Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Part 1: A NEW "F" WORD and Part 2: LADY OF THE LAMP

I removed this post when it was going to be used for a publication but they never published it so I've re-posted it. Thanks to all the amazing supportive people who left comments when it was first posted.

Part 1:

Thirty-six hours ago life seemed a whole lot different. Our Man was 5 days into a month-long business trip to the Middle East. I was beginning to make plans for the sightseeing I would do when I joined him (without the kids!) in 3 weeks time in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Visits to a falconry, a desert oasis in Al Ain, shopping in the souks and Middle Eastern food were in my mind.

And then life throws us a curve ball.

I take Mr Just-Turned-10 to an after school doctor's appointment. For the past few days I'd noticed he's been going to the toilet very frequently and drinking 2 litres of water at a time. At the back of my mind I know these are classic symptoms. But I put those thoughts away - maybe it's just a bladder infection?

We see the doctor at 4.30pm. At 4.45pm we are heading for hospital. Our doctor knows and now we know: Mr 10 has type 1 diabetes.

There are 2 types of diabetes. Most of us know about Type 2 - sometimes (but not always) brought on by lifestyle, too much weight, not enough exercise. Sometimes triggered by other factors.

But I didn't know much about Type 1. Now I do. Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune disease. The immune system - which normally protects us from infections and other diseases - turns against healthy cells in the pancreas. It destroys the body's ability to produce insulin and control blood sugar levels. You can't catch it and you can't get it by doing anything wrong. It's genetic and it's thought that some environmental factor (such as a virus) triggers it.

If you have Type 1 diabetes your pancreas is poked. At a basic level when you or I eat, our pancreas squirts out a little bit of insulin which converts the sugars in our blood stream into energy for our body to use. In a Type 1 diabetic that doesn't happen.

Type 1 people need daily injections of insulin to do the work their pancreas used to do. They also need to do blood tests (via a finger prick test) several times a day to monitor their blood sugar levels. Too high and they need extra insulin shots, too low and they can become 'hypo' and need a sugar 'fix'. A hypo manifests itself in symptoms such as feeling dizzy, slurred speech, lethargy, irritability, headachy, shaky legs etc. Ultimately they could become unconscious.

For Mr 10 this means learning to do blood tests for himself and, at the moment, twice a day injections into his tummy. Later there will be more. It is a constant monitoring game and adjusting dosages of insulin.

At first Mr 10 was fine. "If I stay in hospital for a week will I be better then?" Sorry, Mr 10. No.

Today we learned a new dirty 'F' word. FOREVER. Type 1 diabetes is forever.

Mr 10 is distraught for a couple of days. "Why me? My life is over."

I know of other people with Type 1 diabetes. They live normal. ordinary, fulfilling lives. Mr 10 can too. It's just that getting to an ordinary life seems nigh on impossible. It won't be. We'll look back one day and we'll have got there. But at 3am that destination seems a long way off.

Our Man is flying home from the Middle East. I have cancelled my holiday. I can't imagine ever being able to leave Mr 10 for a night, let alone a week.

I don't cry. I can't. I have to handle this. I cry on the inside though. For my boy who has always seen the glass half empty. We always knew you were special. You were put there to teach us something. You are stronger and more capable than you ever imagined. And you don't have to do it alone.

After 2 days in hospital I pull the blue curtains back from our little cubicle where Mr 10 and I have been hiding from the world. I look around at who else is sharing our ward.

I talk to the parents. I sit with their kids so they can take a break. I play peek-a-boo with a 4-year-old with Down who has just had her 19th surgery. I help a 7 year old with spina bifida make her meal choices. I chat with the parents of an 8-year-old who was hit by a motorbike while walking to school. I play games with a 10-year-old with a broken arm and an infection that is eating away at his bones. I realise that if I can deal with what is happening to Mr 10 and still find room to give something of myself to these other people then things will be fine.

A week later we are home. All of us. Our Man is back from Abu Dhabi. Our phone bill will be horrendous. But it seems like this might be doable. We realise that we don't have to do this alone. There's a whole community helping.

We are still running back and forwards to the hospital. They provide an amazing team - a paediatrician with a great bedside manner (we find it kind of fun that his name is "Dr Phil"), a lovely dietician, and a fantastic Paediatric Diabetes Nurse Specialist who phones every day and who we visit several times for education sessions. She even comes with us to Mr 10's school to educate his teachers.

The school is fantastic. Four teachers visited us in hospital. Family and friends rally around. There are wonderful friends who visit and make meals and offer to help and who bring gifts.We see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"One good thing about getting diabetes, Mum, it's like having your birthday all over again!"

When we were in hospital I saw some kids who were surrounded by pretty crap families. And I am thankful that our family is surrounded by love. Forever

Part 2:

Look what I made!

A big thanks to Beverley for the huge inspiration at a time when creating stuff was the last thing on my mind! For instructions on how to make the paper roses and lamp have a look at Teresa Collins Website.

The roses are quick and easy to make for someone like me who hates precision and measuring. Once I'd made them it only took about half an hour to hot glue gun them to the lampshade. You could scout the second hand stores for a suitable lamp but I bought mine from Freedom Furniture ($39.95). I used an old stash of 7Gypsies scrapbooking papers but I think you could even use photocopying paper to make an all-white lamp.


Janine said...

beautiful work Mel......

Beverley said...

Oh wow it's awesome Mel! 7 Gypsies paper was obviously a good choice and that lamp is very cool I love the base ... just perfect.

Jenny said...

Looks lovely, Mel and probably just what you needed to do

Katrina said...

Wow that looks fantastic Mel.

karen said...

hey that is so cool!

Jules said...

Oh wow
some of your post felt like our hearts were beating in sync. You are an inspiration.