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Archive for May, 2013

Rainie’s Been Sick

DSCF0817Rainie’s been sick.  A ‘hot-spot’ had gone awry, blooming into a huge systemic infection.  My rambunctious, energetic, smiling girl had become a small ball of fur with her tail tucked, holding her ears flat, hiding in any small space, lethargic, not following me as she usually does, not wanting to go for walks, and not alerting – just sleeping and watching with those big, brown, questioning eyes.

Finally, she’s coming back to life.  She must be feeling better. Late last night she brought me one of her dolls, and this morning she ‘tossed’ a ball in my direction and scampered to get it after I rolled it across the floor.  And, she’s beginning to alert again.  It’s so nice to have her back!

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(2 days later)  With every day, more of her personality appears.  She’s becoming her true impish self.  This morning I was awakened at 5a.m. with ‘the tigger pounce’.  This is when she wakes me up by jumping on me, thus, letting me know I need to check my blood sugar.  And, of course, she was right.   (My blood sugar was 85.)  Sometimes I feel like I want to be annoyed, being woken up so early; but how can I?  She’s doing her job with a big exuberant smile.

And on our walk, more of a gentle stroll, really, Rainie raised her nose high in the air to smell the breeze.  I could see her nostrils twitching as she caught whatever scent she was zeroing in on.  She slowly followed her nose, turning her head, then body around, until she looked straight at me, bounded to me, and alerted.  Yep, I was dropping.

As I sit here typing, someone with a wagging tail is coquettishly flaunting her favorite ‘stick’ at me, trying to inviting me to play.  Oh, it’s good to have her back!

( If you haven’t met Rainie yet, she is my diabetic alert dog.  She has been trained to identify the metabolic odors a diabetic produces when their blood sugar drops rapidly. ~~~~~~~ And her favorite ‘stick’ is actually a 2-year-old Nylabone chew bone that she carries around with pride and joy.)

Making Magic – Early Alert Canines’ “1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk”

At the starting line EAC's 1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk

At the starting line
EAC’s 1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk

Have you ever had that feeling from deep within that you know you are helping to create something magical?  This feeling truly came to light for me this past Saturday at the Early Alert Canines “1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk” (2 feet, 4 paws, 1 cause!).  About 75 people, escorted by 15 dogs, came together as a community to share their support for EAC, and show their enthusiasm for training diabetic alert dogs.

As we walked around the small lake, admiring the fountain and enjoying the sunshine, we talked.  Here are a few of the stories that were shared with me:

Lalu, a very vocal black lab-golden mix that was teamed with her young (about 6 year-old) partner and her family in April, alerted from across the gym as the little girl’s blood sugar sky-rocketed while she was performing on the uneven parallel bars at a gymnastics event.  This was somewhat embarrassing since Lalu’s vocal volume increases with the intensity of her alerting.

Again, Lalu, who is terrified by water, alerted while her young charge was swimming.  Lalu’s alert for dropping blood sugar is to raise her paw and touch.  As Lalu was alerting, she was walking toward the pool on three legs as she kept her ‘alerting’ paw raised, calling the whole time.

Jedi, was also placed with his new family in April (his young diabetic responsibility is 7). He is the classroom’s favorite ‘visitor’ each day he is bought to work there with his new ‘mom’.  Apparently, all the kids were incredibly disappointed when “Just the Mom!” came on their field trip to the zoo, with no Jedi.  (Bringing a service dog to the zoo might evoke the “pray instincts” in the caged animals.  It is recommended they not be taken to places with wild animals – even caged.)

Both Jedi’s and Lalu’s ‘parents’ expressed how much comfort is having the dogs.  They said there are no words to express what it’s like to have another set of eyes (or nose in this case) looking over their diabetic children.  And the peace of mind knowing they’ll be told about potential problems before a true emergence happens, even if it means being awakened at night, is a great relief.

On a different note, it was great to hear that one of the EAC trainers is making an ‘office-call’ to try to help resolve an alerting issue that is arising at someone’s work.

Even us “old –times” shared stories of our own: my dog, Rainie, alerting me while on the beach; and the quiet assurance provided by Norm to his T1D ‘dad’ who lives alone.  And Jason, is full of stories of how “Eli” alerts him while he’s traveling for work – regardless if it’s on a plane, in a restaurant or hotel, etc. And, yes, Eli even alerts at home and in the car.

It was an incredible honor/pleasure/moment-of-pride for me to see so much participation and enthusiasm for what EAC does.  I want to thank our ‘new recruits’ (dogs in the process of being scent trained), the families fostering them, the newly placed teams, the training/office staff, us “old-timers” and everyone else who have ever supported EAC or donated to our fundraiser.  I hope that everyone realizes that you, too, are helping to create some magic.

