I think most people have a “medicine cabinet” that perhaps consists of a single shelf in the kitchen or one small cupboard in the bathroom. Ours looks a bit different: it’s an entire section of cupboards in the kitchen, plus several boxes in the bedroom closet, and — oh, yeah — an entire shelf in the fridge. I open these cupboards and I see boxes, bottles, canisters, bags, cords, devices, and packages everywhere, and I think, how in the world did we accumulate all this stuff? Why in the world do we need so much? I guess those are rhetorical questions, because I’m just so grateful for all of it.
I think back to the day of Kaitlyn’s initial type 1 diabetes diagnosis. We went to the hospital, got the news, the doctors and nurses taught us what to do, and we came home with one vial of insulin, a bag of syringes, and a blood sugar meter. That was it! I remember how overwhelmed we were just with that small handful of supplies, and honestly, it was just about all we could handle at the time. Fast-forward 10 years and we have an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), blood glucose meters in every corner of the house, and about a hundred other things to help us check blood sugar, count carbs, insert sites, poke fingers, manage devices, and deliver insulin.
We have gotten so used to having all these helpful tools that when they’re not working, it’s hard. Really hard. It feels like I’m driving blind when the CGM is not working, and it seems like a much bigger ordeal to give insulin without a pump. I sometimes think about what it would be like to go all the way back to how it was at the very beginning. And in fact, a couple months ago we had the chance to relive the old days!
It was one of those weeks when everything seemed to go wrong. Kaitlyn changed her sensor and somehow lost the little transmitter; it’s only about the size of a quarter, but it’s the most expensive and most important part of the CGM system. We looked for it for days, hoping that it would turn up in a pocket or hidden behind something in her room. We had no luck finding it though — it seemed like it was lost forever. Meanwhile, she accidentally went in the swimming pool with her pump. Even though the pump is waterproof and should have held up just fine in the water, there was a hairline crack in the pump battery compartment that we had never seen before. And yes, it let water in. As soon as she came out of the pool, the pump started beeping and showing an error message. So there we were — no pump, no CGM, and it was going to take several days for the pump company to send us replacements. Dang.
What did we do? Well, we went back to basics. We tested every couple hours, all day and night, with her blood sugar meter, calculating insulin by hand and dosing with a syringe. Even though I wouldn’t have wished for all that technology to break all at once, I was grateful that we had the opportunity to remember what it was like at the beginning and to see how far we have come. And it’s not just with the tech we have, but also our emotional ability to handle the ups and downs of type 1. I was grateful that we learned from the very start how to handle diabetes at a very basic level, and I had a renewed appreciation for all the things that we’ve been blessed with since to make caring for Kaitlyn easier. I was grateful for the reminder, but I was even more grateful when that box with new supplies showed up on my doorstep!
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.