A Diabetes Blog to Stay Connected with Us

I'm going to use this blog to keep family, friends, and the occasional visitor up to date on how we are doing managing Grace's new diabetes diagnosis.

Friday, November 9, 2012


This past week has been completely frustrating and it culminated with a trip to Philly's Children's Hospital ER yesterday. I appreciate all the comments on twitter and facebook. Some of you are still wondering what the heck happened. Well, here's the skinny.

Last week Grace started with a bad head cold. Her blood sugar became increasingly erratic. This isn't new to us. What was new were the persistent ketones that showed up to play. Ketones are a nasty acid that type one folks deal with when they don't have enough insulin in their system. When you are sick, you need more insulin but it's not like there's some formula you can use to determine exactly how much insulin. It's largely a guessing game with some solid guidance offered by CHOP.

I'm used to dealing with ketones and Grace. She seems to get them more often than other type one kids and it's just one of those things. I have the drill down pat. You don't mess with ketones. Untreated ketones can lead to bad bad things that I don't like to say out loud. When we test Grace's pee and we see ketones are present, essentially the world has to stop for a few hours. There's no running around (that exasperates the situation). Grace usually feels crummy anyways. We up her insulin and she has to drink fluids. Ketones make your stomach hurt, head hurt--like you've been hit by a truck on top of the virus you already have. Her drink of choice: diet Dr. Pepper. I've learned to buy this at Costco because you go through a lot with ketones. I never routinely offered either of my children soda before all of this. . .

Grace's cold ran into sinusitis. We got an antibiotic and had a good few days. And then the cough began. Back to the pediatrician who said bronchitis and a new antibiotic. He was concerned and wanted me to check in with him. Ketones were persistent and Grace felt awful. When I checked in the next day, Grace had been sent home from school, ketones gone crazy, and high sugar (450). He sent us off to CHOP.

Grace freaked when I told her we had to go in so we packed a bag with her favorite things: ipad, blanket, 2 stuffed friends. I was hoping it would be fast and it was, relatively speaking. Grace was a little dehydrated so they wanted her on some fluids but the nurse missed her vein in her hand. I'm reasonably sure I agreed to buy a laptop, ipad mini, and pony to get her through the experience of fishing for a vein that would work. Lab work came back fine and chest x-ray showed a nasty virus. There was nothing they could really do for us. Grace kept begging to see her endo doctor but he has patients on Thursdays. We asked our attending to try and leave a message and he was very kind and "swore" Dr. G would know we were there.

We were discharged a few hours later and our endo actually called us as we hit the road for home.  I had him on the car phone and Grace was so excited to hear him. I watched her head nodding in the back seat as he spoke to her. He went over everything with us. He got back from his patients and her x-ray and labs were on his desk (how about that people-does CHOP rock or what?) He took a lot of time explaining everything, he listened when I ranted and raved about the damn ketone situation, and he was sincere in acknowledging how frustrating this all is. There was no pep talk as he has done in the past. He gave more of a "just hang on" kind of talk and said this is about as hard as it gets short of a hospitalization. We are still battling the ketones off and on today and Grace's cough is still awful. We're under strict instructions if Grace spikes a fever to come right back to CHOP. Odds are, she won't be able to stay hydrated, so crucial in managing ketones.

Grace went off to school today worried she had missed work and felt unprepared for her tests. Her teacher is very accommodating and I assured her no matter what happened, it would be ok. I don't want her to worry about any of this. I made myself smile all day yesterday in the ER. "It's no big deal" I kept telling her when, on the inside, I knew it was a big deal.  The resident physician was very nonchalant and wanted to send us home. The attending felt quite different and explained all the tests he wanted. Grace kept looking at me. "It's no big deal," I told her. The doctor picked up on the vibe and kept echoing my sentiments with lots of eye contact with me. Holding it together is the hardest part. I had a few moments talking to her endo in the car when I had to take a few, giant deep breaths to keep it together. It's important to me that Grace sees that diabetes is managed with insulin, sugar, and strength.  My "brave face" isn't just about getting me through. So many of you ask me, "how do you do it?" "How do you do this every day?" It's crucial Grace learns how to handle every obstacle diabetes will throw her way. Strength is a huge part of that formula.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

This is Diabetes

Last week we went in for our routine visit with our doctor. We see him every three months. It just so happened that we were at CHOP 3 weeks in a row. One for the visit and the previous two weeks we were there for the sensor placement and reading. When we walked down the hall it kind of felt like something out of Cheers. We ran into no less than 5 nurses/doctors who recognized us immediately. While I love that about our practice, it was also a little reminder that we have spent way too much time there lately.

