“Uh, excuse me. I have one of THESE,” James says as he holds up his insulin pump to show the security guard. He gets an immediate instruction to come to the side where the guard proceeds to do a hand scan rather than have him walk through the full body scanner.
This was a recent interaction that James and I had at a museum we were visiting at the end of the school year. I was escorting three other middle schoolers and frankly had forgotten that I needed to employ a special protocol at the machine for James due to his type 1 diabetes gear. This moment, though small, impressed me for a few reasons.
First, I was proud of him for remembering and being conscious that his insulin pump is a sensitive piece of medical equipment that can be harmed by the wrong kind of electric wavelengths. It made me realize that although he can be extremely forgetful, he is aware — always aware — that he’s got something special on him that he needs to give special care. I guess he’s growing up!
Second, I loved to see him speak up. He’s old enough now that he’s starting to need to practice advocating for himself. In this instance, his behavior was simple but appropriate. He wasn’t intimidated by the guards and politely gave them the information that they needed to know to make accommodations for him.
Finally, I loved that he wasn’t embarrassed in the least. There was no trace of reticence to show not only the guard but also the other kids in our group his insulin pump. I know that a lot of his comfort with his diabetes comes from his own personality. I don’t think that being a little bit shy to talk about diabetes is a bad thing at all. But his comfort level this day made me happy, because (I hope) it has formed in part from a lifetime of positive interactions with people in his family, amongst his friends, in his school, and in his greater community.
And I’m just so grateful for all the moments that led up to this one small, unremarkable incident. I’m thankful mostly for overwhelmingly kind interactions every day with teachers, with classmates, with neighbors, grandparents, and peers at school. His years with diabetes haven’t been without incident. We have had careless comments, ignorant friends, and less-than-ideal school situations. But taken as a whole, our community has embraced him and accepted all of him, insulin pump included.
Does this one incident indicate what the future holds for James? I don’t know, but I hope so. I hope he is always mindful enough to be responsible, advocates for himself with confidence, and is never ashamed of the condition that dictates so many aspects of his life. If this is what the future holds, many of my fears will dissipate.
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.