Diabetes may sound like no big deal — so you give a couple of injections and test your blood sugar. But when you’re a mother, it’s a different story.
Tiffany Riedinger’s daughter, Chloe, age 8, was diagnosed earlier this year with Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes. With this type of diabetes, the pancreas does not work correctly, producing little or no insulin. There is no cure, so the family had to learn to manage insulin shots, diet, exercise, travel and a lot more.
After meeting many challenges along the way, Riedinger has these tips for other parents whose children have Type 1 diabetes:
1. Select the right caregivers: Anyone I’m leaving Chloe with has to have had some education to be comfortable taking care of her. People have to be familiar with how to take care of someone with diabetes.
2. Monitor diet: There is no grazing for kids with diabetes. You have to have a specific time for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can calculate how much insulin is required. When kids at school have birthday celebrations, I send in sugar-free cupcakes so it won’t throw things off. And I also need to prepare all meals for school. Since I need to be at work very early, Chloe eats breakfast, as well as lunch and a snack, at school. I make these all ahead of time so she can bring them with her.
3. Plan for travel: We need to make sure we have a backup for everything: glucose strips, two kinds of insulin, snacks and candy (in case her blood sugar gets too low).
4. Watch out for intestinal infections: We just experienced Chloe’s first gastrointestinal bug after having been diagnosed. When you don’t have anything in your stomach, sugars go down. When sugars are down you can’t give insulin. But Chloe needed insulin because ketones in her urine were up. (Ketones are produced when there is not enough insulin in the blood. When ketones show up in urine, it means the body is using fat for energy instead of sugar.)
5. Let your feelings out: The first couple of months were extremely difficult for me. Knowing something is wrong with your child is the hardest part, but it does get easier. Know that you did nothing wrong and there is nothing you could have done to prevent this.
Now that they family has settled into a routine, managing Chloe’s diabetes is getting easier and easier. Even Chloe’s 5-year-old sister knows how to count carbohydrates, something Chloe must do before every meal.
“We want Chloe to be as healthy as she can be so when there is a cure, she’s ready,” Riedinger said.
Get more information about Type 1 Diabetes from the diabetes educators at the new Wendy L. Novak Diabetes Care Center at Norton Children’s Hospital.
Contributed by Maggie Roetker, Norton Healthcare media relations.