Our diabetes journey began with a finger prick. James was at the doctor’s office for the express purpose of getting his blood sugar checked. As I’ve written in our diagnosis story, my suspicion already was that he had diabetes. As the nurse watched the numbers on the glucometer start to register, her face briefly expressed concern, and she left the room. The doctor later came in to let us know that James’ blood sugar was so high the meter couldn’t register it, and off to the hospital we went!
Since that time, we have been always looking for so-called “stable” numbers. We seek blood sugar levels in ideal ranges that don’t move too much. We follow the advice of our endocrinologists and other members of our team. We follow a treatment plan that includes an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system. We check blood sugar regularly, record numbers, try to tweak our diet in little ways to allow for better control, make adjustments with the help of our team, and try to be very vigilant. But sometimes we still have incidents where James’ blood sugar is very much not in his desired range.
Probably our scariest low happened in the early days after diagnosis. We were following our endocrinologist’s protocols for checking blood sugar. James was still new enough to finger pricks that they weren’t his favorite. We had had a very busy day at the park; it was one of those perfect afternoons where nobody wants to leave. Unfortunately because we were so newly diagnosed at the time, we didn’t realize then that physical activity would have such a dramatic effect on his blood sugar. So, at our typical post-dinner blood sugar check, we got a reading that I needed to double- and triple-check. According to our meter at the time, his blood sugar was below the number that could be registered. That he was still somewhat functioning seemed miraculous. Thankfully, he showed surprisingly few ill effects and responded well to a juice box, and we learned to test more carefully on days when he is very active! We haven’t had such a low blood sugar since that incident many years ago.
As we got more accustomed to managing diabetes, we became less daunted by the lows. We’ve found juice to be very good at raising his blood sugar when it’s moderately low, and thanks to regular testing (and now CGM) we’re good at catching low blood sugars before they become too much of a problem.
Our first really severe, post-diagnosis high blood sugar had to do with a disruption at his insulin pump site. Unfortunately, his site had been pulled out, but neither James nor I were aware of it. It happened to be grocery day, and I had lots of samples of new products that I shared with the kids. We made sure that we dutifully dosed insulin through the pump for all the new crackers, whole grain bread, and quinoa pasta, but… since the site wasn’t functioning, unfortunately James’ body wasn’t getting the insulin it needed — resulting in our first off-the-meter blood sugar since diagnosis, caught two hours post-meal.
This was very daunting for me. Even once we determined the cause of the high number, I felt very stressed watching his blood sugar slowly decrease over the course of a couple of hours. I now understand the physiology of it a little better and realize that while a high blood sugar is never a great thing — either for long-term health or short-term comfort — it’s the trends over weeks, months, and years that matter far more. If we have a similar mishap these days (and we do sometimes — especially since James is a teenager and increasingly responsible for his own care), we try to relax a little bit and just treat the number the best we can. We try to keep a healthy long view of highs. We treat the number, we dissect the cause, and we congratulate ourselves for catching them and moving forward.
While we’re always looking to better maintain in-range numbers, James and I both know that he will continue to have high and low blood sugars in the future until the day that a total cure for diabetes can be found. In the meantime, we try to use our tools and follow best practices to get the most stable blood sugar levels for us. When they’re less than ideal, we treat and we move on, and we feel okay about that.
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.