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Accomplishments Large and Small

Accomplishments Large and Small – Diabetic Blog Week

Blue   The color of diabetes awareness

Blue
The color of diabetes awareness

How often are we given the opportunity to acknowledge our accomplishments, or are actually encouraged to share our pride?  And, how often do we toil to learn a difficult task, one that we should be proud of, just to have it become routine and ho-hum?  For example:  Not many of us remember learning to walk or run, and then stop gracefully – which are all huge feats, if you think about it.  But now walking is routine, and taken for granted, and the effort it took to learn, long forgotten.  I believe, once a habit has become routine, it is human nature to disregard the fact that we had, at one time, accomplished a huge task.  Let’s take today to celebrate where we are, and the path we took to get here.

When I look back at all that I (and my family) have accomplished in terms of living with my diabetes, I can easily become overwhelmed.  Since being diagnosed as a very young infant in the 1950s, these are a few of the skills that I’ve had to practice:

  • Giving (and getting) shots
  • Using Test-tape (we/diabetics used to test our urine to check for sugar.  That was the only way we kind-of guestimate what our blood sugar  was.)
  • Performing and interpreting finger-stick blood sugar testing
  • Adapting to constantly changing eating regimens, and personal likes and dislikes
  • Learning how to count carbs
  •  Learning about different types of insulin and when they peak and valley
  • Learning how to juggle diet (with insulin), exercise (with insulin), emotions and stress (with insulin) – all a work-in-progress, while…
  • Constantly figuring out how to correct my ‘mistakes’ when I over eat or give/get too little/too little insulin or when my blood sugar doesn’t like the color of my sox (or something), etc.
  • Mastering (sort-of) the pump, dealing with depression, dealing with complications –  for me it’s happening mostly in my eyes
  • Finding other diabetics to talk to, and
  • Getting a diabetic alert dog

Wow!  Those are a lot of skills, and confronting each one deserves a moment of pride, if not a medal.

However, today’s topic for Diabetes Blog Week is to discuss my biggest accomplishment.  This one is easy!  My biggest accomplishment is that I am no longer ashamed that I am diabetic, and that I am no longer bashful about telling people that I have diabetes.  For this momentous step forward, I can thank my diabetic alert dog, “Rainie”.

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As a young child I was taught to hide my diabetes at all costs.  I was taught that it was shameful and something not to be shared.  I grew to be a self-reliant “chronic child,” never asking for help, even when I needed it badly.  Despite desperately wanting to go, I was not allowed to go to Diabetic Camp.  My parents wanted me to think of myself as a ‘normal child’; but instead, I felt felt very isolated, defective and alone.  Unfortunately, I sub-consciously kept these beliefs about myself throughout college and nursing school – even after I’d specialized in diabetes.  It was only after getting married that I learned I could ask someone (my husband) for help – he loved me even though I had diabetes!

This was when I began realizing that I have diabetes and I’m ok!

I continued to evolve and open up about who I am.  In 2010 I decided to apply for a diabetic alert dog.  One of the ‘things’ we were warned about is that when you have a service dog’s leash in your hand, people will ask very personal and inappropriate questions: “What is your dog for?,” or “What’s wrong with you?” or many other questions like that.  With a service dog, it’s more difficult to ‘hide’ the fact that you are different.

Happily, I’ve learned to take these questions in stride.  In fact, when people ask me about Rainie and what she does, I’ll usually say, “This is Rainie.  She is a diabetic alert dog and smells for changes in my blood sugar.  I am diabetic.”  From here, the conversation can turn towards Rainie and diabetic alert dogs, or toward diabetes.  It usually turns toward Rainie.  It’s funny because not too long ago, my daughter mentioned that she couldn’t believe how easily I admit to being diabetic.  “Mama,” she said, “It’s not like you.  You’ve changed.”

I’ve been teaching about diabetes to patients, families and groups for years; and finally, after over 55 years of living with ‘type 1’, I’m finding I can proudly say, “Yes.  I have diabetes.”  And I’m glad I finally can.

I have diabetes and I’m ok!

