Not Found Dead With A Toilet Brush

Seriously I should have paid much closer attention in chemistry class. Ok, I should have paid some attention in chemistry class.

Is it really common knowledge that ammonia and bleach create a toxic gas that can kill? Surely not every single other adult knows this except me, right? Damnit.

So as a substitute teacher I am not actually working so much yet. Ok, I haven’t accepted a single sub job yet this year. All the items on my summer to-do list I had back in June have moved to the fall to-do list. Honestly I didn’t complete a single item on my to-do list. Now that the kids are back in school I am diligently working on my to-do list which includes lots of big organization jobs, but I still have to fit in the typical cleaning house jobs too.

Yesterday morning I was busy scrubbing bathrooms. I was working on the tiny toilet closet on our main floor. It really is basically a closet with a toilet and sink. I squeezed some Clorox toilet bowl cleaner on the inside of the toilet bowl. I only got half way around the bowl before I ran out. I checked the cabinet under the sink, no Clorox cleaner but there was a bottle of Lysol cleaner. I’m not really a fan of Lysol products, I’m unsure why I had Lysol, my husband probably bought it. I thought, ‘well they are both toilet cleaners, just different brands’ so I coated the other side of the bowl with Lysol cleaner. Lysol is more watery and doesn’t cling to the sides of the bowl as nicely as Clorox does. So I watched as the green Clorox cleaner slowly dripped down the sides leaving a nice coat that would clean the bowl and I watched the blue Lysol basically race down the sides leaving very little behind on the sides. I remember thinking it was a good comparison of how each product worked and clearly Clorox was winning.

Then I remembered I hadn’t fed the dogs so I left the toilet closet and fed the dogs and warmed up my coffee.

I returned to the bathroom to scrub the sink, clean the mirror, and wipe down light switches, baseboards, and door handles. As I wiped things my eyes began to sting. I kept blinking in an attempt to clear the irritant. I thought it was the window cleaner I was using on the mirror that was irritating my eyes or maybe the Clorox wipes, although I use the wipes all the time.

I then used the wipes to wipe down the toilet lid, toilet seat, and toilet rim while observing how the Clorox side of the toilet seemed to gleam more than the Lysol side, confirming my belief that Clorox is a superior product. It was then time to scrub the bowl with the brush.

My eyes were still stinging and I felt woozy. It was weird. Still, I scrubbed away, excited about my new toilet brush that really got up under the rim and also looking at the basket of magazines in the basket on the back of the toilet and thinking, ‘why do I put these here, no one reads them in the bathroom, pretty sure my boys watch YouTube on their phones while they pinch one off, I should really have them use some Clorox wipes on their phones.’

I remember standing up and seeing black spots in my peripheral vision and feeling nauseated. The wooziness morphed into a full on disorienting spin and I tipped sideways. Luckily, because the bathroom is a tiny closet, the wall caught me and I saw the toilet bowl swirling in front of me and the green and blue cleaners swirling in the bowl. That is when I realized I was poisoning myself. I flushed the toilet and stumbled from the bathroom heading for my deck.

I fumbled with the door handle before propelling myself out into the rain.

I collapsed into a chair on my deck with my face to the clouds breathing deeply.

I stayed like that for about 15 minutes, unable to stand without feeling dizzy.

When I came in the air seemed thick with toxic fumes. I opened all the windows and went to flush the toilet again and rinse the toilet brush that I had dropped on the floor.

In the minuscule moment between hitting the wall and flushing the toilet I had a vision of my kids returning from school to find me dead on the floor with a toilet brush in my hand. As if that wasn’t enough I realized the chemical reaction would have continued in the small bathroom for hours putting my kids and pets in danger as well.

In case there are a handful of you that also didn’t pay attention in chemistry or who also don’t read warning labels on household products, please note that ammonia and bleach create chloramine vapor which can be deadly. To be safe never combine household cleaners or simply don’t ever clean.

I’m not glad this happened but I’m thankful it was a story I could share with my kids, not that they every clean anything, but in the future they will have to take care of their own home, maybe they will remember my story and not make the same mistake.

I am really grateful I did not become one of the statistics of most household deaths occur in the bathroom.

No, this post had absolutely nothing to do with diabetes, not everything does.

Lost & Low at 4000ft

When you have 3 hours of waiting and nothing to do but pace the floor of the ski patrol office the worst case scenarios are what play through your head.

