Just like in the movie, today we’re doing a swap. If you could switch chronic diseases, which one would you choose to deal with instead of diabetes? And while we’re considering other chronic conditions, do you think your participation in the DOC has affected how you treat friends and acquaintances with other medical conditions?
When my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes, we were transferred to a major Children's Hospital. We spent that first week on a unit which was the destination for kids with new diabetes diagnoses, but which also treated kids with many other conditions.
A day or two after our arrival, I met the mother of a child with Cystic Fibrosis. This child (and her mother) had spent more days at that hospital that year than they had at home. Their most recent admission had included a diagnosis of diabetes on top of the usual pulmonary and gastrointestinal issues they dealt with upon every visit.
Since then we've met families whose children have autism, celiac disease, asthma, complicated lung conditions, cardiac issues, life-threatening allergies and more. Some of them we count among our closest friends. We've watched friends struggle taking a child with autism to get blood taken, an ordeal incomparable to taking my child who is anxious but ultimately able to understand and tolerate the process. We've dined out with friends for whom not knowing what's in a plate of food could be a matter of life or death, not just a long night of blood sugar checks and corrections.
Every chronic condition comes with its own set of daily obstacles and fears. Each has its own learning curve. Each has its own daily tasks to be conquered.
Yet as a parent of a child with a chronic condition, I've found great empathy among parents whose kids have other chronic issues. We all find ourselves in doctor's offices and hospitals. We all have personal relationships with the school nurse. We're all desperately trying to raise our children to live full, happy lives while carrying the weight of their diagnoses.
The more I learn from people's first-hand experiences with other chronic diseases, the less inclined I am to want to trade. From those first days in a hospital full of incredibly ill children, I knew we'd drawn a much, much longer straw than many other families.
One of the great gifts diabetes has given us (really...it can give gifts though it mostly gives us a hard time) is that of relationships. There are the instant bonds among people who also live with diabetes, but there are also these connections which are so much more easily made and cemented with the glue of shared experience with kids with chronic conditions.