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."
BIG, FAT ALARM BELLS!
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.