We moved to Washington state in March of 2014. Prior to that we had not lived in an area that was big on downhill skiing. The boys took some lessons early 2015 in Whistler B.C. Then we took them to Kellogg, ID for New Years 2015/16 where they each got another 2 days of skiing. After that they joined the ski club at their school and got another 6 afternoons of skiing experience in 2016. So far in 2017 they each also have had a half-dozen days of skiing. My youngest is very conservative. My older boy, who has always been fearless and confident, is less conservative.

Earlier this week I loaded up the SUV with the boys and my older sons BFF and headed for Idaho. My husband and my daughter were away on a trip out of the country.

The friend my son invited is a very experienced skier and just an all-around wonderful soul.

We arrived at Silver Mt. Resort early evening Presidents Day.

A bit about Silver Mt. resort.

It is nestled in the foothills of Kellogg Mt. and Wardner Mt. Kellogg’s motto according to wikipedia is “This is the town founded by a jackass and inhabited by his descendants.” I actually love the tiny town of Kellogg, and as you will learn reading this post I owe my son’s life and the life of his BFF to a number of folks who call Kellogg home.

To get to the slops of Silver Mountain one has to take a roughly 30 minute ride up the worlds longest gondola, 3.1 miles, traveling from 2,300 elevation to the mountain house lodge at 5,700ft above sea level. From the mountain house lodge snow-sport enthusiasts can ski down as far as chair four at a base of 4,100ft or ride chairs up to Kellogg peak at 6,300ft and/or Wardner Peak at 6,200ft. Silver Mt. Ski Resort has total vertical terrain of 2,200ft and covers 1,600 skiable acres. There are 77 named runs at Silver mt. Ski Resort ranging from beginner to Expert.

Silver Mountain Resort village is not pictured on this trail map. To have the resort village on the map the map would need to be more than twice this size.

So before I begin my story let me just reiterate that the only way up to the skiable areas is by a gondola ride and it is the only safe way off the mountain. It is not like some ski-in/ski-out resorts. The mountain is covered in dense forest, steep ravines, wolves, creeks, and abandoned mines.

My oldest son and his friend Lucy first day of skiing just before they went down Happy Jack.

Tuesday 2/21, first day of skiing. Some fog and lots of falling snow. The two older teens (my son and his BFF who I will call Lucy) had a wonderful day of skiing with no incidents. The powder was perfect and there were only 400 other souls on the mountain which meant zero lift lines. My younger son didn’t feel like skiing, and I had never put on skis, so he and I enjoyed time at the tubing park just outside the mountain lodge followed by board games and hot beverages in the lodge.

My youngest beating my butt at Gobblet game.

My youngest wanted to return to the hotel room at about 2:30 so he went down the gondola alone while I stayed in the lodge enjoying a few more spiked hot ciders waiting on the older teens. At about 3:45 I went down by the gondola loading area to wait on the teens. The lift chairs close between 3:30 and 3:45 to clear the mountain by 4/4:15. There is no night skiing at Silver Mountain. While I was waiting I showed a photo of my son and his friend from earlier that morning to the female loading people into the gondola cabins. She wasn’t sure if she had seen them. As it approached 4pm I sent an iMessage to my youngest (no cell service at all – only iMessage using wifi) that I was still waiting on his brother. A few moments later he messaged back that his brother and Lucy had just arrived at the room. They went down the gondola without me. They basically forgot I was still waiting on them.

Was sending iMessages to my youngest while I waited on the teens and enjoyed another Happy Captain which is apple cider and captain Morgans. Yum

My youngest asks that you ignore is incorrect use of their.

Upon returning to the room I laid into the teens about leaving me on the mountain. They were apologetic and promised not to do it again.

Morning of Wednesday 2/22. As we were all getting our snow gear on and finishing up breakfast I told my older son that we should invest in walkie talkies for future skiing trips to avoid incidents like the afternoon before. He said I was being weird. When loading the gondola to go up to the slopes the young women who I had shown the kids picture to the previous night gave the teens a bit of ribbing and told them not to leave me again. (If this was a book or a movie this would be considered foreshadowing). In the gondola I emphasized how they are to find me before heading down and we would all go down at 3:30 if they didn’t want to go down earlier. I had a my first ski lesson ever scheduled for 1pm. The older teens were taking my younger boy out skiing on intermediate slopes while I rented my gear. My son and Lucy brought my youngest son back to the mountain lodge at roughly noon because he wanted to watch me in my lesson. My older son said he would come back after my lesson to do a green run with me and he wished me luck. Wednesday was extremely foggy. Like maybe 35-50 feet of visibility.