The doctor went over the data from the sensor to make sure I understood everything. He was speaking slowly and quietly pointing to numbers. He was definitely using his "now it's time to listen carefully" voice. He concurred with everything everyone else had said. He reiterated the sensor caught some very dangerous low sugars in the wee hours of the morning and what changes we were making to fix those. He asked if I was ok. I'm sure my face was grey. I asked him if he thought I was overreacting. He said no but then quickly followed with, "this is diabetes." He continued to talk but I don't think I really heard him. His words kept rattling around in my head. He emphasized these things happen and there was nothing unusual about it. We just haven't experienced it yet. In short, we're still learning.

We shifted gears and came up with a plan to overhaul Grace's pump settings. Since the settings were changed, Grace's blood sugar has basically sucked. She keeps spiking high overnight so that means waking every night at 2am to check to make sure I didn't give too much insulin to fix the high. We're monitoring her sugar closely and I'm petty sure I've exchanged emails or have spoken to Grace's doctor almost every day for the past 2 weeks.

Speaking of monitoring, the doctor wants Grace on a continuous glucose monitor for at least one week a month. It's similar to the sensor she wore but it's much, much smaller and Grace has to carry a receiver with her. Dr. G had brought one in for us to see and hold. Grace didn't like it because it was big but she agreed to give it a try "because she hates the feeling when she's low." A CGM alarms when sugar is low and when it's high. It takes a reading every 5 minutes and can let you know if you're trending low or tending high. So if Grace's sugar is 88, is it actually heading low? Then we can cut that low off at the pass. I can look at the receiver in the morning and see if we're having problems with overnight lows. I started the paperwork last week. My biggest priority is to keep Grace safe and this device holds a lot of hope for doing just that.

I didn't even know it was close, but the latest version of the "Dexcom" was just released yesterday. It's a huge improvement over the older model. It's small, colorful (if you pick pink or blue) and has all kinds of fancy alarms. Grace and I watched the video and we're both super excited with the improvement. The bummer is it's one more thing for Grace to keep track of. She has to take it with her wherever she goes but the nice thing is it helps to eliminate the big uncertainty of monitoring your child's blood sugar. I've heard CGMs can be frustrating until you get the hang of them but I spoke to our nurse educator today and she was extremely positive that a lot of kinks had been worked out in this latest version Here is the link to the site if you want to check it out: www.dexcom.com So for now, we're actively problem solving, consuming ridiculous amounts of coffee, and thankful the new dexcom cleared the FDA just in time for us to give it a whirl.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sensor Update

After a week of wearing the blood glucose sensor, Grace was thrilled to have it out. When she first had it put in, it was annoying and irritating but by the end of the week, she didn't really complain about it and became pretty used to it. Honestly, I think the thing that bothered her the most was the adhesive on the bandage they used. She has sensitive skin and it was completely raw, red, and irritated when they took it off. This time we had 3 nurse educators, 1 Medtronic rep, and a partner in the practice take a look at the data.

After they removed the sensor, they asked us to wait in the waiting room. SpongeBob was on the TV so the kids were quiet but I kept looking at the clock and the time that was passing. It seemed like it was taking a long time to read the data. Her numbers were really all over the place so I knew that much but with the wait, came the anxiety.

When they finally called us back, they had printed out all of these fancy charts and graphs. I don't do fancy charts and graphs. I see graphics like that and my head swims. But the first words out of the nurse educator's head made me focus, "We have a problem." That will get anyone's attention. I started repeating to myself in my head, "Don't panic. Don't panic. Don't panic. Focus." But all of those serious faces looking at you isn't exactly relaxing.

In short, this is what the sensor revealed: Grace's overnight blood sugar looks like a roller coaster. Beginning at 9pm her numbers start to climb. They peak at 12am and then begin a steady decline until about 6am. The problem with the decline, and this is where my nausea set in, is that her blood sugar was dropping to 40 around 4:30am. At least that's what we think. The sensor doesn't measure below 40. It's entirely possible she has been even lower. I stared at the graph as everyone was talking. I saw the plunge and how it stopped at 40. I couldn't stop staring at it.  It does not wake her up and, as our doctor had accurately thought, she has been having so many lows, she doesn't really feel them as much as she should. He was smart to order the sensor. I owe him a hug on Monday when we see him for our check up.

I know I must have looked terrible because they all started talking at once. Overnight lows are a parent's worst nightmare. It's why we check our kids overnight. I was checking but not at 4am. I didn't catch it. They explained lows like that are bad if they are sustained over extended periods of time. A low of 40 for an hour will not harm Grace in the short run. They couldn't spit out the comforting words fast enough. But then the doctor chimed in, "But this is still very concerning."And he had my attention again.  He thinks Grace's pancreas is putting out a little bit of insulin overnight driving her numbers down. We had assumed her pancreas was no longer able to make insulin but he explained the pattern of a steady drop and then a rise around 6:30am means her pancreas still has some insulin to put out.