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Blog Week: Memories

Diabetes Blog Week, “Memories”

Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere…. your or your loved one’s diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share.~~~~~~~

Me  at about 3 years old

Me
at about 3 years old

 Since I have had diabetes my entire life, I have many memories to choose from.  I am going to pick a positive memory from ‘way back on “Memory Lane”…’  This is what I remember as a young child (age 4-ish) in 1961:

I remember my dad coming home one evening, after checking on his patients in the hospital.  He said he had something in his pocket to show me.  Like any little girl waiting for ‘one of those gifts Daddy brings home from a long trip’, I danced around in anticipation.  We went into the kitchen where my “mommy” was feeding my baby sister.  The kitchen was darkening in the late afternoon as my dad pulled two chairs up to the small table.  As I crawled up on mine, perching on my knees, my dad unfolded a clean towel and placed it on the table.  He then took one of my glass syringes, and laid it out.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  I had already had my ‘shot’ for the day; and my mom was getting upset because she had just finished laboriously boiling/sterilizing my two glass syringes, as well as re-sharpening the syringe needles.  (I was always fascinated as she drew the needles across a cotton ball to check for barbs, then would meticulously sharpened them on a special dark-gray stone.  These, too, were put in the pot with the syringes to be sterilized.   Since they were hand-made, the plungers had to be paired to the correct syringe barrel by matched the numbers etched into the glass – it was quite an ordeal.)

My dad then placed a large paper envelope next to the glass syringe.  He had brought home two of the first disposable syringes.  This was not quite the sort of gift I expected, but my dad was excited, and, therefore, so was I.  We peeled the envelope open, and there was a thin, plastic syringe with the needle already attached!  It was so much smaller than the glass ones I had.  He showed me how to pull the cap off – the needle was so sharp and thin!  I was excited!  My shots had always been the most traumatic time of the day – they hurt, they were big, and the skin on my legs was already bumpy and forming scar tissue. (Only later did we learn that I was allergic to the beef  the insulin was made of in those days.  And, even though the ‘new disposables’ were much smaller than the clunky glass ones, they were still much bigger than today’s.  In those days, the insulin was U40 – 40 units per cc, where today, the insulin is U100, or 100 units per cc.)

The next morning I got to use the other new syringe.  I don’t know if it truly felt better; or if it felt better because I wanted it to.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the disposables for a couple more years because they were too expensive – 19¢ a piece.  I was too young to know the value of 19¢, but I do know that using the disposable syringes was something I looked forward to.

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I had originally intended my blog, “RainieAndMe,” to explore my life and experiences with a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD).   However, during the Diabetic Blog Weeks, I will muse about my life and experiences as a diabetic.

 

Diabetes Blog Week: What Would You LIke Your Endocrinologist to Know?

I had originally intended my blog, “RainieAndMe,” to explore my life and experiences with a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD).   However, during Diabetes Blog Week, I will write about  my life and experiences as a diabetic.

Diabetic Blog Week: “Often our health care team only sees us for about 15 minutes several times a year, and they might not have a sense of what our lives are really like. Today, let’s pretend our medical team is reading our blogs. What do you wish they could see about your and/or your loved one’s daily life with diabetes?” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Whenever I meet new endocrinologists or diabetic educators, I ask them ,”What made you decide to go into diabetology?”  Truthfully, I’m always hoping their decision was due to a personal experience; however, the answer is usually something like, “Well, it seems like diabetic control is all about math.  If you can just get the math right…  The worst experience I’ve had was meeting an endocrinologist in my town who believes she knows what it’s like to be diabetic because she wore a pump filled with normal saline for one whole week!  She is adamant that she knows what life is like and that insulin control is completely about math – and, therefore, should be completely predictable.  If your blood sugars are out of control, it is your fault!  And, I must admit, that the one time I saw her as a patient, I decided, was one time too many.

What I wish any health care practitioner in the field of diabetes could do is feel what diabetes is like – the mood swings, the fatigue, the food cravings, the frustrations that come along with not feeling good, and the fragility of living with unpredictable blood sugars.  How would they deal with the sense that, at times, they are trudging through each moment, as if walking through physical and psychological mud — decisions are hard, one’s balance is off, nothing seems easy because life is hard when the blood sugar is out of control .  I’d like them to live with the unknowing and the fears – questions like:  Am I going to be able to get home if I go on a long bike ride?, or, Is my blood sugar in a good range so I can confidently take this test?, Am I safe to drive?, or, Will my diabetic child be ok going on a field trip/ to a slumber-party/ or swimming or jumping on a trampoline?, or, Will I/my child/my friend or spouse wake up in the morning?

I think just one week of these experiences would awaken compassion and give our health care providers true insight into our lives.

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Hot Off the Press: EAC’s “The Scentinel”

Hot Off the Press: EAC’s “The Scentinel”

Here is the May 2013 edition of Early Alert Canines‘ “The Scentinel”, a newsletter full of information on diabetes, dogs, and diabetic alert dogs.

There is one correction:  In the section called “Vet Notes” the medication called Capstar should have been Comfortis.  Both are oral flea pills but the Capstar lasts 24 hours and the Comfortis lasts 30 days.

~ Enjoy!