Emotion of Diabetes
This heart rending story explains how the emotion of diabetes affects the whole family - not just the person who has been diagnosed.
The Emotional Impact of Diabetes
Unless someone is diabetic, or very close to someone who is, they do not realize how life changing this disease can be. I believe one of the reasons this is, is because so many people are diagnosed with diabetes; that somewhere down the line, the seriousness of the disease, in people’s minds, has diminished.
Diabetes is a very serious and scary chronic illness. It is totally life changing for those diagnosed. Eating becomes literally a matter of life and death. And the way a person is used to eating is usually changed drastically.
The emotional stress one goes through seems to get ignored and lost in the endless information and directions of how to now live your life. This is not just merely staying alive – it’s trying to stay alive without ending up blind, on kidney dialysis, with severe nerve damage, or amputation, just to name a few.
My life was drastically affected by diabetes twelve years ago when my son, who is now 23, was just eleven years old, and diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
He has always been hyperactive, so even when he was sick, he was active. I started to notice he was looking a little pale and losing weight, even though he ate constantly. I made him a doctor appointment for the next opening, which wasn’t until a month away. All of a sudden he started wetting the bed. The urine had a very strong odor. He also started complaining of headaches. At first I thought the complaints, was just an excuse for the eleven-year-old to stay out of school. But when they became so severe, I knew they were real. The second day his headaches were so severe, he stayed home from school. He presented no other symptoms, but he slept all day long.
This was enough to definitely make me realize something was extremely wrong. I got out my diagnosis health encyclopedia books and after a few hours, I came down to two diagnosis, kidney trouble or diabetes, (this was before I became a nurse, so I was going only by his symptoms and the words on the page). It was about 6:30 at night, when I told my husband something was terribly wrong and I was taking our son to the emergency room.
When we arrived at the emergency room, my son had a hard time keeping his eyes opened. We were finally called to the back, where they started running several tests. Sure enough he was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. His blood sugar was well over 600. Normal blood sugar levels range from 90-110. The reason he was sleeping so much was because he was trying to slip into a diabetic coma. The doctor said that if I hadn’t brought him in when I did, he would have gone into a coma that night. They admitted him to ICU and kept a vigil on him for three days as insulin was delivered through IV. That was the day our lives changed forever; especially my eleven-year-old son’s.
It was over-whelming. Three main meals a day and three snacks a day; mandatory, with a minimum of two shots daily for the rest of his life. To say we were under stress, would be putting it mildly. My son put on a brave face, but about the fourth day after he was diagnosed, I had a heart to heart with him. The poor baby thought he had brought the diabetes on himself and was being punished for something he said.
Meanwhile, my nine-year-old at home was going through her own personal hell. After speaking to her, I found out she was scared to death that he was going to die, and that she was next. This came from two children whose parents did talk to them and tried to explain everything to the best of their ability.
Our lives became rigid, at first -- as we tried to cope with the changes. My son, Eddie, could not just run off and play at his friend's house whenever he wanted, or was allowed. He had to make sure he was home to take his shots on time, to eat the regular meals and the snacks in-between. He was a hard player, he had to learn that if he didn't eat like he was supposed to, wheather he was hungry or not, he would end up getting shaky. If he did not get something in him quickly to raise his blood sugar, he may slip so low that an ambulance would have to be called to save his life, if I wasn't there with an emergency glucagon (intra-muscular sugar water) shot -- as he would get extremely lethargic and not be able to communicate, or to understand what was going on around him.
All these changes he was going through, made him feel like he was different than the other children. He was afraid to spend a night for quite some time after being diagnosed; because if his sugar went up too high at night, it could cause him to wet the bed. Something that an eleven-year-old would be horrified to do in front of his friends.
We also had to make sure if he did go spend the night with a friend, that they had plenty of food. (Though, his back pack would be packed with extra food for snacks, it couldn't contain the main meals.) We also had to let the parents know he was diabetic, where they could keep an extra eye out. This would sometimes turn into a nightmare, as Eddie did not want to go around announcing he was diabetic. He also didn't like being treated differently if a mother was handing out sugared drinks or sugared snacks to the other kids.
