A Diabetes Meltdown on the Road

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I don’t remember the exact day or even the exact time. I don’t even remember what we were doing that day except that the location – which is seared into my mind – gives me a clue. We were on Route 128 heading south, just before the fork in the highway where you choose between looping over toward Boston or curving right toward Cape Cod (and toward our home). My guess is we had been shopping – my youngest child and me – since the Plaza is right there and usually that’s why I’m on that stretch of road.

But I do remember this: we were in crisis. She was sobbing. I was crying. I might have been yelling. And it was about diabetes.

I don’t remember exactly what we were saying, but given that point in our lives, it probably went something like this.

“You haven’t checked? Since when? And you’re how high?”

“Mom. I’m fine. Mind your own business. This is MY life not yours.”

“How am I supposed to just relax when you let yourself go on and on like this? Don’t you know what that does to ME?”

“It’s NOT about YOU And you are NOT supposed to nag me!”

“Nag you? I’m trying to save you!”

We’d been battling for a few years at that point. After a decade of being the “model family” in the diabetes world, we’d discovered we were mere mortals, and that diabetes was going to mess with us for a good long time. My otherwise awesome child now officially hated her diabetes and ignored it. I officially hated being the diabetes police, and dreaded every moment of confrontation about it.

I don’t remember exactly what happened that day to bring us to that point, but it was bad. Skipped boluses? Perhaps. Missed checks? No doubt. Whatever the combination was, that moment was the moment I thought, What if I cannot handle this on my own? What if my parenting simply is not good enough for what my child needs right now? What do I do?

I told my daughter, as we drove on, that it might be time for some hardcore help. Then I speed-dialed her then pediatric endo and asked her, anticipating the driving decision ahead that lined up with the medical decision ahead, if I could bring my daughter in and admit her to the hospital.

“You can,” she told me, “and if you feel you need to, I want you to. But first, think about that that means.”

As my daughter sobbed and raged as only a person with wickedly high blood sugar can, I pondered this.

Because just like that highway ahead of me, I had two distinct choices. And neither would be wrong.

To the left was Boston and the hospital, and probably an inpatient stay, counseling, and experts working to help my child turn the tide. Or possibly more than that. Most of all, though, it was giving up my control. As I cried and drove toward decision time, I wondered: Have I given this all I can? Have I used every bit of support and education I have? Have I done all needed to help her? Have I really tried all I can? Did I deserve control or should I cry uncle? And how, if I did give up control, would it impact our future relationship? Or would that be best? After all, I had friends who had made just that choice with their child – bravely sending them off to the place they could get the help they needed. Good parenting often (almost always!) means putting your own wants second.

To the right was home, more angst, more worry and more bad diabetes days. I knew to the right would be safe enough. (I’d learned long before to KNOW insulin was at least going into her body sometimes. I could avoid DKA for her with some oversight.) But could I dig deep and renew my goal of helping her find her way again? Was going home just me being selfish? What if my own ego, and need for my child to be close to me, actually harmed her? What if having me as her mom and main source of support simply was not enough at this point?

As the fork in the road came closer, the time came for me to make a decision, and I was terrified. Because while later I understood that the decision can always be made again, in that moment, it felt like a life-changing choice.

I breathed deeply, wiped some tears and veered right. Toward home. Toward a clear understanding that I had to do more, find more ways for this to work, and rededicate myself to helping my child see this rocky time through.

I didn’t say anything at all, but my daughter knew where I was going and what that meant. After a few miles toward home, I noticed her breathing had leveled, her crying stopped and her blood sugar was most likely going down from the insulin she had finally taken that afternoon. She reached over and patted my hand.

“We can do this, Mom,” she said. “We can do this together. I’m going to try more too. We can do this.”

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Jennifer Baldock

Thank you

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