Last night we had some guests at our house for dinner, one of whom was a young man of 18. As we sat down to eat, Kaitlyn pulled out her testing kit. Immediately, the young man got a smile on his face and said, “I recognize that. I have one too!” He pulled out his glucose meter and showed it to Kaitlyn. It turned out that he had the very same pump as her too! We were so excited to realize this coincidence that I immediately responded, “Wow! That’s great! You have type 1 diabetes too!”
We all had a chuckle at my comment, because obviously it’s not great that he or Kaitlyn have a serious disease! However, it’s always a happy thing when we meet others who can relate to the diabetes life. We exchanged diagnosis stories, and the remainder of the dinner conversation was dominated by sharing all our experiences and stories. Kaitlyn, who is usually very shy around strangers, completely opened up and gabbed all through dinner.
We found out that our new friend was diagnosed as a 13-year-old. He told about how he had lost close to 30 pounds before he was finally hospitalized and diagnosed. His blood sugar and ketone levels were so high that he had to be admitted for several days. Although his story was typical of a lot of others that I have heard, it was very different from ours. For one, Kaitlyn’s diabetes was identified very early on, and she never really got very sick. We went to the hospital, got the diagnosis, got trained on what to do and went home the very same day. The biggest difference was their age — he was diagnosed as a teenager, whereas Kaitlyn was only three.
I can only imagine what it might be like to be a 13-year-old boy who had lived his whole life eating whatever and whenever he wanted, then suddenly having to start checking blood sugar levels, getting shots, and counting every gram of carbohydrate before eating. And — since he was already in his somewhat independent teenage years, he was doing all this at least partially on his own!
My heart just went out to him! I thought it must have been so much harder to be diagnosed that late in his childhood. At least Kaitlyn was so young that she really has never known anything different. But you know what? He didn’t see it that way! He commented that it must have been so hard to have been diagnosed at such a young age — that it would have been so challenging to have to help a three-year-old understand what was happening and why.
I learned one very important thing that night. Being diagnosed with type 1 is always a very hard thing, but no matter what circumstances or what age … you’ll get through it. You can have a positive attitude, you can be excellent at your care, and you can lead a long, healthy and happy life — especially if you can find others to encourage you along the way!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.