What’s in a number?

My mother has Type 2 Diabetes (the one caused by age and lifestyle) and she constantly wants to compare her BG numbers to my son’s. Every time she starts I have to bite my tongue because it turns into some perverse competition. She loves to tell me that her BG was only 110 when she woke up or that it was 135 after she ate. That’s great, I say… and then tell her that Cole’s BG when he woke was 150 or after he ate, he spiked to 280. In the world of diabetes, these are high numbers even for a Type 1. And so every time my mother starts the conversation, I am faced with my own failure to keep my son’s BG in a good range…and I feel ashamed. It isn’t that I want my son to stay high all the time–I know these numbers can lead to consequences such as kidney disease, heart disease, blindness and more. But it is terrifying when he goes low–his numbers can drop more than 5 mg/dL a minute when he is running around after a meal. And it can take more than 8 hours for him to recover cognitively. One evening he came in from playing outside after dinner and his BG was 42. If we consider that a BG of below 30 is likely to cause seizure or coma, my son was more than 75% there…more than half way to death. It took two treatments to get my son’s BG over 80 that night.  It is a frightening experience, one I don’t want to face again, but I know that I will many times.

For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to vocalize these fears about my son to my mother. I don’t tell her that I fear her grandson will die in his sleep if I give him more insulin. I don’t retort that she takes a pill to help keep her BG numbers in range. Instead, I accept her admonishment and change the subject. Because when your child has T1D, death becomes unspeakable.

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