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A Favor

Kathleen Nelson of Cake Eater Chronicles writes about her adorable nephew James, who has Type I Diabetes. bq. James lives the normal life of a five-year-old boy. He goes to school, he plays, he gets in trouble (he's still as stubborn as a rock), he does all of the things that a five-year-old should do---but with limitations. Imagine Halloween and being allowed to go trick or treating, but having to hand over your candy when you're done because you can't eat any of it. Sure he gets a toy out of the bargain, but it does make Halloween a wee bit different, doesn't it? Imagine birthday parties where you couldn't have any cake. Or having to ignore the ice cream man when he drives by. His parents may have picked up his pancreas' slack and while this allows for normality, it also has its drawbacks. James' lifespan has automatically, just by using insulin, been cut back by about fifteen years. There's a risk of blindness and amputation if he doesn't take care of himself. And then there's the added fun of shots and finger pricks and trips to the doctor. Read the whole thing. And then, if you can, donate to the team who will be taking the Walk to Cure Diabetes in James's names. The walk is just three days away and they are still $970 short of their goal ($3,000 was the goal, 85% of which goes directly towards finding a cure). In lieu of my usual payday lunch out with the girls today I'll be donating to James's Jaywalkers. Will you join me? Please?


My donation has been made.

Come on, folks - this is a good cause!



The description of diabetes is very misleading - sounds like it was taken from a 1950's medical journal. With modern tools such as insulin pumps, Type I diabetics can lead very normal lives. And that includes the consumption of cake and Halloween candy - in moderation of course. Most doctors and researchers believe that a diabetic that maintains near normal blood sugars long term will have a normal life with minimal complications. I say believes because the tools to do that have only been available for about 15 years - so there is no empirical evidence yet to support the theory.

None of which negates the worthiness of the cause, of course.

Not to quibble, Chris, but James is a brittle diabetic, which means that his blood sugar counts haven't normalized yet. Most diabetics do reach a state of normality, where their careful management pays off and their blood sugar will reside in a normal range. That's not the case with James, unfortunately. Even with careful management, his blood sugar counts can go from extremely high to extremely low---and all of this can happen within the space of an hour or so. He's not eligible for a pump yet because he's too little, and needs too much supervision for such a thing.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it. And I want to thank everyone for their support of James' cause.

That didn't come off sounding right. I apologize. Let me try and rephrase: with James it doesn't feel like we've gotten to the "normal management" phase. My sister still has to watch him like a hawk, and their lives are arrangd completely around James' diabetes, so it still feels really urgent to me, at least. If I overstated, well, I guess it's because I have a hard time pulling back from the immediacy of the problem.

Sorry for replying to my own post...how lame is that? :)

No problem Kathy - but given Michele's traffic, I didn't want 2000 people to get the impression that diabetics are doomed to a life of bland diets and chronic health problems. That is not the case anymore.

I've seen young kids with pumps - maybe not quite as young as 5 - but not much older than that. What age are they recommending to get on the pump?

Those pumps are miracles. As far as what I know about getting James on a pump is that it's a few years out yet. My sister hasn't focused too much on it because of immediate concerns, but what she has said is that he probably wouldn't be eligible for one until he was nine or ten. It very much depends on the individual case. Some kids stabilize more easily than others.

Anyway, thanks for correcting me:) Dialogue is always good.

Kathy's link is pretty slick: clicking on it will take you directly to the JDRF website for her nephew, where you can safely (and anonymously if you want) donate. I just did.

I'm sorry, but there's no such thing as a normal life for a diabetic. When a non-diabetic (henceforth known as the generic "you") is hungry, you eat whatever your lifestyle and dietary preferences dictate. If you want to watch your weight, you restrain yourself. Otherwise, eat that entire large pizza and the quart of ice cream. What's it matter?

A diabetic (aka "I") has to weigh his food options against everything he's already eaten recently, anything he plans to eat later, the kind of exertion he may be going through at the time or in the near future, and fiddling little bits of nutritional information that aren't always printed on the side of a package where he can see it. I have no choice but to maintain my weight, because otherwise my usual dose of insulin is no longer enough for my body mass, so my blood sugar goes up.

You can probably go months without ever puntcuring your skin. I draw blood from my fingertips twice a day, and stab myself in the abdomen just as often with inch-long needles.

If your foot hurts or your eyesight is a little blurry, you probably stepped on something or are overtired. I might be experiencing the early stages of a complication that could lead to amputation or blindness.

If you want to get some exercise, you go running or head to the park to get into a pick-up basketball game. If you don't, you stay home instead. I have to maintain a regular fitness plan so that I can run my heart fast enough long enough to pump a decent amount of blood into all my extremities while monitoring myself to ensure I don't go hypoglycemic and pass out.

You want to go camping for the weekend. You've got the money and the vacation time from your job, so off you go. You just get a friend to water your dog and feed your plants. I have to ensure I have enough of all my supplies to last me the entire trip, plus a buffer. I can't just let the insulin sit around because it only lasts ten days unrefrigerated and denatures if exposed to heat above 80 degrees. I also can't freeze it because that will break the protein chains, ruining it. Not to mention, as a result of one of the drugs I take to counteract pain from nerve damage I incurred before discovering I was diabetic, I can't stay out in the sun very long. In short, I can't go.

Diabetes affects everything I do, every decision I make regarding my waking, sleeping, eating, working, and relaxing. I live on a timer. If civilzation ends, I live maybe two to five more weeks, depending on the timing. I expect to die in my 60's. And I'm one of the good diabetics. My A1C has never been above 5.4.

So, I don't think it's accurate to say diabetics can live a normal life. At best, we can live a simulation of one, an approximation where everything seems normal as long as you aren't the one living through it.

Sorry for taking so long to say that. It just sorta has to come out once in a while.

Very good description, David. I would only add that when you mentioned exercise, there is a caution to the other side too. My 8 year old stepson has to check his blood sugar every day before P.E. He does his insulin in the morning before school, and if he was unusually active during the morning classes OR he eats a lighter than usual lunch OR the planets are aligned wrong his blood sugar before P.E. will be low. If that is the case, he HAS to eat a snack. Now, explain to all the other 8 year olds why he gets a snack and they don't? If he forgets to check, and the exercise pushes his blood sugar too low, he could end up in a coma. Luckily, his legs get wobbly long before that and he's smart enough to stop.
Yeah, at it's best, diabetic life is far, far from normal.