Why We Do What We Do
Working hard to keep our children safest.
By Tom Karlya
April 2007 — As a writer, I'm constantly faced with the challenge of what subject to broach each month. I cannot imagine what it's like for someone who writes a weekly column, much less the major obstacles that a daily writer must face. As sure as the sun rises, I must have a column ready to go by the 24th of each month or the ever patient Ms. Kerri will be standing by my office, waiting with a smile on her face and directness in her voice: "You're not going to be late are you?" My answer is always, "Of course not."
Does she know what it's like to have to think of a topic that has to be both interesting enough to write about and more so to read about every single month? Of course I say that in jest, as Kerri is a wonderful writer who writes a column almost daily, among many other writing and editing tasks in our fast-paced editorial department, led by our Editor-in-Chief, Paula Ford-Martin. The monthly task of creating an interesting topic is always a process for me. But sometimes, every so often, a column will almost write itself. I will be pondering many different possibilities, decide on a topic and wham - something happens that just demands attention. Such is the case this month.
I received an email recently from a woman who wrote that her daughter with diabetes had the flu. Although she was in touch with her 21 year old by phone, they lived 11 hours away from one another. One of the things I love most about being active in diabetes causes is the feedback from so many people. The community in which we are involved is so therapeutic because at the end of the day, I'm no different than any other parent living with diabetes. I have all of the same pains and concerns and although I write about them, none of my feelings differ from any other parent.
The woman went on to say that for some reason, her daughter had an extremely hard time battling this most recent flu, even though the daughter was sick a few weeks prior and made it through fine. This time would be no different, the mother though, but her concern gave way to her trying to convince her daughter to go to the local hospital. Finally, she convinced her daughter over the weekend to get out of bed and go to the doctor on Monday morning. On Sunday, her daughter died.
A parent's worst nightmare was now upon her. The grief insurmountable and oh my, the guilt was all encompassing. As I read her email, I could not discern what was worse: her pain or her guilt. Both emotions were in understandably monumental proportions and something I hope to God every night that I never experience. Like every parent, this absolute fear NEVER leaves my soul. If my soon-to-be 21 year old son, TJ, does not come home at night, although concerned, it is my belief that he is curled up safely at his firehouse on call or too tired to drive home. Should Kaitlyn, my daughter with diabetes, be 10 minutes late for an appointed curfew, I tend to believe the worst.
When anything goes wrong due to diabetes - a blown test, a bad day, a needed glucagon shot, or a good time gone to ruin because of a sever blood sugar reaction - it's always our (the parent's) fault. But is it? We blame ourselves when something, anything, goes out of sync. We forget that a child is of an age that they should know that certain foods should not be eaten in conjunction with other foods (or drink) without an insulin dosage compensation. Or we forget that when they are out late on the eve of a major school exam, but end up battling for an hour with a hypoglycemic episode and the test is blown. Or even the times proper management is pushed aside for other important issues like parties or ‘all-nighters' because a friend sleeps over.
It is very clear to me that every child with diabetes probably does not fully understand that no matter what happens in their life, we blame ourselves for their diabetes just as sure as it was either our genetic make-up or the fact that we could not stop them from being diagnosed in the first place: Daddy just couldn't fix it. And it kills us everyday. So we become the constant, excuse my language, ‘pain in the ass." The constant inquisition as to when they tested, what did they eat, when did they eat, did they make a correction, did they bolus, did they sleep, did they, did they… all for one reason. It is the same reason that it took 12 years to even sleep an entire night without getting up to check if they were still breathing.
We do this to keep them healthy and ALIVE.
Listen carefully, kids with diabetes, and listen well. We, your parents, do not have diabetes. And with all of the power one could wish or pray for, we would take this upon ourselves in a nanosecond if we could. But we can't. Everything we say and do is only because we love you, and no matter what happens in your life with diabetes that hinders you or hurts you, we take the blame. It really is a lot to live with but we also know it pales in comparison with what you do every day. And should our worst fears ever become a reality and you are taken from us, that will most certainly be our fault as well. And nothing anyone in the world says will ever take away that deepest void in our life. That most crushing life-altering moment would be too unbearable to imagine. That is why, no matter what we say or do as your parents that always elicits the roll of your eyes, the whining to leave you alone, the huge deep sighs, the disgusted tone "I have it" response to all of times we are "just checking on you," please know that it is only to stop the fear of what could happen. If the one time we should have done this and didn't … quite honestly and if it is all the same to you, I would rather have you around until the next time we bother you. Because if you weren't around, the painful emptiness would be more than you could ever know just like I was reminded in an email this week. It happens, could happen and does happen to any child at any time—that's too close to home. We love you baby, we really do. For that reason I remain that ‘pain-in-the-ass' diabetes dad.
Read More of Tom's Articles.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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