours a day.  Even if you do not eat any carbs all day your body still requires a base amount of insulin.  So before bed we have to give Ben an injection of  long-acting insulin (at the time we were using NPH).  However, the amount of insulin Ben might need one day may not be the same the next.  So this bedtime injection requires a nighttime check.  Before Jeff and I go to bed we first check Ben’s current glucose level and then set the alarm for 2 a.m., so we can check him again.  If Ben is low, below 70, we need to wake him up and feed him some fast-acting carbs to bring him back up over 70, and then follow up with a few more carbs to help him make it through the rest of the night.

During the first few months of Ben’s diagnosis when Ben had a nighttime low we would have a “nighttime picnic.”  We would bring Ben into our room and give him his handful of skittles and then wait the obligatory 15 minutes to recheck his glucose level.  And I can promise that 15 minutes at 2 a.m. feels much more like 1 hour.  After our 15 min/1 hour wait we would then give Ben some goldfish and a cheese stick.  The first few times our nighttime picnics were amusing to Ben.  However, pretty quickly, when we woke Ben up he was not at all amused (nor was Jeff and I).

Since we understood these nighttime checks were never going away, what we needed was a better nighttime picnic menu.  A friend who also has a young Type 1 child suggested we use a small apple juice box for the fast-acting carb and then use a tube of yogurt as a follow up snack.  This was a brilliant suggestion!  The small straw on the juice box allows us to squirt the juice right into Ben’s mouth.  The yogurt tube works the same way.  Now when Ben has a nighttime low we just quietly tell him he needs to drink and eat, and without even opening his eyes he does.  Essentially, Ben can drink and eat both of these snacks without actually waking up.  We had successfully eliminated the nighttime picnics, one win for us!  However, we had not eliminated the 2 a.m. alarm and glucose check.  And we found ourselves battling more and more nighttime lows.  And we were getting less and less sleep.

One night Jeff walked into the bedroom after checking Ben, and I sat up in the bed and asked, “Is Ben over 70 now?”

Jeff looked at me perplexed and said, “Ben is fine.  He wasn’t low, he is 150.”

“But I just gave him a GoGurt, he was only 50.”

Jeff replied, “Dolores, you have been in bed.  I just checked Ben and he is fine.”

I was so confused.  I was certain that I had checked Ben and he was low. “No, I went downstairs to the kitchen and got Ben a GoGurt. It was strawberry.”  I couldn’t have dreamed all that because it all felt perfectly real!

Jeff insisted, “No you did not.  You have been in bed all night.”  Jeff showed me the glucose meter and it backed up his story.  Trusting Jeff, but still confused, I went back to sleep.

A few Sundays later, I was folding laundry in our bedroom and watching PBS.  I found myself watching a PBS documentary.  The filmmakers were interviewing an Iraq War veteran who was suffering from PTSD.  This veteran had been struggling since he returned home.  He was unable to keep a job and had found himself homeless.  He was explaining that since his return he was not able to sleep, when he does go to sleep he ends up reliving horrible battles from the war.  But he continues to explain that these aren’t normal dreams.  When he dreams he is unable to tell he is dreaming, the dreams feel perfectly real.  He has become so frightened of his dreams that he does everything he can to stay awake.

Oh my God!  I sat on my bed on the pile of unfolded laundry and unmatched socks.  I felt so badly for this man.  And then slowly, very slowly I began to realize why I felt so sad.   I understood exactly what he was talking about!  I understood how a dream could feel perfectly real!  How it could be impossible to tell the difference between reality and a dream!

I had read in a book about Type 1 that many parents of newly diagnosed T1 children suffer from PTSD and partial PTSD.  When I had read that, I immediately dismissed the statistic.  I certainly wouldn’t be one of those parents.  But I think God was sending me a message through PBS.  I do not think he was telling me I had PTSD, but certainly I had suffered a similar symptom.  I got the message.  But I had a problem because I did not know what to do next.  What I did not realize at the time was that God had already called his timeout.

Over the past weeks we had been struggling with more lows both day and night.  Slowly, Ben was requiring less and less insulin.  When we left the hospital in October he was receiving four injections a day.  Four months later he was requiring only one.  Ben had entered what is commonly called the honeymoon.  I prefer to call it “God’s timeout.”

After you are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and you start taking insulin, your blood sugar levels slowly return to normal.  This triggers your remaining insulin producing cells in your pancreas to work again.  Slowly your body will require less insulin while you remaining insulin production cells work as hard as they can until they are also destroyed.

This period; this honeymoon; this timeout; lasted for Ben almost a year.  I believe, God must have known we needed a break, me especially.  I needed time to breathe, to be relieved of my constant fear and time to rebuild my confidence, so that I could properly take care of Ben.  I must admit, I often prayed and hoped that Ben actually was healed or even misdiagnosed.  But I knew better.  I knew this timeout was temporary, as all timeouts are.

Jeff and I were able to slowly regroup.  I never did have another PTSD moment.  By the end of the summer of 2010 Ben was experiencing more high blood sugars.  He was requiring more insulin.  The clock was slowly ticking away, we were seeing the signs that the timeout was nearing it's end, and I could hear God cheering us on.  "It's time to get back in the game!"

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