While my head was spinning it occurred to me I was looking at perhaps the four smartest people in the country working to help my daughter. They debated the cause of the problem and did not heistate to mix it up with one another. The nurses took the doctor to task who in turn took them to the mat. They were all fired up trying to come up with a solution. I was so overwhelmed by not only the complexity of the problem but also the dedication of the team, their passion, and their knowledge.

So here is the solution(s) they offered. 1)They gutted Grace's pump settings and we are starting over. This means around the clock checks for a while. Her overnight numbers were high last night but not low so that is good but still in need of tweaking. 2)They recommended thinking about wearing a sensor more regularly. They can be purchased through insurance. Grace does not like the idea. 3)Grace has been having stomach aches and headaches intermittently for 6 months. She is going to get blood drawn for a Celiac's screen to see if this is causing those symptoms. It can also affect your blood sugar.

When we left, we shared the elevator with a little boy in a wheelchair. His mom said to me, "What a long day here." Her son responded, "We've been here all day and it's so boring." Grace said, "I know. I was bored, too." I should have asked that mom for her number so we could go out for a drink. The look on her face, the look on my face, the looks on the faces of our children said it all. Everyone was spent. Sometimes I leave CHOP energized and ready to take on another round of diabetes. Yesterday was not one of those days.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


We've added a new piece of medical technology to our arsenal. Yesterday, Grace was put on a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM is a piece of equipment many diabetic folks use to help them get a really solid idea of what their blood sugar looks like. Over the summer, Grace had two extremely low blood sugars that were almost 100% asymptomatic. A normal blood sugar is around 100. We give sugar to Grace any time her sugar starts to drift below 75. A low blood sugar can come from physical activity, too much insulin, or, it can be pretty random. Typically people feel lightheaded, have shaky legs, or become confused. Grace didn't really exhibit any symptoms when she had a 28 and a 32.   This is extremely unusual. I emailed Grace's doctor and I knew it was bad because he called me back right away. He was concerned that Grace might be experiencing more low sugars than we were catching and that she may have become desensitized to the low sensation. He encouraged us to immediately book an appointment through the office for an ipro CGM.

The CGM is inserted under the skin very similar to Grace's insets for her pump. A long tube stays in the skin and takes glucose readings every five seconds. That's pretty insane to me. It stays in for a week and then the doctor pulls the data and can tell us exactly where we need to make adjustments in Grace's insulin. Ironically, we are now experiencing problems with high blood sugars that climb over night. The data from the CGM can also help us address those.

Grace was very anxious about the CGM and neither of us really knew what to expect. Our favorite nurse educator was going to place the sensor. We love Erin-she helped us get started on the pump. But what we didn't expect was the large audience that came to watch. Grace was the first kid at CHOP to have the latest release of the sensor. In our room we had two nurse educators, 3 Medtronic reps (the company that manufactures the sensor), and, at the end, one of the senior doctors in the practice. I felt bad for Grace. She was giving everyone the "pursed" smile. The insertion went great and is very similar to having a pump site inserted. What we didn't anticipate is just how big the thing is. The sensor is under the skin but the chip that collects the data is seashell shaped and sits above the skin.

We waited for a while for the sensor to start working and then met with Dr. W who supervises our doctor. Our doc (I mentioned this before) is a "fellow" at CHOP and is overseen by the senior physicians. We've met Dr. W before but always very quickly for him to sign off on our visits. Yesterday, he came in, and walked right over to Grace, put both hands on her knees, looked her right in the eyes and said, "You're going to be ok sweetheart. I promise you-you'll be just fine." Grace looked right at him, again with pursed lips, and nodded. I inhaled and exhaled. Grace was worried the sensor site had a good amount of blood near it but the doctor assured us it was normal and actually a good sign of a well-placed sensor. He cracked all kinds of jokes which made us laugh. He explained to Grace why she would wear the sensor and confirmed that those bad low blood sugars were very concerning. He went on to say to Grace, "Dr. G tells me your mom worries a lot about you. We don't want moms and dads to worry too much so we have this cool technology to help them. Mom loves you so much, she wants to keep you safe. It's only a week you have to wear it and you're done. Then mom can sleep better." I was basically staring at the ceiling, biting my bottom lip, trying not to sob. CHOP gets it. It's not just about bodies, and blood sugars, and aren't these little people interesting with their medical problems? Our team had discussed me, my concerns, and came up with a plan to help all of us. I walked out of there relieved, tired, and wanting to curl up under the covers with Grace for a week til this is over.

