We’re approaching James’ “dia-versary” in August. If you aren’t familiar with what that means, it’s the anniversary of the date of a person’s diabetes diagnosis. Each year as this day rolls around, it affords me a chance to think about life with type 1 and what it has meant for us -- the sorrows and the joys it has brought into our life.
One of the biggest joys of our life with diabetes has been the support and love of Aunt Kim. James was starting to show signs of diabetes in the month of July. But I didn’t know any better. I didn’t realize that when he was lethargic, when he was drinking so much water, when he had to make so many trips to the bathroom, that these were actually symptoms of a very serious illness. I had a feeling he was struggling with something, but I didn’t really know that he was so ill until nearly halfway into the month of August.
The day that I first thought, “I really need to call the doctor, something isn’t right here” happened to be the day that Kaitlyn would be born. And I didn’t call the doctor that day because I had something VERY important to do: I was tasked with watching Kim’s other two kids that day as she was going into the hospital to await the birth of her little girl! It was special to spend that day with her kids and to bring her children to the hospital after the birth to meet that new sweet baby girl, Kaitlyn. It’s a memory I will always treasure. Big brother and sister Anna and Daniel were SO cute, and Kaitlyn was adorable and perfect and so happy. It was just about a perfect day.
The next day, I called the doctor at 8:30 in the morning with my concerns. And by 5:30 that evening, he was admitted to the emergency room. The rest of this story has already been told. James spent five days in the hospital, and he has been dealing with diabetes ever since.
When James was young, it was hard to get someone to watch him. He was completely dependent on an adult for care, and I was very nervous about leaving him with just anybody. So when I needed to go to an academic conference, a place where I couldn’t leave my phone on and was (essentially) unreachable for large parts of the day, Kim’s house is where I would bring him. It was a combination of her tremendous willingness to help, gentleness with my James, and a smart head on her shoulders that made her our default babysitter in those early days.
She had a super intuitive sense for when James was low. Once when we were both in the room, she looked at him and said, “He looks
daydream-y, is he low?” and sure enough, he was. She could tell; she has a mother’s heart.
She would take over testing him even when we were together, as if she could sense that I was tired and needed a helping hand. I’ll never forget when James had climbed up a tree in her backyard. I had another child in my arms, and Kim sweetly said, “Oh don’t bother putting the little one down, I’ll test James,” and she marched right up to that tree, grabbed the closest finger and got a good reading!
All of this was before Kaitlyn (that beautiful, perfect baby born the day before James’ diagnosis) joined us with a type 1 diabetes diagnosis of her own. And when she did, Kim knew diabetes as well as any friend and aunt could. In those early months where my heart ached to think of my little guy and his future, my heart was made joyful again when I thought about the people who loved him and cared for him. It made the future seem less scary to know there were people like her out there. Thank you, Aunt Kim!
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.
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