With no history of diabetes on either side of our families, you can imagine our shock when in January 2005 our three year old son Ethan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We had noticed he was drinking a lot more and going to the bathroom at least every 30 minutes. He would wake in the morning soaked from head to toe and still have to go before breakfast. We attributed it to a new teacher at daycare because he didn’t want to go to the bathroom in front of her. I headed off to the pediatrician’s office in Gadsden, fully expecting to get antibiotics for a bladder or urinary tract infection. Within a few minutes of entering the exam room, Dr. Goodin came in and explained that Ethan had diabetes. The nurse was already on the phone making arrangements for the doctor to meet us in the ER at Children’s Hospital. The next few hours are quite a blur. I remember having to get my father-in-law to drive us there, getting in touch with my husband at work, his mother waiting on him to get from Ft Payne to Gadsden so she could bring him to us, all the while trying to absorb what we had just learned.
Once Ethan was stabilized, all the parents and grandparents had arrived they put us in a room and the teaching began. We had lots of classes to attend, meetings with Dr. Latif, nurses, dieticians, human resources, etc – they led us on the way to a new version of life. At the time, every piece of information we received seemed as though it would just run together and we wouldn’t be able to comprehend all that we were told. Some of it did take longer to sink in, but the important parts stuck out in front. For someone who was squeamish about needles, I now had to learn how to give my son at least four shots per day – all of sudden that fear didn’t matter because my son’s life depended on me being able to do this. You do what you have to do to keep your child alive.
That weekend was the longest and scariest of our lives. Even though we were together, we had never felt as helpless and alone as we did then. As parents, you have a need to fix your child when they’re sick and we could not fix this. Luckily, by the hospital’s standards, Ethan was in very good health – aside from this new disease we were facing. Still, we were dealt devastating news – something was wrong with our child, even if it can be “controlled”. In the months that followed, in addition to everything we now had to do and change, we went through a sort of grieving process. Although we had our son with us and alive, we had lost the “healthy” child he was. We seemed to go through all the stages of normal grieving, all the why’s, and how’s – but in the end we were here and still a family. We realized that life wasn’t going to be all that bad. With all the devastating options out there, if we had to be given something to deal with this was not too much – it could have been far worse. We will make life normal for us, this is all Ethan will know and the best part is that he’s okay.
This is an ongoing process, four years later we still have good days and bad days, but we just continue to learn from each one. With the help and dedication of us, grandparents, Dr. Latif and his staff, Children’s Hospital, Southeastern Diabetes and diabetes camp – Ethan can and will lead a very normal life, it just takes a little more work and perseverance.
Thank you to everyone along the way so far, and others we have yet to meet for helping us get to where we are now and where we’d like to go in the future.