I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. I've highlighted on this blog some of the moments in our diabetes life when we've encountered angels -- people who I trust implicitly to care for James as well (or better!) than I can. Aunt Kim was the first angel in our story. James has since had a great preschool teacher, a fabulous school nurse, a caring grandmother, and Sunday school teachers who really "get it." Still, I occasionally run into people who don't understand diabetes.
Again, couching this in the most positive terms possible, our most recent move has been amazing in so many respects. James has a FABULOUS teacher and a really nice set of friends. He has felt loved and accepted at his extracurricular activities, church and scouts, and we found some great neighbors who are learning about diabetes while we learn about their severe food allergies. Our world has been surrounded by love, acceptance and positive energy. For the most part.
With the school administration, I've had to be more of a trailblazer. In some ways, we were spoiled at our last school by a really fantastic and responsive principal and health technician, who took exceptional care of James. Additionally, James' diabetes management is perhaps a bit more challenging than what the new school district was accustomed to dealing with. James' blood sugar can drop quickly with the slightest exertion or exercise -- something I haven't observed in Kaitlyn. As a result, I had to take more time with the nurse, the principal and the director of special education while discussing allowing James to be tested in his classroom when he suspects that his blood sugar is low. It was a tiny provision in his 504 Plan that I felt was incredibly important.
I wish I could say that I got a speedy resolution, but instead the process of coming to agreement on James' treatment protocol was a long (three-month!) affair that took a lot of emotional energy. In the interim, I was testing James myself at least twice a day at school, and having to find someone to watch my two younger kids each time. Thankfully, my father stepped in and provided me with that support.
The toughest thing for me during that time was neither the logistical difficulties of going to the school four times a day, nor finding a babysitter for the other kids, nor drafting correspondence to press for compliance, nor repeated phone calls with the American Diabetes Association, nor meeting with administrators. It was wondering daily if I was doing the right thing and finding the strength to keep pressing for the things I knew that he needed.
Now that I am on the other side of that process, I can honestly say that all the effort really WAS worth it, because I now know that James is safe at school. It's such a tremendous relief. What's more, I think it might just be a little easier for the next kid -- and the next PARENT -- who now may not have to go through what I did.
I recently learned something that makes me believe that my efforts were not in vain. Remember the school district that we came from, that I rave about to everyone because they were so accommodating, so understanding, so AWESOME? It only became so involved, so knowledgeable and so quick to take care of the children with type 1 diabetes after some parents went through a struggle very similar to mine. I wonder if they ever doubted whether their effort was worth it? I can tell them without question: It was totally worth it!
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.