Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A few weeks after her first birthday, my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. For a week or so, she was whiny, hungry, thirsty, and went through about a case of diapers. Then, on Saturday night, she was inconsolable. We couldn’t put her down. She was lethargic. Then a bit before dawn, she started throwing up. Yes. It was obviously Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Obvious in retrospect. We packed her in the car and sped along country roads to our local hospital. The sunrise was, ironically, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
The next couple of hours are blurry, but images remain vivid: the 45-minute attempt to get an i.v. line into her tiny dehydrated arm, the drawing of lots of blood, the spinal tap (they thought she might have meningitis), the hoards of people coming in and out, trying to stabilize and diagnose her, the tiny child on the giant gurney. We held her hand, kissed her head, and prayed. The ER doctor told us her blood sugar was high. It was not, however, until they loaded her into the helicopter to take her to the children’s hospital, that an insulin drip was started and the paramedic first uttered the word “diabetes.”
By the time we were at the Children’s Hospital, they were very clear with us. Diabetes. And we would be there for a few days. Our daughter was quite sick. It was a long night in the ICU. We took turns lying on cots in a “parent sleeping room.” I spent from 2 a.m. until morning next to my daughter IN a hospital crib. I’d still be there if it wasn’t for the help of the nurse who extracted me the next morning. It wasn’t until morning, when she was awake, drinking milk, and crying like a lunatic that the doctors told us how very ill she had been and how uncertain they were about how she would get through the night.
So it was with that perspective that we proceeded to learn how to give injections, test blood sugar, check ketones, and count carbs. It was difficult mentally and emotionally. None of our lives would ever be the same. But we were grateful for life. My daughter’s second Christmas, when we sat in the cafeteria of the children’s hospital eating prime rib off of Styrofoam plates, remains one of my favorite Christmases ever. Despite all that we had lost in the preceding days, we had each other, we had the power of modern medicine, and we had hope.