It was “Parents Watch Day” at my daughter’s dance school, the week before the holiday break, and as a treat the teachers let the parents in to see just what the kids had learned. My daughter was excited. So were all the other kids.
As we settled into our seats and the kids lined up to perform, the mom next to me got a bit, well, restless. I heard her mutter “uh-oh,” under her breath. And then she said out loud, “she’s gonna blow.” She yelled, “Suzy (or whatever her name was), run for the trash can!” A heartbeat later, Suzy had vomited all over the dance room floor.
The mom was embarrassed, and cleaned up the mess herself. She looked around the room at the other parents and said “I’m so sorry. She was throwing up all morning. But I couldn’t have her miss Parents Watch Day!”
That woman knew her child was sick. Probably contagious sick. And she still sent her to dance class.
I was livid because for my daughter, who has Type 1 diabetes, vomiting can be an emergency situation. And not surprisingly, a few days later, she was in the ER and then held overnight at the hospital as we struggled to stabilize her blood sugar.
I am reminded of this now because the flu season is at its peak, and it’s especially severe this year. Emergency rooms are overcrowded, and people are dying from the flu. Time reports, “Flu activity has increased throughout the United States as of the second week of January, the CDC said Friday. Ten influenza-related deaths in children were reported through the week ending on Jan. 13, bringing the total flu-related pediatric deaths to 30.”
For those of us living with diabetes or caring for someone with diabetes, this is terrifying. What might be a hard flu, or messy stomach bug for most people, can be an expensive, frightening, challenging vigil that usually involves hourly blood glucose checks and ketone checks, constant calls to the doctor, a scary rush to the emergency room, an overnight (or more) in the hospital, an expensive co-pay, exhaustion, and the deep fear of losing control. Or worse.
This is why it absolutely infuriates me when parents allow their children to go to school, or the store, or anywhere at all (other than the doctor’s office) when they are sick. And if there is one thing I ask – make that beg – the rest of the world during this extra sick time, it’s this: make a sacrifice for the sake of others and keep your children (or yourselves) home if you (or they) are sick in any way that might be contagious.
I understand this is a terrible hardship. Parents work full-time (and adults run low on sick days or have huge projects due at work that must get attention). Juggling a sudden sick day can be stressful and even somewhat costly. But when you take that sickness out into the world and send it to school or to the store or to work or even just for a quick ride to the dry cleaner, you may be putting lives in danger.
You might think I’m exaggerating or overprotective, but I’m not. Here’s the chapter of my book on sick day management with diabetes on board. It’s enough to make your head spin. And for a parent – or an adult with diabetes – who might not be a pro with all this or might not have the kind of medical support my family is blessed enough to have, sickness can quite literally put the life of a person with diabetes in danger.
I had to recently had to make the sacrifice myself. My family and I were on a holiday trip to Mexico. It had been a life-long dream of mine to be able to jet my kids and husband off to some exotic spot and wake up on Christmas Day, toss on a bathing suit and lounge at the beach or pool with a tropical drink in my hand. The year we’d finally been able to do it, I started to cough three days into the trip. And then I spiked a fever. So Christmas Day, much as I wanted to live my dream, I stayed in my room, alone, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in while the rest of my family lived the dream for me. I was sad, but later, my daughter with diabetes said to me, “Thanks, Mom.”
I did the right thing. I missed out, but my daughter with diabetes — and the rest of the world — was safe from my germs.
So consider this a public service announcement. If you or your children are sick or even close to sick, step back and keep yourself sequestered. If you need a medication, ask a friend to pick it up for you. Get a note from your doctor for work or school. Stay home. I know this might mean hardship. You might get docked a day’s pay. Your child might miss the class musical performance. Your boss might get mad. But on the flip side, you might save a person from a true crisis. You might even save a life.