I'll never forget coaching my oldest child's soccer practice on thatcool damp evening in late April. The moment I laid eyes on myten-year-old daughter as she walked onto the soccer field, I knewthat something wasn't right.
I remember watching her run thewarm-up lap and thinking that she was probably just a little tired. I never imagined that the hours to follow would change our livesforever.
As practice proceeded, I had one eye focused on the team drills andthe other on Noelle, hoping she'd show me something to ease myconcerns. Fifteen minutes into practice, I pulled her aside to askif she felt okay. Her response was odd by normal standards but on apar with the previous few days: She said that she felt all right butneeded to go to the bathroom.
Before sending her off to theporta-potty, I told her to stop drinking so much. My wife,Jennifer, and I had been trying to get her to stop from drinkingexcessively for several days. We were beginning to wonder why she'dbecome so obsessed with liquid.
As the practice progressed, Noelle began to appear lost, extremelysluggish, and very absent-minded. When her words began to besomewhat slurred, I ended practice a few minutes early to addressher condition. I asked again if she felt okay. Her response had thesame bathroom theme, but this time added a comment about her earsfeeling blocked. Probably getting a cold, I thought.
Upon furtherdiscussion, she admitted to going to the school restroom six timesduring the school day. Something's definitely off, I thought. That's when I jumped on the cell to relay my concerns to Jennifer. A phone call to the pediatrician's office prompted an immediate tripto the emergency room.
Never in a million years could we have been prepared for thisemergency room visit. Although Jennifer and I may have known, deepdown, what was coming, we were expecting, or maybe subconsciouslyhoping for, a bladder infection or some weird flu virus.
Thediagnosis, when it came, was too matter of fact and too painful -too much like getting struck by lightening. Never in our lives havethree words been so heart-stoppingly painful as "Noelle hasdiabetes."
A river of frightening thoughts and visions instantly flooded ourminds. This can't be happening – our daughter is active and healthy.What did we do to her? If we had gotten here two days ago, could wehave prevented this? How will Noelle be able to continue being anormal kid? We can't give her shots every day – it'll be too painfulfor her. Can she keep playing sports? What about her adult life? Will she be able to have children? Does this mean our other twochildren will suffer from diabetes down the road? And finally, why?Why did this happen to us?
The shock of the blow, along with the multitude of uncertainties,released a lifetime of tears from Jennifer and me that first night. Had it not been for the Baystate Medical Center PediatricEndocrinology care unit's quick support system, we would've keptfeeling sorry for Noelle and ourselves.
Within a few hours,however, the care unit began working with the three of us througheducation, which began raising our comfort level. The informationwas presented compassionately, with well-thought-out explanationsthat were easy for us to understand.
Of course, our family will never be the same. Type 1 diabetes is alife-altering illness. However, our family has learned a lot abouteach other and the disease that has entered our home. We've learnedhow to control Noelle's sugar levels with long-acting,medium-acting, and short-acting insulins.
Equally important, theendocrine unit taught us that, with minor manageable modifications,Noelle will lead a normal life. She'll continue playing sports. And, with the exception of controlling her carb intake, she can eateverything she always enjoyed before the diagnosis.
As for Noelle? From her example, Jennifer and I have learned toattack adversity head-on with total conviction. Upon beingdiagnosed, she never once cried. Not once did she ask the question"why me?" I think she understood what was going on and how it wouldimpact her life before we did.
Within 48 hours, she wasadministering her own insulin and measuring her blood sugar level. Her strength, amazing in a ten-year-old, both surprised and inspiredus. In fact, her attitude has had the biggest impact on easing ourworries. Who's supporting whom? We all support each other, and lifegoes on.