The Diary of a Diabetic Dad

This month Spencer turns five. He was born two years after we started Diabetes Health, and Miranda followed 19 months later. In many ways, we have all grown up together.

I started writing about Spencer before he was born. Both children have figured prominently in my columns and have been a great source of inspiration for me. They have also helped me to cope better with my diabetes.

March 93 – My Wife is Going to Have a Baby!

Several weeks before the due date we had the hospital bag packed and sitting by the front door. We added more stuff every day – changes of clothes for us, clothes to bring the baby home in, toiletries, towels, a tape player with music tapes and an extension cord, a still camera, a video camcorder, extra film and blank video tapes, phone numbers of our family and friends, and tons of change for late night vending machines.

This bag was then packed with pounds of snacks, insulin, test strips, syringes, pump supplies, batteries for pump and meter and plenty of glucose tablets. We were determined to be prepared. When the time arrived to leave, I could hardly lift the bag.

Dad in the Delivery Room

After 12 hours of counting contractions, the dad-to-be got a small lunch break. I took eight units of insulin which should have covered the eggs and toast I ordered at the hospital cafeteria. Two hours after I returned from eating, my blood sugar had shot up to 245 mg/dl! Blood sugar this high makes me feel sleepy and grumpy-which I certainly wanted to avoid after being up all night. I took four extra units of R to get my blood sugar back down, but I was worried about crashing too low during the birth.

Meanwhile, my wife was in the midst of labor, and I was starting to sweat and my heart was pounding. Was this normal or was I heading for a low blood sugar crash? To avoid a total calamity, I decided to test even though I had already tested about 10 times. This was difficult since my wife didn’t want me to leave her side because she was using me as a punching bag. I had to carefully turn my body, get my meter out from my backpack, open it on the chair behind me, slip the strip in and lance my finger. What a relief to find my blood sugar was 129 mg/dl!

“It’s a Boy!”

It was exciting to see Spencer pop out. Nadia was especially happy and relieved after 40 hours of labor! We had taken the Lamaze classes, but all those techniques went out the window after being in pain that long.

Oct. 94 – So Far So Good

It bothers me when people assume that since I have diabetes Spencer does too. Of course this is one of my greatest fears.

Fortunately, the chances are slim. Only five percent of children with diabetic fathers develop diabetes during their lives. For children of diabetic mothers, the chances are even less – about three percent.

Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to prevent our kids from getting diabetes. We did keep him away from cows’ milk for the first year of his life, and we give him chewable vitamins with antioxidants, on the chance that this will help.

So far so good.

May 95 – On the New Treadmill – Spencer Helps Me Exercise

Now it’s time for dad to get back in shape after helping have all these kids. I talked the wife into letting us buy a treadmill.

I climbed on and pushed the lever to warm-up speed and started walking. Spencer at the time was sitting in front of the television watching Barney. As soon as he saw the conveyor belt move he ran to get his toys and threw them down at my feet to watch them flow down the track. His fascination increased as he put larger objects on the moving belt.

One of his rubber balls actually was pulled under and got jettisoned out the other side. Spencer got a big kick out of this. I tried to distract him from my exercise by getting him to watch Barney. The success I had in diverting his attention lasted only a few minutes. Spencer abandoned his purple dinosaur for the opportunity to stand next to the treadmill’s speed lever. As I looked away, Spencer grabbed the lever and cranked it to its highest speed. I firmly said “No!” and changed the speed. Spencer caught me off guard again. Rather than increasing the speed, he pulled the lever the opposite way and the treadmill came to a complete halt.

I used this opportunity to stop and test my blood sugar. Was it going down or up? The stress of trying to exercise, to manage my diabetes, and to lose weight and be fit seemed to have been thrown out only to be replaced with the stress of managing Spencer. My blood sugar had actually gone up!

Getting into a routine exercise program may be a greater challenge than I thought.

June 95 – Four of Us Sleep in the “Big Bed”

I woke up in the morning feeling stiff – like I had gone camping and forgotten the air mattress. Maybe it was that one position I slept in for four hours. Regardless, I needed my coffee to meet the day.

I tested my blood sugar before I had breakfast in order to estimate my insulin requirements. After taking my shot, I noticed Spencer lifting his shirt to mimic me taking my injection. I laughed as I said two prayers: Don’t let my kids get diabetes and please let me get a good nights sleep tonight.

