Thursday, November 22, 2012


Yesterday I stumbled upon a Gone with Wind marathon on AMC.  I love this movie and I love, love the book!  I have read it several times enjoying it more each time.  I have always admired Scarlett O’Hara’s strength, determination and her unrelenting Hope.  Though Rhett Butler delivers the most popular line in the movie, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” it is not my favorite.  I love the very last line delivered by Scarlett O’Hara, as she watches Rhett Butler walk away and wiping away her tears she ends the book/movie by saying, "After all, tomorrow is another day!"

As I watched the end of the movie yesterday, this last line got me thinking.  Thinking about tomorrow … thinking about Thanksgiving … thinking about how thankful I am that indeed tomorrow is another day and Ben will be there to celebrate it with us.

Today, as we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, we will measure serving sizes, count carbs and give Ben his bolus, and my heart will be filled with gratitude.  I am thankful for this clear magical liquid with the very distinctive smell of band-aids which has overtaken the butter compartment in my refrigerator and keeps my youngest son (my baby) alive.  Ben is able to sit with us at our family table and share this Thanksgiving dinner because we have insulin.
I am thankful for Canada, the University of Toronto, the bright ideas of Dr. Fredrick Banting and Charles Best, for the brave young kids that participated in the early human trials, and for Eli Lilly who worked so hard to mass produce the new life-saving drug.

I am also thankful for all the men and women, whose names I yet do not know, who are working diligently to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.  Because like Scarlett O’Hara, I have Hope too.  Hope that one day a cure will be discovered.  And one day, one Thanksgiving, we will be thanking a new list of scientists and doctors who cured diabetes mellitus, insulin-dependent, Type 1 DiabetesBut until that day comes I will be thankful for each and every day in between, because “After all, tomorrow is another day!”  And every one of those days is a gift.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Number Games

One day last week after Ben had come home from school he asked me if he could have a package of Gobstoppers.  I was busy working, and in all honesty was not giving Ben the proper attention.  I quickly said, "Yes, just check yourself first." A few minutes later he yelled from the kitchen, "I am 129 entering 6 carbs." I yelled back (there is a lot of yelling in our house), "OK."

A couple hours later, after I finished working and after I threw something together for dinner, we sat down to eat.  We discussed carb counts and agreed on a total number and then Ben pulls out the pricker to test himself.  Both Jeff and I wait and Ben announces, "291."  I then quickly overreact and again yell, "What!?  You were just 129!  You shouldn't have eaten those Gobstoppers!" Now Ben looks up at me and starts crying and with tears streaming down his cheeks he puts his forehead down on the table so we can’t see his face and he sobs.  I quickly, apologize and try to comfort him.  I knew I had just blown it.

This is exactly how a T1 parent is NOT supposed to react to a blood sugar check!  To be honest Jeff and I fall into this trap too often.  As every T1 family knows, living with this disease means living with numbers, numbers ... and more numbers.  And when you attach guilt and blame (which I had done) or any other human emotion to a blood sugar number you will certainly drive yourself crazy (and make your son cry)!

In our defense, the chart included here represents two weeks of blood sugar checks.  Every black dot represents a number. 

That is just two weeks worth of numbers.  Ben has had T1 for three years.  That's a lot of numbers.  And potentially a whole lot of crazy.  But we are not crazy and we have Ben to thank for that.  Ben, with all his nine-year-old wisdom, has always been able to find a way to turn his blood sugar checks into a numbers game.

One of Ben's favorite games is to quote his blood sugar numbers using NHL hockey player jersey numbers.  The first time he did this was a couple years ago after school when he was checking himself before his after school snack.  He pricked himself and then said, "Mom, I am Patrice Bergeron." Now I have watched a lot of hockey games but I never paid attention to jersey numbers so I had no idea what his number was. Ben played coy with me making me guess.  Eventually, I gave up and Ben finally told me he was 37, which was a bit horrifying, but we quickly treated his low and we moved on.  If his blood sugar is over 100 he uses different combinations of jersey numbers.  If he is 137 he would say he was Roberto Loungo, whose jersey number is 1, plus Bergeron.  As you can imagine, I have learned lots of NHL jersey numbers over the past 3 years playing this game.