That was about 12:15pm. If you’ve read this far, thank you. I know this part is like the super slow start to a movie you hope will get good.

Me and my boys after I got my rental gear when my oldest brought my youngest back to mountain lodge before he and Lucy went off skiing again. Note the fog.

Since my lesson wouldn’t start for another 45 minutes my youngest son decided to go down an easy run near the lesson area. I watched him ski off and disappear in the dense fog feeling very proud of him. After 10 minutes I started to worry that he was alone and it was foggy. I started to fret that he would miss a turn and end up on a more difficult slope. I paced in the snow by the lesson area until my trainer showed up. I convinced myself that my youngest would be fine and focused on my lesson. (In the movie version this would be additional foreshadowing)

While waiting I took a feet picture. Just FYI I like feet pictures better when they include sand and sunshine.

My lesson went superb. My trainer, lets call him Bob, said I was a natural. After 3 runs on the bunny slope learning how to make a good wedge, turn, and side step Bob suggested we go down a green slope. My youngest returned from his run about 20 minutes into my lesson and had been encouraging me on the bunny slope. At about 1:40 we set off on a green slope and my youngest tagged along. It was still foggy but the fog was lifting a bit when we set off. I fell once. It wasn’t my fault, I blame my youngest. He kept skiing backward like my trainer to watch me but he kept falling. At one point he fell and I was going a bit fast so I had to turn quick to avoid him and my skis dug into a huge section of fresh powder. I went down in an unnatural way but was not injured. My trainer had to remove my skis for me to get upright since my left leg was pinned under me.

By the time we got to chair 1 the fog was gone and the blue of the sky was the brightest and most beautiful I had ever seen. We reached the mountain lodge and bid farewell to Bob at 2:19. My youngest and I went into the lodge for celebratory
hot cocoa while we waited to see if the older teens showed up to ski with me.

Picture of me and my youngest after our run on the green slope with my trainer. Fog had lifted.

By 2:40 my youngest and I went out to do another easy slope but as I was putting on my skis the binding came off one and I had to get it fixed so my youngest went alone. When he got back my binding was fixed but it was 3pm so we decided to call it a day and returned the rental equipment. We gathered our bags and sat down on a bench in the gondola house to wait for the older teens. My youngest was excited to get down the mountain to go to the indoor wa
ter park. I told him that we weren’t leaving without the teens. He was disappointed but I explained that as a mom I couldn’t leave the mountain without them. He assured me they would be fine and that they probably went down already but I stood my ground. At 3:35 I went outside to look for them and my youngest checked the cafe. Outside the fog had rolled back in with a vengeance. Visibility was extremely low and it was already getting dark with heavy cloud cover.

If this was a movie this is when the ominous music would start.

When I was explaining to my youngest son that as a mom I couldn’t leave the mountain until I knew his brother and Lucy were safe, I was just being a mom and keeping with my word that we would go down together. But as I stepped outside in the fog something strong compelled me to act. A feeling I hadn’t felt since I insisted to my husband who believed my son just had a cold, that I take my youngest to the doctor on Feb 7th of 2007, the day he was diagnosed and would have likely died had I not taken him. Call it a mother’s intuition. Call it guidance from God. Call it a sixth sense. What ever you call it – it is what may have saved my oldest son and Lucy. Alexis Carrel wrote, “Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance: it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality”.  I am not patting myself on my back, I am recognizing that there were larger forces at play that are beyond my understanding.

I flagged down two ski patrollers who had just come off a chair lift. I asked if they had cleared all the runs yet. They confirmed that most runs were cleared and chairs were closing. I mentioned I hadn’t seen my older son and Lucy yet and they were just a few minutes late. The ski patrollers asked me to come to ski patrol to talk about it. I declined and said I’m sure the kids would show up – which was me trying to convince myself that whatever I was feeling, it was wrong. A moment later the head ski patrol guy showed up and I explained to him that the teens hadn’t returned and I was certain they would not have gone down the gondola after the previous days incident. None the less the head ski patrol guy kindly asked my younger son to head down to look for the teens. He also had me show the gondola operator the teens photo so he would stop them if they showed up while I went down to ski patrol.

A number of iMessages I had sent to my oldest son beginning at 2:44pm while my youngest and I were waiting. The arrow was at 3:54pm.

