Monday, October 25, 2010

The Other Side of the Looking Glass

I know, with pinpoint accuracy, how I felt the moment Grace was diagnosed. I can so clearly recall every emotion coursing through my cells... fear, sadness, panic, disorientation. That was the moment the fog settled on my brain, not to be lifted for six months.

But never once have I thought about how my pediatrician felt. How does it feel to be the one to tell a parent that their child has chronic illness. What is it like to be the one to set a mother on the life-long journey of highs, lows, injections, pumps, carb counting, worry and fear.

This revelation came to me today as I was speaking to a new friend of mine. She was telling me how she likes to volunteer in the school lunchroom so she can spy on her kids. She never tells them when she'll be at school, she just shows up. One time she caught one of her children throwing away her entire lunch. Today she noticed her daughter came late to lunch, thought she must be at the bathroom, then told me about how she seems to go to the bathroom all the time. Sometimes 5 times in 2 hours. She's always going. At first she thought she might have some sort of bladder infection, but soon realized the daughter doesn't just feel like she has to go... she's going a lot. (Starting to sound familiar?)

Then she told me about her father who has diabetes, and that she knows frequent urination is a symptom. At this point I jump in...

"My daughter has Type 1 Diabetes. Does your father have Type 1 or Type 2?"

"The adult kind. The kind where you don't need insulin," she says.

Seriously? It's in her family and she doesn't know what type? I felt the need for a teensy amount of education...

"Type 1 is insulin dependent. Some Type 2s can control it with diet, exercise, oral meds, or some combination of all three. Some, however, still need insulin. If he doesn't need insulin he's Type 2."

She was very receptive to this new info (sometimes I get the blank stare and know I've overstepped, but she was engaged) and she asked how I knew to take Grace to the doctor. I told her about the bed wetting, then probed a bit further...

"Is your daughter thirsty all the time? Has she lost any weight? More cranky than normal? Always hungry, especially after meals? Run down?"

"Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes."


I told her I thought it best that she bring her daughter in to the doctor. I have to admit, though, I felt a bit awkward. I don't want to be an alarmist and tell every mother who has a child with a small bladder to seek medical advice. But more than any other person who's asked me about my daughter's diagnosis, and do they think their child could be at risk, this scenario concerned me. I even went so far as to offer to check her blood sugar and ketones on Grace's meter. To be honest, though, I don't want to be the one to tell a mother their child has diabetes.

I'm glad to be the repository for info but part of me feels horrible. I never thought about how my pediatrician felt when he told me my daughter needed to be rushed to the hospital. How awful to be the person giving the bad news.

I don't know when, or even if, my friend will take her daughter to the doctor. I waited a solid week after a small amount of on-line research indicated that Grace showed all the classic signs of T1D. Denial is powerful. Worst case scenario is that I've alerted someone to the fact that their child may be at risk for T1D. Best case scenario is that I've educated a mother of 3 to the early warning signs, as well as provided a small amount of info regarding her father's condition.

If the worst case is realized, I will be there for my new friend, to help and support and listen. I like that role, and will play it with all the energy in my heart. I don't, for one minute, enjoy being the messenger. And I have a new found empathy for my pediatrician.


  1. Hoping it isn't T1D but thankful she has you as support if it is. Keep us posted.

  2. My friend ( a mom of a T1D) is who I called when I had suspicions about my daughter. She did the very hard job of telling me to get her to the Urgent Care after instructing me to test my daughter's urine for ketones. (I went to Walgreens and purchased some ketone strips and tested my daughter right there in the store's bathroom - high ketones). I was so grateful for the strength it took for my friend to tell me my worst fears, especially knowing what was going to be ahead for me.

    Now I tell everyone how my daughter was diagnosed. It may be hard for someone else to hear, but the alternative is unimaginable.

    You did good, my dear. I hope your new friend's daughter is going to be okay.

  3. As much as we don't want to find ourselves alone in this journey, it is always heart breaking to hear about another family, especially if we are close to them, that get hit with the news of D. You will be a great resource for your friend even if they find out it's not D. I'm glad she has your support! They will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. I hope it isn't Type did a wonderful job educating and advocating for some follow-up. If it is, she will only be able to be in denial for so long, as we all, unfortunately will force her hand in following up with a medical professional.

    You will be a wonderful support and resource if they joing our "club that no one wants to join". And. Please keep us up-to-date on this lady and her daughter. I always wonder how this stories play out.

    Have a great day Pam.

  5. This happens to me all the time and it is a fine line to walk! The other day a lady asked me for about the 50th time what Emma's symptoms were and after I told her what they were I just said, "If you have ANY concerns you should take them to the pediatrician. Because if they have it and you don't know, they can die." I felt bad being so dramatic, but I have felt worse in the past when I didn't feel like I really let them know how dangerous it is!