Ben also loves to point out interesting number patterns.  Last week he was 215 at exactly 2:15.  At school at his lunch check his blood sugar was 179 and he received exactly 1.79 units of insulin.  He has had the exact same blood sugar numbers two checks in a row.  He loves it when his number is 123.  And almost equally as amusing is a perfect 100.

Another favorite game is to have his brothers guess what his blood sugar will be.  He will ask both Garren and Cole what their guesses are and then he gets to declare a winner.  There is no end to the number of competitions three brothers can create.

We have found over time that when we follow Ben's lead and play along with his games we all stay calm, laugh a little, and remain sane.  Occasionally, Jeff and I still react badly.  But when we do play along with Ben's games we are better able to detach ourselves from his numbers and not overreact.  When we successfully do we are able to see these numbers for exactly what they are, information.

Last week when Ben told me he was 291 I do not know for a fact the high blood sugar was from the Gobstoppers.  He has been able to eat this candy before without causing a high.  The truth is there are 1 million reasons Ben could have been high.  The high could have been caused by something he ate earlier.  He could have been stressed. His pump site could have started to become insulin resistant (and so on and so on).  In the end it was very unfair for me to beat him up (or myself) for a 291 glucose number.  It was not his fault nor was it mine.  291 is just a number and we needed to try to lower it.  Instead of yelling at Ben about Gobstoppers, what I should have said was:

"Hey Ben did you notice that 291 is just 129 rearranged?  How cool is that!?"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Halloween Conversation

Last week was Halloween.  However, because hurricane Sandy had barrelled through our town just days before our town decided to reschedule Halloween for Sunday night instead (who knew that was even possible).  Garren dressed up as Slenderman, Cole was a can of Spam, Ben was a killer hot dog (in case you are wondering that's a hot dog that carries around a ninja sword), and Jeff was a scary clown. The kids had a great time running through the neighborhood trick-or-treating with their friends.

I know people have been worried about how we handle this holiday with Ben's T1, but after three Halloweens now the holiday isn't as scary as it was back in 2009.  We have worked out a system of keeping some candy and buying back the rest.  We always end our Halloween celebration with a trip to the Target toy aisle.  So far the boys have seemed happy with our changes, but I have never asked them directly.  I thought maybe it was time to ask.  So I sat down with Ben on Monday and asked him a few questions about how his Halloween went this year.

Because talking to Ben is always entertaining I have included our conversation here ...

Friday, November 2, 2012

You learn something new everyday

Sunday began with a 5:30 alarm to take Ben to his hockey practice. This was the beginning of a busy morning, the plan for the day was for Jeff to drive Garren where he needed to be and I would be Ben and Cole’s chauffer.  I rolled out of bed, poured myself some coffee and off to hockey practice we went.

After practice some of the parents brought munchkins and hot chocolate for the kids to share.  Ben grabbed three munchkins and a small cup of hot chocolate. Bolusing after hockey practice is always tricky business because the exercise always has a delayed affect on Ben.  We gave it our best guess, entered the carbs in Ben’s pump, gave him his insulin … and then all at once Ben shoved all three munchkins in his mouth.

From the rink we headed to the baseball field to watch his brother Cole play a double header.  The first game started off in the misty cold.  By late morning the beginnings of hurricane Sandy were creeping into New England and it started to drizzle.  Ben and I curled up together on my folding chair under a blanket and an umbrella and watched the games.  After the second baseball game we had to quickly drive Cole to school for his middle school play practice.  We had almost no time to spare so we stopped at a Subway on the way to pick up lunch.