As a mother, seeing him go through all of this, tore my heart out. When I did let him leave, I had to worry not only what every mother worries about when her children go off by themselves, but I had to worry if his sugar dropped too low, would he be able to make it home in time to get something to eat? Even though he carried emergency glucose pills for low sugar, it does not work all the time. (Depending on how low his sugar is and if he is able to chew, and has enough sense to take them).
When your sugar drops extremely low, you are not aware of what you're doing. Many people have been suspected of being high on drugs, when it is their sugar causing the strange behaviour. It's a very scary thing to see, even more so do go through. I also had to worry if he would go off and drink sugar drinks and go to the store and get candy. This was not a simple concern, this could actually kill or disable him.
When your sugar gets too high, you are damaging your organs -- and if you start spilling ketones, it becomes a very dangerous situation. It causes ketoacidosis which causes nausea, sometimes severe with projectile vomiting, stomach pains, confusion and drowsiness; because their body is over-worked and worn out. It's literally starving to death.
They are also in danger of slipping into a diabetic coma. High sugar often does develop into Diabetic ketoacidosis -- (DKA) which is a life-threatening blood chemical (electrolyte) imbalance that develops in a person with diabetes when the cells do not get the sugar (glucose) they need for energy. As a result, the body breaks down fat instead of glucose and produces and releases substances called ketones into the bloodstream. Severe diabetic ketoacidosis can cause difficulty breathing, brain swelling (cerebral edema), coma, or death. This is also the time when diabetes is doing the most harm to all the organs -- which can lead to heart failure, kidney failure, blindness, neuropathy -- and the list goes on.
Eddie, who is now 23, has kept his sugar under good control, (not tight, sadly -- but good) where he has not had to be hospitalized too often. He mainly has to go into the hospital when he gets a bad illness, such as the flu or stomach virus. When a diabetic's body is stressed with illnesses, it causes the blood sugar to go erratic. High blood sugars read off the chart, even when they have not been able to eat -- then their blood sugar may suddenly drop to a dangerous low.
It also makes it more difficult to control because they are not able to eat, or maybe even drink. For diabetics, this is not an option. They are hospitalized where they can receive I.V fluids, and keep a close check on their blood sugar readings. Which sometimes means being pricked in the fingers up to 8 times a day, for several days in a row.
Diabetes causes such a wide array of secondary illnesses. Including stunting growth in a growing child. Eddie lost a whole year of growing. When he was 13, he had the bones of an 11 1/2 yr. old. He was put on intra-muscular testoterone shots at home. Which he took a lot better than most adults would, every night for six months.
It hurts me now, as it has since the day he was diagnosed, to know that he may soon be experiencing some very bad health problems because of the diabetes. Problems start to arise mostly after being diabetic for five years. We are living on borrowed time with decent health -- as he now has had diabetes for twelve years. When he says his chest hurts him, I don't think, "Oh no, he may be getting bronchitis." I think, "Oh Lord, please let it be something as simple as bronchitis."
When he tells me his feet hurt and his whole body aches -- I know it may be a sign of neuropathy. At 23 he experiences pains and aches no young adult should have to face. But I praise God for each day that goes by where he is still able to work and live life as close to a young adult as he possibly can. God has spared us from him having any serious conditions. I know that may change any day, but I can relish in each day it does not.
Then there are the emotional changes diabetes puts them through. The anger, restlessness, nervousness, impatience -- imagine it, and it is effected. It plays roulette with their hormones, causing their emotions and temperament to go into extreme modes. Sadly, this seems to be most of the time. All this happens in all diabetics, but I am concentrating on Type 1, Juvenile Diabetes. Type 1, Juvenile on-set, varies from Type 2, adult on-set, because with type 1, your pancreas does not produce any insulin at all. With Type 2, it produces insulin, but not sufficient enough, or at a normal rate.
These emotional issues are just as important to deal with as the physical disease itself. The emotional needs must be addressed. Not only the needs of the person diagnosed, but the whole family, and if it’s a child, this includes the parents and siblings.
If you are living with diabetes, please make sure you get the emotional help you so need and deserve. It’s absolutely a necessity. You may have to live with diabetes, but make sure you have it under control, and that it does not control you. After all, it’s a matter of life and death – both physical and emotional.
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