I started babysitting Noah, a five year old boy with Type 1 diabetes, and his younger sister, Nalani, in the summer of 2014. Noah was the first young child with diabetes I had ever babysat, but I approached the situation with confidence. I had been living with diabetes for 17 years, after all. What could I possibly not know? And, it was my diabetes experience that led Noah’s mom’s to hire me. So, yeah, I was confident. There was nothing I needed to learn here.
Oh, was I wrong.
My experience babysitting Noah not only taught me new things about managing my own care, but it also gave me a newfound respect for the parents of children with diabetes (including my own). Here is what I learned:
Always Double Check
One day Noah, Nalani, and I went to the mall. In between visits to video game stores, Noah asked for pizza. I got him one slice of pepperoni, asked the pizza person for the exact carb ratio (no guesstimating with someone that isn’t me), and gave him his shot. Two hours later his CGM was buzzing like crazy. Just as I feared, it said: HIGH. I frantically called my mom and asked her what she would do in this situation. We both agreed that it was a good idea to check his blood sugar with a meter instead of just correcting off of the CGM. When I checked him, the meter read 189. I was so thankful that I actually checked his blood sugar. It made me realize that I need to check myself more often instead of relying solely on the CGM.
Don’t underestimate the power of exercise
Noah loves to go to the park that is about a 15 minute walk from his house. So, for each trip we’d load Nalani and her diaper bag (that also doubles as a bag to hold Noah’s diabetes supplies) into the stroller and be on our way. Noah usually rode next to the stroller on his scooter and once we got arrived, he’d run nonstop around the playground until it was time to go home. On the way back we always stopped at Baskin Robbins for a chocolate chip kid’s cone with chocolate sprinkles. Every single time, Noah ended up not needing any insulin to cover his ice cream. It’s fascinating to see in real time, the effect exercise has on blood sugar. Now I tell myself that if my blood sugar is running a little high, a walk or quick bike ride will make all the difference.
Parents of children with diabetes have it rough. So rough.
Before I started babysitting Noah I honestly didn’t realize how difficult it is to manage a young child’s diabetes. Whenever he was in my care, I worried far more about his numbers and ratios than I ever had about my own. It’s a different kind of worry, too. With myself, I know my body’s signals. With Noah, I constantly feared I’d miss something. It’s not always easy to distinguish between a bad mood and a low/high blood sugar in a small child. It was my responsibility not to make mistakes. Mistakes could come with dire consequences. Being with Noah gave me a small glimpse into what my parents went through when I was a young kid with diabetes. I think of them when I’m with Noah, and I call them after every time I babysit and thank them for all of the hard work they put into my care. I had never realized just how difficult it was until I experienced the responsibility first hand..
Noah has taught me a lot of important lessons. During a conversation about how we get our sensor sites to stay on we discovered that we both use Johnson & Johnson tough pads. He said, “You know Miss Lauren, the reason we use tough pads is because people with diabetes are super tough, like dinosaurs.” I still smile when I think about that. And I also think, it’s not just the kids with diabetes who are tough, it’s their parents.