Thursday, November 10, 2016

National Diabetes Awareness Month: All in the family!!

**Continuing to repost from the archives of when our daughter was first diagnosed 
with Type 1 Diabetes in 2009.  
This article was originally posted in December of 2009.
My grandmother has since passed away.**

November is “National Diabetes Awareness Month.”

So with that in mind, I decided that it would be a great time to dig around in my family background and find out more about the experiences of those who are also living with Type 1 Diabetes, 
and then share those experiences with other families 
also living with this incurable disease.

As a young girl, my mother told me that her older sister (my Aunt) was diagnosed 
with Type 1 Diabetes when she was young. 
So when my daughter was diagnosed with it this past February, I of course remembered this. 
My mother told me this is a very “livable” disease,
 and I was encouraged by that as I know she grew up watching her sister. 
In November, I decided to call both my Aunt as well as my Grandmother to talk with them about their experiences living with this disease. 

How fascinating our conversations were.

My Aunt is now 69 years old,
 and has been living with Type 1 Diabetes for 61 years!! 
She was diagnosed in 1948 when she was 8 years old. 
That must be the magic age in our family, as my daughter was also 8 years old 
when she was diagnosed.
Another interesting thing is that my Aunt’s granddaughter 
(who actually is not genetically linked to her because her daddy, my Aunt’s son, was adopted)
 was also diagnosed with this disease when SHE was 8 years old.

What makes these facts so interesting to me is that it wasn’t until 1921
 that insulin was even discovered. 
That was in my grandmother’s lifetime. 
Only 88 years ago. 
It seems amazing to me that if my daughter had been born when my grandmother was 4 years old, she would have died. So fast forward, to 1948.
A mere 27 years later, and there was a relatively new treatment available to treat my aunt 
so that she could grow up and live a wonderfully long life.
My Aunt remembers being on two different insulins as a young girl:
 protamine zinc and “regular insulin”. 
She told me that they were mixed so she only had to take one shot….in the morning, at breakfast, 
for the ENTIRE day!!
One shot.
I about fell over.
She remembers testing her blood sugar through her urine with a test strip. 
They would check her blood sugar, 

give her the insulin calculated for her daily needs, 
and then she would eat food on an “exchange” program according 
to the amount of insulin she had received. 
That was it. 
No A1C test, no meters, no glucagon kits. 
She thought she remembered testing for ketones with tablets that would fizz,
 but couldn’t remember for sure. 
When I asked her about how her diabetes was managed at school,
she said it wasn’t.
She was pretty sure nobody at school even knew she had diabetes!!!!
I could NOT believe that.
I asked her if she thought all we have to do for our children today is overkill,
 and she thought it really was. 

Her granddaughter used to be at my Aunt’s house nearly everyday, 
so she (my Aunt) saw the routine her granddaughter went through 
and all the things she had to do at school.
My Aunt remembers that if she had a low, she could just feel that,
and would eat a sugar cube or drink some juice to bring it back up. 
I asked her if she remembers how they would know if
her blood sugars were being kept under good control,
and she really couldn’t give me a definitive answer. 
I asked her if she has had any complications from the diabetes and she has had none. 
I LOVED that. 
I was so thrilled that she has lived for 61 years with this,
 and has had no real complications.
When she and my uncle were starting their family, she did lose two precious baby boys. 
Both died within days of birth, but she could not say definitively that this was due to her diabetes. There were other things complicating her pregnancies unrelated to the diabetes also.
So she adopted two boys, one of which now has a daughter with Type 1 Diabetes.

She did say that a number of years back her eye doctor noticed
 some minor hemorrhaging in her retinas, 
but laser surgery took care of that. 
Today, she still prefers to use syringes as her primary insulin delivery method. 
She has tried the pen and did look into the pump, but did not care for either one.
She thought they were too cumbersome and time consuming. 
She is using the “NPH” insulin in the morning 
as well as very tiny amounts of Humalog at meals. 
She is very disciplined with her schedule and her diet
 and prefers to stick with what she has done for many years 
as it keeps her in better control of her diabetes.

My sweet grandmother is now 93 years old, 
and really did not remember a lot of the details of caring for my Aunt as a young girl. 
She of course, remembered how old she was and that she had one shot a day,
 but told me I would get more details from my Aunt. 
My Grandmother was a nurse, so I really don’t think it was a big deal
 for her emotionally to care for her daughter’s condition. 
My Grandfather, her husband, developed Type 2 Diabetes in his later years, 
and she was reminiscing about that. 
My Grandmother has always seemed very resilient to me and has adapted well to whatever the Lord brought into her life .
She always had a pleasant attitude about it all. 
She is my hero!!

Both of these remarkable ladies are living testaments to God’s grace in their lives, 
and I’m thankful that they have been down my road before 
and I can come up behind them and tap into their wisdom and experience!!

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