My grandmother was very allergic to bee stings and I grew up hearing stories about how she had been stung in all kinds of places, including her mouth, and had to go to the hospital. The other day, I was telling a friend about this, and about the first time I was stung by a bee. I was 19 and riding on the back of an open jeep. I felt something hit the back of my neck, reached back to see what had hit me and pulled a bee out from between my neck and shirt collar. It hurt, but more because of the impact (we were going fast) than because of the actual sting. As soon as I was stung I thought of my grandmother. Was I going to have an allergic reaction? A few minutes passed and nothing happened. (Stupidly I didn’t tell anyone so had something happened no one would have known what was going on.)
When I told my friend the bee sting story, I didn’t notice that my 10-year-old son, Tom, was listening. I realized this only a few days later when on the way back from his Saturday morning sailing class he asked me why everyone was so worried about bee allergies and could he be allergic.
I explained to him that not everyone worried about bee allergies, but that often people are afraid of things they’ve heard about or seen up close. The example the popped into my mind, of course, was diabetes. I asked Tom if he thought most kids his age worried about or wondered if they would get type 1 diabetes. He said probably not and then went on to admit that he did. I know he worries about me (he witnessed one of my worst hypos), but I didn’t realize he was also worried about himself.
My eight-year-old son Guy, however, is different. Guy has said and done things that let me know he worries about his health and especially about getting diabetes. He has asked me straight out if he will get it because we have it.
Today Guy asked me about a pamphlet I was looking at with a picture of an insulin pump on it.
“What’s that?” he said.
“It’s a little device that gives you insulin all the time,” I said. “Some people use it instead of giving themselves shots.”
I could see Guy was processing the idea, and I could tell he wasn’t sure about it. It was making him nervous.
I’ve been thinking about getting a pump for a long time. Thinking how it would affect me in different ways and on many different levels, but until now I never thought about the effect it may have on my children. I know they will get used to it, but I didn’t consider the fact that a pump might scare them at first. I will have to make them understand that it is not a sign of getting sicker, but just a different way, maybe a better way, of doing the same thing.