Next Wednesday the sensor comes out and we can see what it tells us. It's a relief to put this issue in someone else's hands. The doctor was honest and explained the data could be all over the place and we might have to try again in 3 months. To me, it's worth the risk and inconvenience. Grace has been handling it all like a champ. She's annoyed by the size of it, it's itchy, and kind of bothers her when she sits. I hate seeing it on her. She has her site for her pump and now this. She's looking somewhat bionic which is really disturbing me. But she's happy. She went off to school today and barely a word was said about it. We're off to soccer in a minute and she hasn't said a word about it. So I leave her alone. My issues are not her issues. I think this is a good policy to stick to.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Things You Should Know

Once again Team Grace will be walking to raise money for the JDRF. Last year was our first walk and it was such a wonderful experience. The JDRF is a phenomenal organization. Their primary goal is to find a cure.

Many of you were extremely generous last year. All together we raised over $2,000! We're hoping to do the same this year. While many things have changed for us over the past year, there is a constancy to diabetes that is maddening. Here are some things I want you to know about our life with type one.

1) We check Grace's sugar at least 6x a day. It requires Grace to drop what's she's doing-extremely hard for an active kid-and get her finger pricked. Grace essentially can't eat until we've checked her sugar.

2) We frequently check Grace's sugar in the middle of the night. Not for giggles. Kids can go dangerously low in the night. I check her to keep her safe. It makes her tired. It makes me tired.

3) You might not know it when your child is fighting off a virus. We know immediately when Grace is fighting a virus. Even though she might not be sick, the act of fighting it off makes her diabetes go nuts and it makes her feel awful.

4) I receive multiple emails a day from our school nurse letting me know what Grace's numbers are, how her disposition is, and sometimes a phone call so we can discuss treatment. Essentially, every other hour, we are dealing with diabetes even when Grace is at school. She spends lots of time in the nurse's office when the other kids are at recess, lunch, or class.

5) Grace hates diabetes. It frustrates her. It makes her angry. Sometimes she doesn't want to cooperate and we have to make her. We argue about diabetes. I yell. She yells. She cries. I cry. The whole thing sucks and makes you feel like the meanest parent in the world when all you want to do is keep them safe.

6) Grace wears an insulin pump 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is not a cure for diabetes. A pump is a programmable pancreas. It's not "smart." It doesn't know when she is high or when she is low. We have to tell it what to do. Telling it what to do requires a close analysis of all of Grace's blood sugar numbers. Give too little and her sugar goes high. Give too much and her sugar goes low creating a dangerous situation.

7) Every three days we run a new "IV line" of insulin. It requires injecting a needle which leaves a tube under her skin to receive insulin. It hurts and Grace does not like changing her site. But it's better than needles all day long.

8) There is no cure for diabetes. In fact, there really is no cure on the horizon. Not even close. But we hope every day someone, somewhere will have a breakthrough. Despite this, Grace starts every day with a smile, spends her days like other kids, and doesn't let this thing stop her.

9) Diabetes puts a hurt on your heart like you never thought possible. The worry is a constant in your life. It never leaves, never gives you a break, never lets you rest.

10) Please consider a donation to the JDRF.

Here is the link to our page

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Time Machine

I know I haven't updated the blog in a while. I started a new job and life is flat out crazy right now.  Grace is doing beautifully and her one year checkup was all A's.

I heard from a friend tonight that a member of his family was just diagnosed with T1. I always sigh when I hear news like this. Another member of the club. Another family put through the ringer. I thought about what I'd like to share with them. I know I wanted to hide from the world when we came home from the hospital. I wanted to sit on the sofa, hold Grace and watch iCarly reruns for years. But you can't do that.  The world doesn't let you do that. Your child won't let you do that. If I could go back in time, this is what I would tell myself.

Your life isn't over. It's simply changed. Diabetes is a major time suck. Checking blood sugar, giving shots, figuring out carbohydrates. It's annoying but don't let it immobilize you. Go out for ice cream, enjoy a slice of pizza. A high blood sugar is not the end of the world.

You are smarter than you think. All those classes you had to take when you panicked you weren't getting it. You did. It takes time to sink in. It will. And you will continue to educate yourself. You will get this. Be patient.

Your child will have bad days just like you. They will be angry, frustrated, confused. Accept their anger, confusion, and frustration. Assume it all on your strong shoulders and help them. Sometimes it's just a silent hug. Sometimes it's a long talk. Sometimes it's tears like you never thought possible. Know when to hug, when to talk, and when to reach out for help.

