Fighting Diabetes as a Family


By: , – Carolyn Starks, Family Circle
  :  12 comments   :  10,592 Views

We were eagerly waiting in our hotel room for my husband, John, to finish showering so that we could head to the amusement park. My tween daughters started yelling "Hurry up!" over the hiss of running water. But as I finished my cheap shot about him taking longer in the bathroom than a woman, my heart sank.

It suddenly dawned on me that my husband, a type 1 diabetic, might not be taking his time in the shower but languishing there. He could be suffering from low blood sugar, which would render him unaware of where he was, confused and unable to help himself. My pulse was racing, my hands were shaking, my thoughts snowballing. I opened the bathroom door, but he slammed it shut. I heard loud banging, as if he were punching the wall. I opened the door again and found him in a grand mal seizure. That dreadful sound was his head knocking against the tile wall. 

"Is Daddy going to die?" my younger daughter, Natalie, cried out.

"Daddy's going to be fine," I answered, way too cheerily.

I embraced him in a bear hug, and then dragged his soaked, flailing body out into the carpeted foyer, where my daughters saw their dad, for the first time, naked and frail. I ran to the lobby for help, leaving my daughters stock-still, staring at their defenseless father.

And so began Cecelia and Natalie's baptism by fire into the new reality of their dad's diabetes.

It's serious enough that it could kill him...but it probably won't...but be on guard just in case he passes out and you have to help him...but we can't tell you when, or if, that will happen again.

After the paramedics left, we sat our daughters down, looked deep into their wet eyes and explained what had happened. We encouraged them to share their feelings. My younger daughter piped up, saying how worried she was about him. His response: "I'm fine." After all, what do you tell your children when their father has a pernicious disease that lets him look—and in fact be—perfectly healthy most of the time, but that can strike him down at any moment? I wanted to counsel them and cancel the outing. But I followed my husband's lead and decided we could skip the emotional roller coaster and ride a real one instead at the amusement park.

My daughters grew up learning about diabetes in uncomplicated doses. They mimicked my conversations with John: "Daddy, is your sugar low?" the younger one would ask, baby voiced, her pudgy hands cupped around his face. Countless times they watched Dad prick his finger to check his blood sugar. And often they perched on the bathroom counter as he pushed the insulin needle into his hip. "No big deal," he had taught them to repeat and believe. However, they never wanted to talk about the disease. I couldn't even get them to say the word "diabetes."

And there was much we kept from them. They didn't know their dad had, on several occasions, suffered blood sugar levels so low that he either couldn't communicate or lost consciousness. Our family doctor wasn't ever too alarmed, because my husband's A1C test—which measures a diabetic's average blood glucose control for the past two to three months—was always very good. We asked about consulting an endocrinologist, a specialist in hormone imbalances like diabetes, but our doctor thought it wasn't necessary. He gave us the name and number of a diabetes educator, but my husband didn't want help from somebody who (a) wasn't a doctor or (b) didn't have the disease.
Click here to read more of John's story from Family Circle.
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  • 12
    As a Type 1 diabetic, I know how hard it is to deal with this disease. I actually consider myself lucky to have been diagnosed when I was 3 years old, too young to remember what it was like to NOT have diabetes. Weird, I know, but I think being diagnosed after becoming used to a certain lifestyle would be harder. There are so many support groups out there, for adults as well as children. I attended a great summer camp designed specifically for children with diabetes for about ten years, and found a great many of my life-long friends there. Knowing you're not alone in the world, and learning how others deal with this disease is probably one of the best things in the world for children. - 12/11/2013   2:41:54 PM
  • 11
    Wow! What a story to share. I am so sorry you and your family had to deal w/such un-understanding doctors; that's so awful and very disheartening too! The only thing I can hope for here is that this was several years ago and not many docs knew much about Type 1... but I have a sad feeling that wasn't the case. I am so glad to read in the full story from Family Circle that your husband finally did get his referal to a specialist and was able to make a more informed choice for the pump. I certainly hope that fewer people have less stress in finding what they need from their doctors... and even more so that doctors are more and more able to say they encourage 2nd opinions and here is a specialist to give you one. Geeze!

    Oh, and way to go on educating your daughters. - 11/8/2012   12:19:30 PM
  • 10
    Bless their sweet little hearts !
    Wishing your family all the best.
    You are such a loving groups.
    BLESSINGS ! - 11/7/2012   7:03:45 PM
  • 9
    Diabetes scares the wits out of me! I was pre diabetic a while back, before SP. I am now controling it with diet and exercise. My Dr. is very proud of me abd has referred several patients of hers to SP. I hope I never get it. Hopefully, now that I am at goal it will become a non issue. From my lips to God's ear! - 11/7/2012   3:37:37 PM
  • 8
    i have been T2 for 20+yrs... i have only experienced two extremely lows.. once recently..fortunately a customer/nurse was in line... noticed me not acting right.. so he got me a coke to bring it up... i was working alone in a convenient store and could not stop to eat something... the coke helped me till my co worker started his shift... i always keep glucose tablets in work bag.. was easier to get the coke than to tell him where they were in my bag.. its always good to have others know of your diabetes - 11/7/2012   1:29:04 PM
    Very powerful message and informative article. I'm not diabetic but am overweight and working to get it down to a manageable number so my joints don't hurt as much as they do now. Thanks for sharing. - 11/7/2012   8:55:52 AM
  • 6
    Thank you for the informative article. Someone once told me it is type 2, not type 1, diabetes that is caused by being overweight. Thanks for correcting me! I am prediabetic and scared. - 11/7/2012   7:34:44 AM
  • 5
    I'm reading Richard Johnson M.D.'s "THE SUGAR FIX" and learning about Metabolic Syndrome/Insulin Resistance. I don't want to get diabetes. - 11/7/2012   12:20:06 AM
  • 4
    My mother is a legally blind diabetic amputee with renal failure. Her mother was diagnosed with diabetes and dementia last year. My mothers father was also diabetic as was my grandmothers father. Part of my wanting to lose weight is to avoid ending up like them. - 11/6/2012   2:17:20 PM

    Thank you for a very informative blog. - 11/6/2012   1:28:57 PM
  • 2
    What an awakening. I am passing some of the information on to a friend. The shower surprised me.
    Best to the kids.
    - 11/6/2012   9:46:33 AM
  • 1
    My 5 year old daughter is Type 1 diabetic. That really was the thing that got me motivated to adding a healthier diet to our family, and being more active phyiscally to be a better romodel for her. We've been at this for two years, and you never really get it figured out. Thank you for posting this durring the month we set aside to focus on Diabetes. It's an awful, scary disease, but it comes with a great community. - 11/6/2012   8:53:51 AM

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