by Jordan Amis
My son Charlie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10-months-old. The day before he was diagnosed, I received a call from his daycare to let me know he was not acting like himself. I picked him up immediately and headed to our pediatrician who said it looked like he was coming down with something and told me to monitor it. Charlie went to sleep that night an hour earlier than usual. I remember looking at the video monitor with my husband and noticing Charlie’s diaper seemed more full than normal. We decided it was best to let him rest and suspected he would wake during the night and we would change his diaper then. Charlie did not wake up in the middle of the night – or the next morning.
I awoke panicked and ran to Charlie’s room to find him with his eyes slit open and gasping for breath. We rushed to the pediatrician’s office where they called 911. We were taken to Texas Children’s Hospital and within 45 minutes they had determined Charlie’s blood sugar was at 876 (normal is 100) and he’d gone into diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious condition that can lead to a diabetic coma. Over the next nine days, several tests were run to determine if Charlie had suffered any lasting effects. Thankfully, Charlie was fine, and we began our journey with type 1 diabetes.
Now, a thriving 10-year-old, a typical day for Charlie looks much like any other boy’s, but with a few exceptions:
Charlie wakes up to the same question every morning, “what’s your number?” We do the first finger prick of the day to test his blood sugar, which we then enter into the pump to calibrate it. If his level is low, he’ll need sugar and if it’s high, he’ll need insulin. I also send a text to his teacher and school nurse to give them a heads up if he has started the day on a higher or lower end.
After the first test of the day, it’s time for breakfast. Charlie likes to have a banana and orange, which averages 30g of carbs. The body turns carbohydrates into glucose, which raises blood sugar levels. Monitoring carb consumption is a vital part of keeping blood glucose stable for a type 1 diabetic.
Charlie visits the school nurse and has his blood sugar levels tested and insulin delivered before lunch. It’s best to administer insulin 15-20 minutes before mealtimes to minimize blood sugar spikes, which over a prolonged period can cause serious side effects and complications.
Charlie eats the lunch I packed that includes a protein like a piece of chicken, two fruits and some sort of carb like crackers. I always include a list of everything in his lunch for the day with a carb count, and he typically eats about 40g of carbs at lunchtime.
Snack time! Charlie enjoys a bag of SkinnyPop popcorn, which is about 9g of carbs per bag. This also means another check-in with the nurse and dose of insulin to keep his blood sugar stable.
Charlie gets home from school and eats dinner before football practice, which consists of a protein, two vegetables, two fruits and a carb averaging about 50g of carbs total. Depending on his levels and because blood sugar tends to drop when exercising, we may not give him a full insulin dose.
Charlie hits the field with his team!
Since exercise affects blood sugar levels, we check his blood sugar during practice to make sure his levels remain stable. If he’s dropped a bit, we can typically bring him back up with a Gatorade.
We are home from football practice and depending on his number, we might administer some insulin along with a snack. Ice cream is a go-to as the mix of fat and carbs take longer for the body to digest and help keep the blood sugar more stable after exercise.
We do a final blood sugar test before bed. My husband and I will also test his blood sugar levels before we go to bed, and the pump will beep in the middle of the night to alert us if Charlie has gone too low or high while sleeping.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and despite the fact that an estimated 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year, most people aren’t familiar with how impactful the diagnoses can be. While a type 1 diabetic’s schedule may vary from day to day, it is typically dictated by the need to constantly check and monitor their blood sugar. To learn more, visit www.jdrf.org/Houston.