Mar 96 – Some Days Going to Work is Like a Vacation

It was four a.m. when I staggered out of bed to find my tube of Dex 4’s. I should have tried to get right back into bed, but my hunger was overwhelming. Grabbing a bathrobe, I went out to the kitchen to plunder the fridge. I ate three oranges, a pear and two pieces of toast before my hunger pangs subsided. I was wide awake with my heart still pounding from the hypoglycemia.

It took 30 minutes for my body to calm down. With the return of sleepiness and the coming subtle gray light outside, I was ready to crawl back into bed. But before I did, I took five units of regular insulin. I knew from previous experience that my blood sugar would probably be 300 mg/dl if I didn’t take the necessary precaution.

I was just drifting back to sleep when I heard someone calling my name. Standing at my side was three-year-old Spencer – “Daddy, I’m wet,” he said.

After I removed his wet clothes and he had found a cozy spot in “mommy and daddy’s bed,” he decided he definitely needed a warm bottle and his teddy bear. “Just a few more minutes of precious sleep,” I prayed, as I fulfilled the young prince’s request.

Day Breaks

The next thing I knew it was morning and I heard Miranda, our 17 month old, crying from her crib. Nadia and I had to negotiate which one of us were going to get up and make breakfast for the kids. After I gave her a sob story about the hypo, she granted me 30 more minutes in bed, though I could have slept eight hours more. There is nothing as sweet as hearing the bedroom door shut with all the noise on the other side.

After what seemed like a blink of an eye, Nadia came in at 7:30 a.m. to tell me I better get up because she was leaving in ten minutes for an important business meeting. The children were going stir crazy, the puppy needed to go for a walk, and I had to take our sick cat to the vet. On my way to the coffee maker, I tested my blood sugar – 135 mg/dl.

A Trip Around the Block

My mother-in-law came along to help. She entertained Miranda while Spencer and I brought the cat into the vet’s waiting room. Spencer started pulling on a string attached to the blinds. His yanking seemed harmless until I heard a loud snap. Two receptionists from behind the counter rushed out to save their blinds. Fortunately, no major damage had been done. They anxiously led us into an examination room and shut us in. I took this opportunity to check my blood sugar. It was fine.

The vet advised us to leave our cat with him to be treated. Spencer repeated everything the vet said, which made him very uptight. When he finished, he looked at Spencer with clenched teeth and attempted a winning smile.

With an hour to burn, I walked the kids over to a children’s toy store nearby, but in accordance with the day’s precarious theme, I discovered even a toy store was not indestructible.

While I checked out shoes for the kids, Miranda strolled the aisles. She accidentally removed the price tags off everything she touched. Spencer climbed into a stroller and attempted to dismantle it with a plastic toy screwdriver. Then he started playing with two footballs. I heard the manager scream at Spencer, “Little Boy, oh Little Boy, STOP THAT!” Apparently the two footballs were lamps and the string by which he was pulling them was the power cord.

I decided to cut my losses and grab the kids to leave. The manager was upset. To avoid a confrontation, I redirected my children’s attention toward a fast food restaurant next door. While I was ordering, Spencer decided he needed a chair on the other side of the dining room. The clientele looked up from their burgers to watch and listen, as Spencer dragged the chair loudly across the terra-cotta floor.

This was one of those times when I cherished the moment of strapping them tightly and safely into their car seats. One quick trip to the market, mother-in-law and children safely tucked in the car, and with a little luck, we would all get home in one piece.

It was only noon but I felt like I had worked a double shift. I couldn’t believe how eager I was to head off to work. Some days, going to work is like a vacation.

Feb. 98- Dad Gets More Practice

Last week Miranda fell off the bed and came up screaming with blood gushing from her ear. Nadia panicked, so I stayed calm. We grabbed a towel and headed for the hospital with Spencer in tow. While waiting for the doctor to come into the examination room, I tested my BG’s – 160 mg/dl. I didn’t have to worry about going low while I held her perfectly still. He put ten stitches in her ear. She is fine now, and dad is a more seasoned father.


Spencer and Miranda are five and three-and-a-half. They come into the office and help with putting the magazine out. I’d have to say it’s been the best five years of my life – the hugs, the kids’ drawings, the words of love – I love it all.

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