Sometimes change is planned. Sometimes forced upon us and sometimes unexpected. That was the case when my daughter was diagnosed as a type one diabetic. And, as I look back, I think of how that changed the lives of our family.
My wife and I were in our early forties, a typical married couple with our house, mortgage and our seven year old daughter. Being at work most of the day I hadn't noticed the changes in our daughter's behaviour although, I had noticed that she seemed more withdrawn than usual. This my wife and I put down to changes at school and made us think she was being bullied but, after talking with the school, that didn't seem to be the problem.
Our next step was to approach our doctor who gently questioned our daughter to try to find out if there was any ailment but that seemed to lead nowhere. I seem to remember that my daughter was feeling quite low at the time and so a treat at MacDonald's, something we wouldn't normally do but seemed in order. This was something that I was to personally regret when the full extent of what was wrong with her became evident.
A few days later I was due to be very late home from work as the company I worked for had enrolled me on a weekly college training course some fifty miles away from home. As this particular day happened to be the last day before the college and the course would close for Christmas, the attendees had agreed to a bit of a social before breaking for the holiday and the New Year. This evening while I was socialising, unbeknown to me, drama was unfolding back home.
Apparently during that early evening our daughter's well-being had deteriorated and my wife had to call out the doctor. Once he arrived he made a quick diagnosis that my daughter was falling into a diabetic coma and that she needed to be transferred to hospital right away. At this time, mobile phones were not as common as they are now and I was completely unaware that our daughter was being taken to hospital under emergency blue lights ambulance and admitted to the hospital intensive care ward.
As I drove home, knowing nothing of what had transpired I arrived home to find the house in darkness. I went into the house to find a note on the kitchen table from my wife telling me that both her and our daughter were in hospital and I should get there as quick as I could. My stomach churned as I reflected on an evening where I had been socialising while drama unfolded at home. I had never felt so bad for not being there as I drove to the hospital to find out from the reception desk which ward my daughter was in.
Meeting my wife and seeing our daughter in intensive care was worrying and we both were shocked and wondered if we could have done something to avoid this situation. Had we failed as parents? We couldn't help but blame ourselves as we looked back over preceding weeks, perhaps months and could we have done something to avoid this. The doctors and nurses were supportive explaining what had happened and how with support we could make sure our daughter could have a normal life. One thing was certain, life would be different from now on.
Two days later and our daughter had been moved from intensive care into a high dependency unit and while I was able to work, my wife stayed with our daughter as she slowly recovered and began to receive twice daily insulin injections. Gradually our daughter's sugar levels returned to normal and we began to find out about the changes we would find ourselves making to our daily lives.
I remember being told to practise using a syringe to inject our daughter by injecting an orange to get used to the resistance of human skin and to make a quick stab to ensure that the needle went deep enough. Regular blood test using a finger pricker and blood test strips was another procedure that we all had to get used to doing. We would need to do this at least twice a day until our daughter was able and confident enough to do them herself. We also learned about the impact of different carbohydrates, fast acting ones and slower ones. These were so important to balancing the levels of sugar in our daughters' body.
Changes to the family diet and eating at regular intervals eased the learning curve but also knowing what to do should our daughter have a low or high sugar emergency was also very important. These became a regular part of the early days of our daughter’s condition. All this was explained to us while our daughter was still in hospital and happily we got the green light to bring our daughter home in time for Christmas. Armed with the requisite supplies of insulin and syringes, it was a different holiday from the one we had planned. Gone were the tempting chocolates and other sugary temptations and a more restricted menu was the order of the day. Looking back we may have been too cautious but we were all wary as to what we might do or not do as we got to grips with the new regime. So this was a change that was unexpected, unplanned and changed the lives of the whole family. It's something I reflect on as I look today and see our daughter as a healthy woman who is able to manage her sugar levels as if it is an everyday thing that everyone does. But it is not an everyday thing for most people and makes this life-changing experience special and something I'll remember forever.