Cole went through the line first.  He asked for a foot long Italian with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo along with a bag of Baked Lays and a fountain drink that became a strange combo of coke, orange soda and sprite. (Yuck, I know). 

Now it was Ben's turn.  The young lady behind the counter asked, "What would you like?"

Ben replies, "Can I have a 6 inch Italian with turkey?"

She pulls out the sub roll and places the turkey on it.  Then she asks, "Would you like cheese on that?"

Ben hesitates and then slowly replies, "No … I want some steak."

Now the lady behind the counter, along with me, was a bit confused. She asks, "You want steak?"

Ben says, "Yes."

So the lady behind the counter takes the turkey off his sub roll and puts steak on it.  Ben then says, "No, I want turkey and steak."

Hmmm, I ask, "You want turkey and steak together on the same sandwich?  Have you ever had that before?"

Now Ben pauses and looks at me perplexed.  He then points at the steak.  And then looks at me again. Then very slowly Ben says, "I ... want ... bacon ..."

Ah, I then say, "You want turkey and bacon!"

The whole conversation seemed to happen in slow motion.  It felt very bizarre.  I sensed something was off but we were in such a hurry I did not give it much more thought.

From here Ben proceeded down the line and the young lady built Ben's sandwich for him.  He then gets a diet coke.  We pay and then rush back in the car so we can get Cole to practice on time.

As we are walking through the parking lot Ben pauses and tells me he thinks he is low.  After we get in the car I pass Ben his test kit and then we drive away.  Cole tells Ben he needs to buckle up.  But Ben has the test kit in his lap and he just can't seem to figure out how to get the seat belt to work.  I pull over.  This causes Cole to go into panic mode because he will surely be late for play practice now.  I get out of the car and open Ben's door and ignoring Cole's whining I calmly buckle Ben in.  Then I wait for him to check his blood sugar.  I know that if Ben is low and I attempt to help him with his test kit he will most certainly breakout into tears and start yelling at me.  So I wait ... and indeed he is low.  It was now clear we had messed up the after hockey practice bolus, Ben was only 35!  We all decide that 4 glucose tabs should do the trick.  As Ben starts chewing I jump back in the car and we head off for play practice.

As we are driving and the boys have all calmed down, I started thinking about our visit to Subway.  Then ding, ding, ding the light bulb finally flicks on!  I had read several times about how T1 adults experience lows.  They often describe the mental confusion that overtakes them.  Ben was low in Subway and that is why he had such difficulty trying to tell us he wanted bacon on his sandwich.  I had never seen Ben experience a low this way.  Usually he gets a little shaky (not even that noticeably) and sometimes emotional.  If he had shown either of these symptoms earlier we had missed them while we were both curled up and shivering under a wet blanket.

After Ben’s blood sugar is back up and he is happily eating his sandwich, I try to explain to Ben, "You know one of the symptoms of being low is confusion.  Your head will start feeling jumbled and you can't think well." I then ask, "Do you think that is what happened to you in Subway when you were trying to ask for bacon?"

Ben shrugs his shoulders and says, "No, I was just confused because I had not been to Subway in a long time."
This makes me chuckle a little bit.  The boys (including Jeff) go to Subway almost once a week.  They are all pros on how the Subway line works.  I figured Ben was just too young to really understand what I was trying to explain.  He had been through enough that morning, and he was enjoying his sandwich so I just let it go.

We did finally get Cole to practice, though he was 15 minutes late.  When we pulled in he was all grumbly mad.  As he was getting out of the car another car pulled in behind us.  Cole then turns around and says, "At least I am not the last one here!" And he quickly adds, "Ben, glad you are feeling better.  Bye buddy."

It was only 1:30, but it already felt like a full day.  Although the morning had been crazy madness, I had managed to learn something new.  I still did not have the proper insulin to munchkin to hockey practice ratios all worked out.  But the next time I mess that up (and there certainly will be a next time) I now had one more sign of hypoglycemia to look for, Confusion.