We’re in a settled routine in our family. James’ type 1 diabetes blends seamlessly into our lives: I think nothing of counting up breakfast carbs and testing blood sugar before and after meals. I’m grateful that, through time and lots of practice, I can feel comfortable taking care of James. I remember those first few months when the enormity of the changes in our lives felt so completely overwhelming. It didn’t seem like my conscious mind gave me a minute’s rest from the subject of diabetes!
Fast-forward a few years, and now I can almost take care of James in my sleep. I’ve found that I have a remarkable memory for tracking the carbs in the afternoon snack James is eating and for remembering exactly how long it has been since he’s eaten. I’m happy to realize that I can have a conversation at dinner and still be making mental notes about what is going on across the table in James’ seat. It isn’t that I’m perfect at these things, rather that they’ve become such a part of my life that it is no longer a major source of stress or worry.
I won’t say that the worry ever goes away completely. It seems that whenever we get in a comfortable pattern, James’ blood sugar will start doing entirely unexpected things. I’ve come to view it as a challenge to keep me mentally sharp and constantly alert to his needs.
But sometimes, all of these things — the experience, the comfort level, the mental sharpness I pride myself on — sometimes they all come screeching to a halt, and I just make a big mistake. This happened not too long ago.
It was one of those days! The days we tend to have during the holiday season when we’re trying to do 100 things at once. In addition to feeding the three children breakfast, I was desperately trying to pack up school bags and coordinate a special project for a teacher, and James seemed hungrier than usual, translating to a much larger than usual breakfast and… long story short, I forgot to give him part of his insulin dose. Just clean forgot a huge portion of the insulin he normally receives as part of his breakfast routine.
Of course, I didn’t even discover this until I heard from the school nurse who wanted to know how it was possible that his blood sugar could be so high. It hit me like a ton of bricks. He was undoubtedly terribly uncomfortable, and it was my fault, plain and simple!
Now, the good news is that James’ blood sugar returned within an hour or two to a much more reasonable, expected number. The nurse in her diligence corrected his blood sugar, and all went as scheduled at school. But I was pretty overcome with guilty feelings. While I know that one out-of-range blood sugar (okay, far out of range, but still!) isn’t going to do permanent damage, I knew he must have felt awful, and that makes me sad. What’s more, it scared me how incredibly easy it was to make such a mistake.
I suppose I can be grateful for the wakeup call that wasn’t really of huge, lasting consequence. I also try to convince myself that it was a simple mistake, an omission, and so easy to do. In the end, what consoles me best is considering that between all the various diabetes-related tasks, the mistakes are outnumbered one hundred times by the doses that I remember to give, the corrections that I determine accurately, and the intuition that I follow purposefully. Like an out-of-range blood sugar, recognizing a mistake is merely a starting point that helps us make changes to constantly improve our level of diabetes care!
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.