Over the past few months, I have grown acquainted with a family of four – a couple with two kids, one being a 9 year old girl with diabetes. Her parents struggle to find babysitters, seeing as they feel more comfortable with someone who has a relatively extensive knowledge of diabetes care and treatment. When they reached out to me, I couldn’t resist and agreed to babysit for their children, 7 year old John and 9 year old Jane.* I have babysat for them twice now, and will do so again in a couple weeks when their parents attend the JDRF Promise Ball. Both times that I have babysat, I gained an entire new perspective regarding what it’s like to take care of someone else who has diabetes, and it’s been extraordinarily enlightening.
The last time I babysat, my responsibilities included feeding the kids and keeping them entertained until bedtime at 8:30. Simple enough, right? For the first hour we did some “science experiments” that involved the creation of blue “worms”. I couldn’t help but think to myself that this kind of play was far superior to any homework I had that evening.
Things went off without a hitch up until 6:30 or so, when it was time for dinner. John and Jane’s parents left hot dogs, chips, and carrots out for me to give to the kids. John was pretty excited about eating and I had no trouble taking care of him. Jane, on the other hand, was having some blood sugar problems. Before her parents left, her CGM indicated she was rising to 200. They helped her correct for it using her OmniPod pump, but an hour and a half later it was still high.
Jane may be only 9 years old, but she is very capable and self-sufficient. I was impressed as I watched her weigh her carrots on a scale to determine portion size as well as add up her total carbohydrate count for her dinner. After I checked her math, she put in her blood sugar in her PDM and bolused for her meal.
We were able to temporarily forget about diabetes as the kids munched on their meals and told me about their friends from school. Dinner was finished in record time and we all sat down to watch a Nickelodeon movie, Jinxed – which was totally cheesy, but I know my younger self would’ve gone nuts for that kind of movie. My favorite part was when John and Jane covered their eyes and screamed “ewwww” when the main character got her first kiss from her crush.
The movie ended right around 8:30, so I told the kids it was time to brush teeth and change into pajamas. They’re pros when it comes to staying up as late as possible, so this part was easier said than done. And it was further complicated when I took a look at Jane’s CGM and saw she was 300. 300?! A finger stick poke confirmed this, much to my dismay. I knew I need to stay calm for Jane’s sake, though, so I tucked John into bed and turned my full focus to her blood sugar. Suddenly, I realized how my own mother must’ve felt when I was Jane’s age. It is one thing to take care of my own diabetes, but it is a whole other level of concern and fear when it comes to taking care of a child’s diabetes.
Luckily, Jane realized that the cannula wasn’t properly inserted, so she told me she would change her pump. I quickly texted her dad to let him know what was going on, and he told us to go ahead and do it as well as increase her basal rate for the next three hours. It was educational for me, watching Jane change her pod by herself – and it was also adorable as she tried to tell me what she was doing step-by-step. I knew she was partly doing this to stay up as late as possible (at this point it was already 9:30, an hour past bedtime!) but I knew she also wanted to show me that she’s a big girl.
Fifteen minutes later, Jane was settled in bed. I knew that it would be awhile before the miraculous down arrows appeared on her CGM, so I waited an hour before sneaking into her room to check – and we had success! Her blood sugar finally budged and started to go down at a steady, healthy rate. Shortly after I went back downstairs, I found it was my turn to take care of a not-so-great blood sugar and wait patiently until the parents came home. When they did, I filled them in on the night’s events, and they seemed satisfied with their daughter’s management and my supervision.
One thing I won’t be take for granted anymore is the level of concern my parents still demonstrate for me when it comes to my diabetes. This babysitting experience so far has taught me the stress of taking care of an innocent little kid who has diabetes, so I can’t say I blame my parents for being so worried about me over the years. Next time I babysit I’m shooting for a blood sugar that’s on target – for both of us!
*To protect the family’s privacy, names have been changed.