You will make mistakes. You will give too much insulin. You will not give enough insulin. Do not start down the road of the blame game. It's extremely hard to get off of that road. You will live and you will learn. And know what? Sometimes diabetes makes absolutely no sense. It's not you. It's diabetes.

You will feel terribly alone but you are not alone. There is an army of children and parents standing behind you. They will pick you up when you fall. They will carry you on their shoulders because they have been there and know your pain. You are not alone.

Do not give diabetes more time and emotional energy than it already takes from you. You can control it or it can control you. You make the choice.

Be kind to yourself. Nothing you did or didn't do caused this situation.

Advocacy. I'm so proud of Grace when I see her not hiding her insulin pump. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Teach your child to be a teacher. This comes with patience and acceptance. Grace is surrounded by wonderful friends who understand what diabetes is support Grace through it all.

Allow yourself time to grieve. Many perfectly well-intentioned people will say to you, "You will just get used to a new normal." You may feel rushed to get back out there. Maybe even pretend nothing has happened. You and your child have experienced a loss. Don't ignore that pain. Honor the pain when the days are bad and know it will pass.

Do you know why that pain will pass? It will pass because your child is beautiful. Strong beyond your wildest dreams. They will show you how to stand up when you think you can't. They will show you how to smile and laugh when you think you can't. They will show you the beauty of life when you feel the most intense pain. Your baby will show you the way.

You will be fine. It may not seem like it now. I promise you will.

Monday, June 11, 2012


A few months after Grace was diagnosed we started meeting with a therapist to help her deal with all the struggles, anxieties, and fears she was experiencing.  The sessions went well and we started to see some progress.  Our therapist warned us it could take time for all of Grace's emotions to come to the surface-like a lot of time. When she was ready to talk, Stephanie counseled us, we had to be ready to listen.

It's been almost one year since the diagnosis.  At dinner 2 weeks ago, unprompted, Grace began talking about her time in the hospital and it all just kept spilling out.  I put my fork down and started to panic. This was it. Here it all comes. What do I do? Is there an answer in a book? Who can I call? Of course you don't have time to do anything but listen so I did. Grace said she was scared in the hospital-really scared. Luke chimed in he was scared too. He didn't know what was wrong. I was watching the two of them hash out this conversation and felt overwhelmed but relieved it was coming out. Grace continued: "I felt so scared and alone. And I missed my friends. And I didn't know if anyone would like me anymore. I was just so sad." I'll give you a second to grab some tissues.

What came next practically knocked me out of my seat. I was prepared to rush to her side, hug her, squeeze her, whisper "I know." But that didn't happen. Instead, it went like this, "Hey mom-wouldn't it be awesome if I could give kids a bear when they first go into the hospital so they wouldn't be scared and they would already have a friend just like them!" Luke, "I want a bear!" She didn't stop there. She barely came up for air. "Hey mom-we can have a lemonade stand and sell cookies and drinks to raise money! Or we could buy an ice cream truck and you could drive it while I sold ice cream!" Luke, "Can I have an ice cream?"

And there it was: Grace's plan for healing is to help other kids on their path to healing. Just to be clear-Grace is not some ethereal presence sent to live amongst us. She's a normal kid. She annoys her brother, rolls her eyes at me, trashes her room, and is a flat out disgusting eater. If she asks to use your bathroom, say no, lock the doors, and tell her to go home.  That being said, her sense of selflessness continues to knock me over.

I sat on the idea for a few days and Grace kept bugging me about it. I contacted our social worker to see if this was even possible.  JDRF has a "Bag of Hope" program and, if you sign up for it, you can receive a "Rufus Bear" who is lots of fun because he has patches where he can receive insulin. We love Rufus but Grace was adamant kids needed a Brave Bear in their hands the second they are admitted. She wants it to be something they can squeeze, something they can hold with no insulin patch sites. We heard back within a few days that the idea had been approved and everyone at CHOP is over the moon about the project.  The "Brave Bears" program is off to a good start.  Our social worker is working on getting us the numbers of kids admitted each year. Once we have that number, we can come up with a fundraising strategy and move forward.  Grace wants each kid to receive a bear with a note from her. She's been working on some drafts which include messages like, "Diabetes doesn't change who you are. You are brave. You are not alone." I hope you still have those tissues handy. Every time I see her working away on this project it makes me so, so proud (even if she is a totally gross eater).

So many of you have already responded with awesome ideas to raise funds: silicone bracelets, Biking for Bears, Beer for Bears, Beef and Bears-it's fun to kick around these ideas.  So stay tuned. We'll be calling on everyone's help to get this project off the ground!