I'm always watching my life and looking for new ways to say important things. Some stuff defies description. Often these are the very things that are most important to convey. So when an example comes up that I believe can take a thought to a new level for those looking in from the outside, it's my inclination to share it with you.
I feel like I've struggled in the past to make the point that diabetes is a 24/7 responsibility. I've said, "Christmas morning, 2 AM, on your birthday... it's always there" but do those phrases really tell the story? I never thought that they did, at least not completely enough for my liking. The other day something happened to me that I think conveys just how omnipresent type I diabetes is in a life.
I should begin by saying that my mother is safe and healthy.
Kelly took the day off so that we could do some Christmas shopping, our time was limited and we had a number of stops to make. Cole developed a cold the evening before so he was home from school and in bed. Kelly and I made the thirty minute drive to the mall as soon as Arden's bus pulled away and had successfully completed a few purchases when Cole called me. When my phone rang I had an arm full of gifts and Kelly had just disappeared to the opposite side of the store. I could barely keep the phone at my ear while holding the items as Cole and I began to speak.
I could hear how tired Cole was, his voice was labored and he was unfocused. He began mumbling and lethargically managed to say that someone had left a message on our machine about my mother. He said that it sounded important so he got out of bed to listen to it. My mom is 70, active and gets around with the assistance of a transportation company. She commutes to the grocery store, shopping, to the gym and everywhere else that she needs to travel with their service.
"The lady said that they came to pick up Grandmom but she wasn't there", that's how Cole began his story. "She wasn't there?", I asked Cole. I went over the call a few more times with him, "The driver came to pick Grandmom up and she wasn't there, correct?". He responded, "yes.. that's definitely what she said".
We don't live in the same state as my mother, we aren't too far away but still not in the same state or terribly close. There I was too far away to help and becoming worried that my mom needed assistance.
So I called 911.
I explained the situation to the operator and then hung up the phone to call one of my lifelong friends who happens to be a police sergeant one town over from where my mom lives. He was working and was able to make sure that an ambulance and police officer were in route to my mother's home. Then I called my brother, he was out of town too. No one could get to my mother so I was left waiting and hoping that the police would be there quickly. The situation was rapidly becoming extremely tense, I could feel my pulse quicken and I began to imagine my mother alone and possibly in trouble.
I needed information. I called the transportation company, no answer. There was nothing I could do, I was now standing in the middle of the holiday infused mall, holding my phone and looking like a lost puppy. Then my brother called me, "the police are in mom's house... she isn't there. Her pocketbook is on the sofa and there is a half finished glass of juice on the kitchen table, but she's not there". A few minutes later, unable to wait any longer, I called the house and spoke with the police officer myself. By now he found my mother's neighbor and friend, she indicated that my mother went to the gym. So I called the gym...
The man at the gym said that my mom is in there everyday, he knows her and her routine, they speak constantly. He was sure that she never came in that morning. Everything was crazy and getting worse by the second. My mom was missing, she never arrived at her destination, I had by now spoken to the transportation company who assured me that my mom was dropped off at the gym. My head was spinning trying to imagine what could have become of my mother in the twenty steps it would take to carry her from the car to the gym. Did she get ill, was she injured, mugged - is she dead?
"We didn't have Thanksgiving together this year", I thought. "She sent me an email yesterday that I haven't answered yet", that notion made me forget that I was worried just long enough to be sad. Then I remembered that my mom hasn't read the acknowledgement I wrote to her in my book. Suddenly the worried thoughts were coming faster then I could process them. "My kids are going to miss her", "what am I going to say at her funeral?", I was slipping into a panic. A few moments later the police officer called me back to ask more questions. I was on the phone, standing in a crowded mall, imagining the worst while trying desperately to hold together and answer the officer's questions - questions that seemed more important then any other I had ever answered before.
I snuck a look at my call waiting when it sounded. It was Arden, it was lunch time. "Officer, I have to take this call... I, my daughter, type I, hold on please".
Arden said hello, told me her BG was 136 before lunch and asked if she should bolus for the entire 49 carbs. I centered myself, thought about her morning BG, breakfast, where her CGM was at the two hour mark. I remembered what we did with the basal prior to recess, thought about the food in her bag and said, "yes, 49 carbs... how much insulin is that?". I didn't think once about my mother or the officer as I waited for Arden to respond, there was nothing I cared about in that moment more then finding out how much insulin her PDM was recommending. Then I flipped back over and finished speaking with the officer.
When someone tells you that diabetes doesn't stop, that it is unrelenting, unyielding and unrepentant. Believe them with the full power and meaning of those words. I could have been hanging upside down in a burning car and I would have taken that phone call and calmly talked with Arden about her lunch bolus. Diabetes won't leave you alone because you are busy, no matter how busy you are. It didn't care that day if my mother was lost, in danger or worse and it won't care if it's 2 AM, Christmas Morning or your birthday. The people that live with type I know the weight of those words, and my reaction to this moment is the new best way that I can convey that feeling.
I hope this brings the idea of what diabetes requires from a person to a new level of understanding.
As for my mother, the entire situation was one confusion. You won't believe this. One driver picked her up in the morning at her house, the second (different) driver couldn't locate her when he arrived to pick her up at the gym (I thought Cole meant she was at home for the initial pick up). Turns out that the first (newly hired) driver took my mother to the wrong gym, same gym franchise, different location. My mother didn't notice (she was reading in the car) until the car had pulled away. She decided that since she was there, she'd workout and then wait for the driver to retrieve her as always... except the second driver went to the correct gym, where obviously, my mother never was. But that's not the story, it's just the vehicle that I brought it to you in.