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A child’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis comes with many questions about diet, insulin, exercise and basically, life. You take the changes one day at a time and before you know it, diabetes care has become a part of your everyday routine. After a while you start to think that you’ve got it under control and start to feel a level of comfort for yourself and your child. You reiterate to your child that there’s nothing they can’t do in life while managing their diabetes.
Then it happens. The day your precious 8-year-old explains to you that he’s going to be a soldier just like his uncle. You see, my brother was a soldier in the infantry of the Illinois National Guard. While enlisted, he served 11 months in Iraq in 2006. My son and my brother formed a tight bond when my brother lived with us when my son was a toddler. One day as we drove home from a visit with my brother my son declared from the back seat that he was going to be a soldier. My husband spent three years as a U.S. Navy recruiter and I knew that Type 1 diabetes was a disqualifier for the military.
As calmly as I could and with tears in my eyes I explained to my ambitious son that because of his diabetes that he wouldn’t be able to be a soldier. Having a condition like diabetes was too dangerous for him and other soldiers. He quieted down and I heard sobbing from the back seat and a whispered, “That’s not fair.” I could do nothing but comfort him as best as I could. That was the first time my son cried since receiving his diagnosis of diabetes.
Every parent does their best to encourage their children to follow their dreams, to never give up and to explore every avenue. Most don’t anticipate their child coming up against an impenetrable wall. When it happens, you do what you do best, you console them and talk to them about other things that they could do to impact others in their lives.
I believe that conversation was a profound one for my son. At that young age, he was faced with the fact that having a medical condition that is considered a disability, or handicap, might label him but he wasn’t going to let it hold him back. He began educating his classmates about his diabetes during show and tell opportunities. He explained to them how he checked his blood sugar, how he administered his insulin, how he counted his carbohydrates and why he had to carry a bag full of snack and supplies.
My son’s attitude about his diabetes has had an impact that has driven him to success in his short 19 years on Earth. He successfully juggled three sports all through school and he graduated valedictorian of his high school class. He was active in many school organizations and managed to keep his diabetes under control. Since his original hospital stay at the time of his diagnosis he hasn’t had to return for a stay.
There have been many hurdles over the last 12 years, but managing your child’s diabetes does become part of your daily routine. In our next blog, I’ll talk about how we dealt with difficult situations at school and some of the emotional toll Type 1 diabetes has on a teenager.
How do you help your child deal with life’s barriers?
Presented by: Tamara Martin
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