The gondola ride is 30 min. I realized once I was in ski patrol that I hadn’t given my youngest a room key so I sent an iMessage to him that he should go to front desk to get a key. I knew he wouldn’t get the message until he got to the gondola house due to no wifi on the gondola. When we got to the ski patrol office the head ski patrol guy, lets call him Doug, called the resort lobby to inquire if the teens had come in for key and told them my youngest would be coming for a key.

30 minutes past and I didn’t hear from my youngest or the teens. The lobby called up to say that they had a small boy waiting outside the room and could house keeping let him in. House keeping let my youngest son in the room and he confirmed the teens had not been to the room.Meanwhile back on the mountain Doug was asking the ski patrollers to clock back in and started handing out assignments. This is where my brain gets a bit fuzzy because in my head I began to picture worst case scenarios. Doug sent ski patrollers out on various snowmobiles to run the ski boundary and check chair areas. That was at 3:55pm.

More iMessages sent to my missing son still hoping he and his friend would show up at the mountain lodge and get the messages and find me in ski patrol.

By 4:20 the chair lift areas were confirmed clear and there were multiple sleds (snowmobiles) out running the boundary lines.

While patrollers were out running boundary lines I answered Doug’s questions for a report. Birthdays, where did they plan to ski that afternoon (No idea), how experienced are they, have they ever gone out-of-bounds before, what are they wearing, etc. During this time I kept apologizing for the trouble of it all. In between asking me questions Doug’s radio would sound off with one patroller or another updating him on his progress and a new assignment would be given. These guys were extremely efficient and professional and I was nothing short of impressed at the level of calm they all seemed to possess. I remember consciously trying to keep my shit together because a hysterical mom would not have helped the situation. Inside I was a complete basket case, my stomach was turning on me, and my heart felt like it was trying to escape from my chest. It was during this interview that I told Doug that my son had type 1 diabetes. He asked when my son had last eaten and if he had supplies on him. I had no idea when the kids had last eaten since I hadn’t seen them since just after noon. I told Doug that my son had fruit snacks, jelly beans, and a tube of gel frosting on him. Then I made the mistake of looking at my Dexcom share application on my phone. The last time his phone had connected with wifi was when I had seen the teens just after noon. The graph I stared at showed my son with a blood sugar of about 150 going down. No other connection so he hadn’t been back to the mountain lodge since I had seen him.

The scenarios that played through my head at that point included Lucy being injured and my son going for help but going low and thus passing out in the deep snow. The kids going out-of-bounds and falling off a steep slope both being injured with his blood sugar dropping. I think the reason I worried that Lucy had been injured is because if it were my son than Lucy would have come for help.

After the questions I simply paced the ski patrol office, occasionally going outside to vomit or pressing my hands and face against the cold window glass asking in tearful whispers “where are you?”

By 5:00pm my youngest was still not responding to my iMessages. I sent an iMessage to my friend back home and asked her to call the hotel and have them ring the room so she could tell my youngest to turn on wifi. My friend confirmed that his wifi was on but the hotel wifi was down.  Knowing my youngest has diabetes the hotel staff ordered food for him and delivered it to the room. Seriously the lobby staff was really great checking in periodically with my youngest.

5:01

5:13

5:19

5:21

Sometime between 5:00pm and 5:30pm a patroller found two sets of ski tracks heading out-of-bounds. The patroller began following the tracks out-of-bounds. I don’t remember when I had to talk to the sheriff’s department on the phone to provide the same information I provided Doug. But basically once folks go out-of-bounds the search and rescue falls under the sheriff’s jurisdiction. I think I heard Doug telling the sheriff that they had a promising lead and would follow it. I’m not sure if the ski patrol had to get permission from the sheriff’s department to continue the search. Again my brain was all foggy. Either way the sheriff’s department was on stand-by.

At 5:30pm I face-timed the same friend back home because answering questions via iMessage was difficult and I need to talk to someone. I explained the logistics of the mountain, how long they had been gone, and shared how scared I was. It was a comfort to hear a familiar voice and get the reassurances I so desperately needed that the kids would be found. Doug and the couple other men who were in the ski patrol office with me were very kind. They offered me tea, bagels, and coffee, not that I could eat anything, and they updated me on the search efforts. What they didn’t ever say is that the kids would be ok.

After face-timing with my friend back home I face-timed another friend at 5:50. I hesitated slightly before calling him since he was 3 hours ahead and I wasn’t sure if I’d be waking him. When I called he was in bed reading. I explained the situation and basically asked him to call in some favors. See this friend is a priest, and I really needed someone with a direct line. I don’t often ask anyone to pray and to be honest I don’t often pray and when I do it is more of a plea to the universe to provide comfort for those in need, healing for those hurting, strength for those struggling, etc. But at 5:50pm on that Wednesday I needed prayers.

