Friday, April 4, 2008

Seeing the Future

When Thomas was admitted to Children's Hospital almost a year ago, the constant message from the doctors, nurses, social workers, and child life staff was "you can do it." A large team of (very-well paid) cheerleaders, the CH crew made it their goal to drive home the message that life with diabetes was manageable, even swell.

Part of this, I'm sure, is survival on their part. There is a lot that parents (and children) need to absorb in a short time. In order to confer the most basic and important information, and be sure it sticks, the staff needs to focus on it and only it. The checklist is out during every meeting, and the staff is slowly but surely checking off all the requisite skills: drawing up insulin - check; treating a low - check; counting carbs - check; planning a meal - check; and the list goes on an on. There is just not time enough in the three or four days to dwell on anything but the necessary, and in order to do that, they need to keep parents in an up-beat "you can do it" frame of mind.

But even with all the cheerleading, the concerns creep in. At first, my concerns fell into one of two categories - self-centered or Thomas centered. Will we be able to eat out? Will we be able to leave Thomas with a sitter? Will he be able to play at his friend's houses? Will I have to quit my job. The worrying was endless, but it was all about our lives at the time.

Now, though, almost one year later, my worries have grown to those topics that were pointedly avoided at Children's: the life-long complications that diabetes carries with it. Although no doctor has laid the "risks" of type 1 out for us, it has become clear that there is not a part of TJ's body that is not open to the devastation that D can bring with it. Dentist appointments and check-ups - previously a nagging but minor concern - are now at the front of my mind. Diabetes advertisements that were background noise before are now red flags. The ubiquitous "ED" ads that once made me blush now remind me that if, in fact, I don't keep those numbers under control the consequences will resonate in every part of TJ's adult life (even the parts I would otherwise choose not to think about.) "Will he be able to go over a friend's house" has been replaced by "Will he see his grandchildren?"

In reality, none of us can see the future for our children. There are many tragic endings all parents avoid thinking about. Will diabetes ultimately get the better of Thomas, or will there be a cure in 15 years. No one knows. Each high or low number on the meter (heck, each test on the meter) stands as a reminder that we might not be doing enough to keep these complications at bay. But, today, almost one year in, Thomas is a healthy, happy boy who happens to have diabetes. And that is as far into the future as I can see.