Sian talks about daily life as a parent of a type 1 diabetes teen…
Before Drew was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I really didn’t know very much about the condition at all. I knew it differed from type 2, in that it needed to be treated with insulin injections, but that was the extent of my knowledge. We had to learn a LOT – and fast.
Carbs & Food
For me, the trickiest thing to get my head around, was the carb counting. We need to work out the carbohydrates in every meal she eats to accurately work out the amount of insulin she needs to inject. This means weighing and measuring everything very carefully. I’ve found a decent set of kitchen scales and measuring cups and jugs to be invaluable. There’s also a brilliant app called Carbs & Cals which we use every day – it lists just about every food you can imagine, along with its carb values. It’s especially helpful when we’re eating out or treating ourselves to a takeaway as it also has all the carb values for the main fast-food outlets.
It’s a lot of extra work, working out carbs for three meals a day, plus any snacks over 15g. She also has to inject 15 minutes before eating, so I have to remind myself to call her down to bolus 15 mins before we all sit down to eat as a family. Drew’s become really good at working out her own carbs and has memorised the carb value in lots of her favourite snacks, like melon and cereal.
I make sure I keep the fridge and cupboards stocked with low-carb snacks. When you’re T1 diabetic, you can have up to 15g of carbs in a snack without having to inject so having low-carb snacks available saves Drew from having to inject more than four times a day. She’s a growing teenager, so this means I’m constantly back and forward to the shops to replenish her stash, which is expensive.
Insulin & Injections
Drew needs to inject four times (minimum) every day. I need to make sure she has plenty of needles, insulin, test strips and lancets in the house so I keep a close eye on her medicine stock. I make sure she has everything she needs in her kit before she heads off to school, every morning. She has a backup kit in the fridge of the school’s medical room, too, should she ever lose or forget her own kit.
I didn’t think I’d ever get used to seeing my daughter having to inject herself, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. It took a while for us to get to grips with everything but we’re at a place where we feel much more confident.
Hypos are the worst. To begin with, Drew was having several hypos a week, leaving her feeling drained and upset. Fortunately, she’s hypo-aware and can sense when her bloods have dropped below 4.0. She starts to feel clammy, dizzy, and unwell. Usually, she’ll tell me as soon as she feels this way. One time, she rang me as she was walking home from school to say she felt poorly. I ran to meet her, took her bloods by the roadside, and discovered she was having a pretty bad hypo. I gave her a small can of Coke to drink and walked her home. She was really unwell for a few hours and the hypo was stubborn – her bloods refused to budge until we’d treated it three times. By this time, she was feeling horrendous, and her face was white as a sheet. She had a horrible headache and threw up. She still felt awful the next morning and had to have the day off school.
Things are more settled now. She maybe has one or two hypos a week, and they’ve never been as bad as that one. She’ll text me from school to let me know she’s having a hypo and I’ll chat to her while she treats it and waits for her bloods to come back up. It’s a helpless feeling when you’re at home and she’s in school, dealing with it by herself. The school have been a great support, though, they really have. They have quite a few other type 1 diabetics in the school, so they’re used to dealing with the condition and know how to support their pupils. Drew’s diabetes team have also been incredible. They’re at the end of the phone, any time we need advice, and I genuinely don’t know how we would’ve coped without them.
Since diagnosis, we’ve had a rollercoaster of emotions. As a parent, I feel angry and sad for her. It doesn’t feel fair that a young girl should have to deal with this every day of her life. It doesn’t feel fair that she’ll have to keep on dealing with it for the rest of her life. If I could take it from her and take it myself, I would. In a heartbeat.
I worry about what diabetes means for her future and her health. I even find myself worrying about far into the future scenarios, like how it will affect her pregnancies, if she has any. It angers me that diabetes always needs to be considered in every decision she makes, especially the usual stuff teenagers want to do – sleepovers, trips, and meals out. She can’t even go and grab a spontaneous milkshake with a friend. Everything needs thought out and planned, and that’s exhausting and infuriating for her. I think we’re in a better place now, though. We’ve found a routine that works for everyone, and we’ve got her bloods at a more stable level. Of course, that can change, day to day, but, for now, we’re feeling like we’ve got a handle on diabetes and she’s doing an amazing job of kicking its butt. I’m in awe of her, every single day.