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In October 2014 about three weeks before Halloween my youngest twin Nate, who was 7 at the time, wasn’t acting like himself. He would get in the car after I would pick him up from school and say, “I am so thirsty. I drank a bunch of water at school but I am still thirsty.”
Once we would get home he would just be constantly drinking whatever he could find. After getting home and drinking and eating he would finish his homework and would want to go lay down. He had very little energy which was unusual for him but I just thought maybe he was just coming down with a cold or the flu. Another week passed and he had some additional symptoms, like he would have to go the bathroom every few minutes and was eating way more than normal.
So again, I just thought, well, he is drinking a lot of water at school and when he comes home he is just really hydrated, and he is growing so that is why he is eating so much. By the third week his teacher contacted me and said, “We have only been in school a short time but your son keeps having to go the bathroom and I am not sure if he is just trying to get out of class or if he really has to use the bathroom.”
When he got home from school I sat him down and asked why he was going to the bathroom so much. He said, “I just really have to go and I can’t hold it! I am not trying to get out of class but it is hard for me to hold it.” So I made a phone call to the doctor’s office and they suggested making some changes in his diet like eating more fruits and drinking less juice. I tried it for a few days but that still didn’t change anything.
By this time we are about a week away from Halloween and we decide to go to a pumpkin patch. He seemed fine while we were there still going to the bathroom often but seemed to have more energy. After the pumpkin patch we decided to go out to dinner. He said he was starving! So he ate part of an appetizer, a cheeseburger, fries, and the meal came with dessert. As he took a couple of spoon-fulls of dessert he looked at me and said, “I don’t feel good I think I am going to be sick!”
We left the restaurant and I took him home and he was exhausted and was complaining his stomach hurt. He was up several times that night using the restroom. At this point I was at a loss I had no idea what was wrong with him. Before we went to sleep that night, I told my husband, “Tomorrow I am going to take him to the urgent care and have Nate checked out.”
Little did I know my life would be forever changed! In the urgent care the doctor was looking him as I gave him the symptoms of what was going on. He did some blood work and came back fairly quickly to the room. He told me to take my son from there to the emergency room at a children’s hospital. I was not to stop to get him anything to eat or drink I needed to go and fast. I looked at him with panic and asked what was going on. He said, “I am pretty sure your son [has diabetes]. His current blood sugar is 660.” So I grabbed my son and off to the hospital we went where they confirmed what the doctor told me at the urgent care.
So while in the hospital I honestly didn’t know anything about diabetes. The only thing I really knew was that shots were involved and you needed to manage your diet. I didn’t realize how our lives were about to drastically change in a period of three months. They taught me how to count carbs, how to fill a syringe with insulin, how to calculate the amount of insulin to give him, how to check his blood, what a low blood sugar number is, and what a high blood sugar number is and that wasn’t even the half of it. I didn’t sleep the entire two days we were in the hospital. Nathan was so scared of the needles and I was the one having to poke him multiple times a day which was painful. I was overwhelmed and emotional with the amount of information the hospital was giving me on how to take care of him, and he was mad at me for having to give him shots and stick his finger. Then I thought, what about Jake? He is Nate’s identical twin-- what does that mean for him?
I had a ton of questions for the endocrinologist during our first doctor’s appointment after leaving the hospital. How was this going to affect school? What things can he eat and not eat? But my burning question was, what are the odds his identical twin would have diabetes? When I asked she responded that there was less than a two percent chance he would have it. She assured me that she had many patients that were twins where only one had diabetes. This was strange to me. Because they are identical, wouldn’t this percentage be higher? She stated that she had several families where one twin had the disease, but that answer didn’t ease my anxiety at all.
We were about 2 months into diagnosis and Jacob my oldest twin wasn’t acting himself. He would come home tired from school. He was eating a good amount but not drinking a whole lot but the panic started to set in. What if he has it, too? So, I called the doctor’s office and she asked me to start keeping a log. Check his blood sugar when he gets up in the morning, before a meal, two hours after a meal, and do this for about a week.
Luckily for me, Nate had an appointment that same week. So I brought her all my log books, she did her own blood tests, but she wasn’t saying much. I already knew what she was going to tell me. He had it, too. So we left the office and drove home. That was the quietest car ride I have ever had with the two of them.
My husband was at work and my youngest son was at school. So when Josh got home from work we sat down as a family to discuss what had happened at the doctor’s office. After I told everyone what the doctor said Nate said, “This is great!” The rest of us stood there is shock looking at him, especially poor Jake who was just told a few hours ago that he had diabetes. We asked him why he would say that knowing everything he has to go through. Why is this great? He said, “Because we can go through it together and he will know how I feel.” As we all looked at each other we knew we had a choice-- we could either burry our heads in the sand or fight. So we choose to fight. That conversation became the driving force for our family to take this disease head on and not look back.
Nathan was a great help to Jake. He would help him count carbs, get strips ready for his meter, and tell him what finger to stick so it didn’t hurt as bad. Even my youngest son Noah began helping his brothers and has even become their protector. He helps them get their meters ready, gets them a juice box when they are low, or sometimes does things as simple as giving them a hug when they have to get a shot or a pump change. Noah knows a lot about diabetes. We have taught him along with his brothers so that he understands and can help. He is very happy he doesn’t have it because he doesn’t have to watch everything he eats, he can go by a friend’s house by himself, and doesn’t have to go to the school nurse unless he is sick. Though there are sometimes you can tell he does feel left out. We make sure we include him when doing pump changes, carb counting, and having him be part of doctors’ appointments. This has helped him and his brothers tremendously and they are closer because of these experiences. However, it is still in the back of all our minds that there is a chance he could have it too! So we definitely monitor Noah closely for any symptoms of diabetes.
Even though we have an amazing support system which we are very thankful for, my husband and I still felt alone. They really didn’t understand what we were going through. We needed something more and so did our boys. We realized we were missing other people besides each other who were living with this disease. Through our doctor’s office we learned about social media sites that were geared towards diabetes (Touched by Type 1, American Diabetes Association, Type 1 Diabetes Support and Information, JDRF, and Connect through Blue Cross Blue Shield).
Through those sites we were able to connect with people who had or cared for people with diabetes. These sites have made a huge difference for our family. We learned about camps, support groups, coping strategies, and most importantly that we were not alone. As we now approach our three years since being diagnosed we have come a long way and are now more knowledgeable about this disease.
We have joined JDRF and participate in their One Walk under the team Twins on Insulin, the boys have gone to camp and made some great Type 1 friends, and are even going to overnight camp next year. These things that we never knew existed have made the boys stronger where all the things we use to do for them they know can do themselves. They have even helped other kids out that have diabetes like a newly diagnosed Kindergartner at their school. We have also helped other parents in our area with newly diagnosed children in the hopes that they feel that they are not alone and they have someone to talk to. Diabetes is not easy but we are a stronger family for it! We live every day the best we can with the hope that one day someone will find a cure.
Presented by: Jamie Robertson
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