My daughter and I spent a week this summer on a church youth group trip. We stayed in a little white church, sharing a room with 5 middle and high school aged girls (the boys had their own space). It was an experience in communal living in many ways, including sharing more about my daughter's diabetes than we usually do.
We're not embarrassed about diabetes, but at the same time we tend to keep it undercover when possible. Ordinarily when there's a low in public or the need to check before a communal meal, only the most diabetes-savvy eye would know what was going on. We weren't even to our destination yet when this way of doing things became impossible. The caravan of cars stopped for dinner on the way there, and we ended up at different tables, yelling blood sugar numbers and estimated carb counts over the heads of our fellow travelers.
On the first night, Dexi was on high alert for a borderline low blood sugar. The kind where she thinks it's hovering at 65 and the finger sticks all say 85 and she can't be convinced she's wrong. Except this was happening in a room with 6 other people who were trying to sleep, all right next to each other. I'd never realized how incredibly loud the vibrate mode on the Dexcom is, or how loud the faint little beep is when then the blood sugar reads out on the meter. And when I gave up and opened a juice box so that Dexi and I could both just get some sleep? That straw wrapper was deafening.
We had a few moments when we had to step aside from work or play to treat lows. Our brightly colored meter case was visible at all times from wherever we were working or playing. Math was done out loud at meals and my daughter hoisted the cookie package over her head nightly to check the carbs.
The experience made me contemplate why we tend to keep diabetes out of sight when we're not with our closest friends and family. For me it has to do with not wanting diabetes to get in other people's way. We don't want everyone to stop what they're doing because my kid has a low blood sugar. We don't want people to wait to eat because my kid still has to check or read the label for the taco shells. We don't want everyone in the room to worry when they hear the Dexcom buzz.
It turns out, that two things happened over the course of the week, neither of which had to do with diabetes causing an undue burden on our fellow travelers. Primarily, despite having to deal with diabetes out in the open, people rarely noticed. There were plenty of other people there, doing plenty of other things, and my child stepping aside to check her blood sugar, or even the buzzes and beeps of the first night went, for the most part, unnoticed. And secondarily, when people did notice, they wanted nothing more than to help. It turns out that taking a break from the evening basketball game and chatting with my daughter while her blood sugar came up, or running back to the kitchen to grab the nutrition label were not deemed onerous tasks.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm not too good at accepting help. For anything. But people with diabetes sometimes need help. This was a great experience in reminding my daughter that sharing a little of her diabetes with others isn't a bad thing, though she was already better about it than I was. It's a lesson we both needed to learn, but which will serve her particularly well as she continues to grow up and to be out and about in the world without me.