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Reflections on Being a D-Dad

  • by John Tate

In May, 2011 my life changed in a moment, frozen forever on that “d-day”. Diagnosis day. My son had just turned four and my wife and I were noticing some symptoms in our son that were no longer going unnoticed. Bright red cheeks, he was so thirsty, tired and hungry, his little legs were hurting non-stop, he fell down the stairs because he was “dizzy”, and wet the bed the night before after being trained for two years. We put the kids to bed and both consulted “Dr. Google” and immediately realized what we were dealing with. Type 1 diabetes- my wife and I had no idea at the time how this would impact our lives. I know now that it was better that way; we really did need to realize this in bits, chunks and pieces over the next several months.
When I became a father I made a promise to my kids to fiercely protect them. On d-day an overwhelming sense of advocacy and protection came out in me that I had never experienced before. The day my tiny buddy Jack was diagnosed was incredibly stressful. My wife was stuck in meetings so I took Jack to the pediatrician to verify what we suspected was type 1 diabetes. The doctor ignored the symptoms because he looked fine and was jumping around the office and smiling. He made a comment that he was walking funny on his foot and that was likely the source of leg pain and left the room to arrange for a referral to an ortho consult for the foot.  They were going to release us without even checking blood sugar! At the moment we were being dismissed I very sternly informed the staff that we would not be leaving until we know what his blood sugar is. The doctor was quite irritated, but when that blood sugar read “HI”, he turned very pale and called for an ambulance. A feeling of relief and fear came over me, the doctor arranged for a team of people to meet us at Toledo Hospital ER, I called my wife to meet us and the next several days were spent lowering blood sugar, hydrating his frail body, and getting the education of dietician, nurse, and advocate. Wow was that a lot of information all at once! So many things affect blood sugar: activity, food intake and how much protein, fiber or carb is present, excitement, hot baths, and sometimes blood sugar goes “wonky” for no reason at all.

Three years later, diabetes struck again. Second type 1 diabetes diagnosis in our son Max. This one hit me hard, because the shock of diabetes wore off years ago. I knew exactly what this would mean for his life, and how drastically it was about to change. Our son with extra challenges of Sensory Processing Disorder and physical delays took the diagnosis with amazing peace and reasonability. It was nothing short of a miracle!  We learned very quickly from him to snap out of it and keep on keepin’ on.
If there is one suggestion I could offer up to d-dads out there it would be to take an active and present role in your child’s d-care. It took a lot of effort, but I fully understand the relationship between food, activity and other factors in blood sugar management. I do site changes and I attend almost all endocrinologist appointments and discuss insulin pump basal rate changes and how the last few months have gone. I attend 504 plan meetings at school with my wife and we both come up with thoughtful ideas to make the boys’ school experience the best that it can be. Because of this involvement, my wife and I work together very well as a team taking care of our four kids, and especially our two “d-kids”. While we had our stressful times since diagnosis, we are stronger and closer because of it.

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