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!?"


  1. Ben sounds like a pretty amazing young man, and I'm SO impressed with his vast knowledge of hockey player numbers!

    As for the reactions, they happen. Even with us grown-ups. It's such an emotional thing, and there is a lot of worry (and guilt, and blame) stacked on top of each stupid number we see. Don't beat yourself up about it. I'm sure Ben knows that it's all because you love him and worry about him so much.

    I appreciate you sharing this story, Dolores. Thank you.

  2. Just last night Ben was Wayne Gezsky ... The boys were thrilled ... They have been waiting for that one for a long time!

  3. I'm so glad I found your blog! This made me happy.

  4. Katy, I am so glad you found my blog too ... Because your comment made me happy! Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Right now, I'm Johan Hedberg and Ilya Kovalchuk (117). I like this game! It's a great motivator to check one's blood sugar, even for a veteran like me!

    Great story!

  6. For those of us who build apps around diabetes, this is hugely insightful. Thank you for sharing!