November 11, 2007

Blue Day

This weekend, Ginger and I participated in a marriage enrichment retreat. It was a wonderful experience, which I may write about at a future date, and which I'm sure she will write about on her own blog.

I do want to mention one thing, though: at the beginning of the retreat, we were told to turn off our cell phones, and to trust in God and the wonderful babysitters taking care of our children that everything will be OK.

We were very fortunate in that we did have some wonderful people watching our children this weekend. However, there was absolutely no way we could turn off our cell phones, for one reason: one of our children has type-1 diabetes. This means that his body produces no insulin. (This is different from type-2 diabetes, in which the body produces insulin, but has trouble using it. Most people with diabetes have type-2.) Ethan's blood sugar must be constantly monitored, which means poking his finger and drawing a drop of blood 6, 7, 8 times a day. He receives a minimum of four insulin shots per day. At each meal, the amount of carbs he eats must be counted so that the right dose of insulin can be measured. Even then, his blood sugar can fluctuate, due to any number of circumstances: mood, illness, growing pains, weather, stress, and so on. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about diabetes is that even when you do everything right, the blood sugar can still fluctuate randomly.

Blood sugar fluctuations can be dangerous. Worrying about Ethan's blood sugar has kept Ginger and I up at night. To be able to get away for a weekend is a real blessing, but believe me, we remain an easy phone call away in case those who are watching him have any questions.

We do not hide Ethan's diabetes. It's not something he should be ashamed of. Media reports about how obesity increases one's chances of developing diabetes are referring only to type-2 diabetes, even though they don't always say so. There is absolutely nothing one can do to avoid getting type-1 diabetes. (And many who develop type-2 diabetes are otherwise healthy.) Whether he's at home, school, or a restaurant, Ethan checks his blood sugar and administers his insulin. We want things to be as normal as possible for him.

In many aspects of Ethan's life, things are normal. But still, it's not normal for a child to have to give himself shots every day. It's not normal for him to voluntarily limit the amount of Halloween candy he can have, and to ask how many carbs of sugar are in the candy that he does get to eat. And it's not normal that he has a good chance of developing complications later in life, complications that could lead to preamture death, especially if his blood sugar levels are not closely monitored and kept in control.

No matter where I am, if my cell phone rings and it's Ethan's teacher/school principal/babysitter, I'll answer it. Perhaps even in the middle of preaching a funeral sermon, although that's never happened. (More likely, we'd make arrangements for them to call my wife on that day, if necessary.)

The point is that, as normal as we try to make life for Ethan, living with type-1 diabetes is not normal. And the reason I'm writing about that today is that this coming Wednesday is World Diabetes Day. (Perhaps you've noticed the banner for World Diabetes Day to the right.) The UN has issued a proclamation for World Diabetes Day. Observances will be held across the globe. Many famous landmarks will turn blue for the day, including the Empire State Building, and, here in California, Coit Tower and City Hall in San Francisco, and Los Angeles International Airport.

Monday-Wednesday I will be at my annual clergy retreat, with several dozen other pastors, and will do no blogging, which means if I didn't write about this now, I would probably miss it. I will be returning home on Wednesday afternoon -- World Diabetes Day.

No comments: