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Posts tagged ‘low blood sugar’

It’s Not. Your. Fault.




About a year ago, Luke’s behavior turned dark. This went beyond the terrible threes: he was alternately clingy, defiant, manipulative, and fiercely angry.  He missed hours of preschool due to tantrums. When he quietly told Erik that he didn’t like living because of diabetes, our suspicions were confirmed – at three, he was coming to terms with time, mortality, and “forever.”

We tried to put it in perspective, sometimes with hilarious insights from Luke. “Some kids don’t have both parents,” I said after reading Hansel and Gretel one night. “It’s tough – some don’t have parents at all.”

Luke didn’t skip a beat. “Well, I need more parents,” he said. “I’ll go to a bar.” When Erik and I have a date, the standard reason Luke can’t come is that we’re going to a bar, and kids aren’t allowed. Apparently the lesson is that bars are a great place to find quality parental material.

But nothing really softened his storms, and I had the feeling we were missing something aside from the obvious. When Luke was diagnosed, people often said, “Well, at least he’ll grow up with diabetes and won’t know anything different.” It was an understandable reach for silver lining, but I’d never really bought it.

One night, the pieces fell into place. It was bedtime, and I was lying with Luke in his darkened room. He was rocking his body from side to side and staring blankly at the ceiling. I felt a chill. “What’s up, bud? Why can’t you sleep?”

“I’m thinking about the bad things I do to my body,” he whispered.

My skin crawled. Blood sugar had been a roller coaster that day – one of those nasty 40 to 400 and back again kind of days. Of course – kids blame themselves for divorce, abuse, neglect, and all kinds of things beyond their control, so why wouldn’t he blame himself for crazy blood sugars? He saw us as able to bring blood sugar under control, while he could do nothing. No wonder he was disgusted with himself and mad at the world.

“It’s not. Your. Fault.” I told him. “Having diabetes and high or low blood sugars – none of that’s your fault. There’s nothing you did to cause that.”

He brightened. “Then whose fault is it?”

“Well, sometimes it’s my fault for not getting the insulin right, and sometimes it’s nobody’s fault – diabetes is just tough to get right sometimes. But it’s not your fault – your job is just to be a kid and to have fun, learn things, and be nice to people. It’s our job to take care of the diabetes. And when you’re big, it’ll be your job, but it’ll be a lot easier then.” I babbled, hoping something would stick.

It did. He smiled in a way I hadn’t seen in months. “I love you, Mom,” he said as he hugged me. He rolled over and in minutes was snoring softly.

He didn’t turn into an angel, but the nastiness faded, and we went back to more typical terrible-threes behavior. We still occasionally remind him that it’s not his fault, and the answer now is an assured, “I know.” There will be more phases as he grows up, and I hope we can help him navigate them. If not, we’ll just send him to a bar to find some parents who can.

An Experiment in Empathy

When the new Dexcom G4 arrived earlier this week, I was excited on two counts:

First, we could pick up Luke’s blood sugar from his room (no more clunky white baby monitor to pick up alarms), from the parents’ seats at Aikido practice, and from other rooms at friends’ houses.

Second, I could try on the old Dex and see how it felt.

This seemed a little unseemly, taking D-mama empathy a bit far, but I wanted to know if Luke’s occasional complaints about the Dex hurting him were genuine or pre-schooler exaggeration, and I wanted to know what normal blood sugar looked like. When Luke was diagnosed, I left the hospital with the impression that normal blood sugar stayed strictly between 80-100 at all times. I’d learned since that there’s more variation, but I had no idea how much.

What I found was both a relief and slightly dismaying. A relief, because much of the day our blood sugars weren’t dramatically different (it was a good day – don’t get the wrong idea). A shared banana first thing in the morning spiked us both – but my pancreas kicked in to  level out blood sugar, while Luke’s synthetic insulin took a while longer to flatten out the rise. (The old Dex showing my blood sugar is on the left, and the new G4 showing Luke’s is on the right. Apparently I experienced the “dawn phenomenon” spike just before waking up – Luke’s still too young for that.)

There were moments when Luke’s blood sugar went higher or lower than I could follow – and what can you do but sigh and bolus or hand over the juice. What surprised me was how uncomfortably aware I still am, several days in, of the Dex wire under the back of my arm. It twinges when I roll over on it at night, and it’s faintly sore during the day. Maybe it’s a bad spot or I’m just not hardened yet to pokes and discomfort, but my heart sank when Luke complained this afternoon that the new Dex (which has a smaller wire) hurt his arm.

But the moment passed, and it keeps him safer at night and during the day, so we’ll stick with it. He needs something to tell stories about when he’s older – some equivalent of the old days of boiling glass syringes and sharpening needles on a whetstone. Maybe he’ll have a CGM by then that reads blood glucose via light through the skin, or maybe by then we’ll have something even closer to a cure.

Pokemon saves the day!

Finding treats for lows hasn’t been easy. Luke has rejected Glucolift, cake frosting, cotton candy (seriously, kid?!), Nerds, Skittles, and Smarties. That leaves us with juice and a few kinds of cookies that hit hard and fast.

But a trip to Uwijamaya uncovered a new favorite: Pokemon fruit chews! This is not your co-op’s healthy fruit chew: ingredients are sugar, fructose, corn syrup, and a few other things (fruit is not one of them). 5 minutes after chomping down, drop averted!

“Pokemon saves the day!” yelled Luke, running laps around the kitchen island.

Botan rice candy is the one other candy this kid will eat (very high GI). Just like the waving kitty you see in stores and restaurants, this cat is good luck for us – right along with Pokemon.

Last Night’s Villain

Doesn’t look like a villain, right? 100% fruit, no added sugar, likely organic and free-range. Low glycemic index and easy on the blood sugar.

So I broke personal rule #23 last night – no new foods before bedtime – and gave it to the boy for dessert. (We have a lot of rules. Living with diabetes makes you more OCD and superstitious than a sailor. Not that I wasn’t OCD and paranoid before.)

8pm – Mild low before bed. No problem.

9pm – Moderately stubborn lows. Hmmm…

10pm – 55 and refusing to budge. Boy is juice-logged at this point and refuses to drink any more, so the rainbow of Skittles into his mouth begins. We suspect the fruit roll-up is the culprit and is stubbornly saving its carbs for later in the night.

Midnight – 258, double arrows straight up on the Dex. @#$% roll-up is happily releasing carbs into the bloodstream. I mentally kiss the rest of the night goodbye, and the bolusing begins.

3am – Blood sugar starting to come down, as our villain succumbs to digestion and insulin. Yay – three hours of sleep before it’s time to walk the dog!

Lesson learned – go with the artificially-colored, synthetic, easily-digestible “fruit” product (Skittles) over the nutritious snack before bedtime!*


*Kidding. Sort of.