,Last year I accompanied my daughter to a birthday party. As the birthday girl was getting ready to cut the cake, I saw another girl in a corner,forlorn and detached. Later on I learnt that it was my friend`s 15 year old daughter Tina. She had Type I diabetes.
Though I knew the family for three years I did not know that they were struggling with Tina`s diabetes since she was five.
My friend asked me not to mention this to anyone as she was not prepared to take the gossip and pity that would follow.
She kept blaming herself for ignoring the early signs. “Few months before her diagnosis I had started noticing things like shakiness before meals and frequent bathroom trips, but the paediatrician dismissed our concerns”. Then the symptoms started to intensify – “Tina developed an insatiable thirst and started wetting her bed frequently, something she hadn’t done since she was a toddler. We sought a second opinion and soon after she was diagnosed and treatment started. She was now on insulin."
Managing Tina`s diabetes required major adjustments for the entire family. “Our routine has changed completely. We don’t have any flexibility anymore. Initially Tina was scared of sleeping or even dozing off for fear of wetting her bed. We had to wake her up in the early hours of the morning everyday to check her blood sugar levels. At least she used to listen to us then, now she’s in her teens and it’s been tough for all of us”.
"Soon began school and that was a whole new challenge. Some days we barely made it to bed without losing it altogether."
"Now, at 15 like most teenagers Tina has a mind of her own and it is a real struggle as far as diet and insulin is concerned. Last week she threatened to inject the whole insulin pen if I didn’t let her stay out late with her friends.”
Tina had become the number one priority at home and everything else took a back seat.
“I’ve developed chronic sleep deprivation from waking up in the middle of the night to check Tina’s blood sugar.” She also suffered periods of anxiety and depression leading to disharmony in the family.
Last summer I was able to convince both her parents and Tina to join a diabetes teen social support network. After meeting other parents with diabetic children, they could discuss their issues facing them and find relevant and practical advice and support from peers. With the help of a diabetes educator, Tina gradually learned to manage her meals and match them with the insulin doses. With counselling, she also learned to manage her daily life without her condition affecting her studies and social life.
I met my friend over coffee today and saw Tina sneakily tucking into a piece of cake “I can be naughty sometimes....”
Tina’s parents are confident that she will be able to be independent and manage her condition on her own.
"Will she have a good career? Can she have children?" Mothers will always be mothers.
Author Pariksha Rao is based in Bengaluru, India. She is an award-winning IDF certified diabetes educator, clinical and sports nutritionist and a lactation expert, with more than a decade of experience across pharmaceuticals, hospitals and research sectors. Having trained over a 1000 paramedics on personalised patient/ consumer care and counselling, Pariksha believes counselling is a holistic approach to achieve long term behaviour modification by setting mutual, achievable, measurable and realistic short term goals.