I can’t recall if there was word before I called my priest friend or just after that a set of skis were found. The time seemed to slow to a crawl or almost stop while I paced the floor.

6:04 message to the friend I had been messaging earlier

It was one set of skis found standing upright in the snow with only one set foot prints heading further down the mountain and then back up. Only one set of foot prints and one set of skis? If you were on the mountain you would have likely heard my heart break and my silent scream of terror. Yes it was something, but why one set only? Where is the other child?

That was at 6:04 based on a iMessage I sent my friend back home. Earlier in my face-time call to my friend back home I asked her in a panic when I should contact Lucy’s mom and she suggested I wait a little longer since there was nothing to be done from 300 miles away. I had asked Doug the same question earlier but he had suggested to wait a bit. At this point I wasn’t getting all the updates as they were coming in faster and Doug was busy redirecting search efforts for different patrollers. Another set of skis was found not long after. Deep Breath. Doug took a moment to show me on a computer where the tracks were first spotted and where the skis were found. It was hard to judge the amount of ground covered but it looked like a huge amount of terrain.

Face-time wouldn’t work to call Lucy’s mom so I borrowed a phone from one of the men in the ski patrol office with me. I explained what had been happening and that the patrollers had a good lead and I would update her as soon as I had more information. Lucy’s mom was extremely calm and supportive. Something that was a real God send since I was in panic mode.

Just before 6:19pm ski patrollers heard the kids yelling ‘we are here’. (I should note that I actually have no idea what the kids called out when they heard the patrollers calling for them. They could have yelled ‘help’ but in my head I had the Whos from Horton Hears a Who in my head. It was a safe animated image)

Deep breaths.

I sent an iMessage to Lucy’s mom letting her know that the patrollers could hear the kids responding to the patrollers yelling for them.

I had explained over the phone that the patrollers were following tracks. Lucy’s mom was contacting their cell carrier to ask them to ping Lucy’s phone. The carrier wouldn’t without a warrant from sheriff’s department.

It was another 17 minutes until the patrollers had eyes on the kids since the teens had to hike up to the traverse where the patrollers were with snowmobiles and hot Gatorade. I still had no word on the teens condition but they were able to walk to the snowmobiles.

They were taken by snowmobile to a groomer (huge tracker type machine used to groom ski slopes) and were warming up and making their way back to the mountain house.

The groomer arrived at the mountain house at 7:08pm. The teens were soaked through and cold but otherwise unharmed.

Bad photo because it is a screen shot of a video I tried to take to send to Lucy’s mom so she could see and hear her daughter safe.

The teens gave a statement and explanation to Doug about how they ended up out-of-bounds, what their thought processes were regarding where to hike to, and what their plans were if they hadn’t been found.  He showed them on the computer were they were found and explained the truly dangerous situation they had been in. He impressed on them the seriousness of the situation and how incredibly lucky they were that their ski tracks were found. Doug asked them each for an email with all the details again and asked them to each share what they (the teens) learned from the experience.

The three of us were loaded on the gondola to head down the mountain by 7:30pm. The majority of the ski patrollers had not returned to the mountain house before we were sent down. They were not as lucky as the teens to ride up in a groomer so I couldn’t hug them all like I would have liked to. Between the gondola operators, official ski patrollers, and a mountain of a man who typically works maintenance but also volunteers for ski patrol, there were a dozen souls working to find my son and Lucy and return them safely.

We were in the hotel room a bit after 8pm. The kids took long hot showers and ate large hot meals.

My son’s blood sugar was about 170 before he ate dinner – I forget the exact number. I had not asked him to check his blood sugar when he and Lucy were brought in from the groomer. I hadn’t even asked him to check in the gondola. Honestly diabetes was the last thing on my mind from the moment I knew they were on snowmobiles. My boy and Lucy were safe. They were unharmed. They were on their way to me. Diabetes wasn’t a thought until the boy sat down to eat back in the room.

So what happened?

Due to the extreme fog the teens missed a turn off for a traverse to cut over to chair 4. The run they were on ended on a second traverse just above the boundary line but they didn’t see the signs identifying the boundary lines. They believed they were still on the run. When they realized they had missed the traverse they believed they were still above the boundary line and the second traverse would be just ahead. They had seen a pink flag and thought it was part of the trail. It was in fact part of an old mining route as they were already outside the boundary. By the time they fully realized they were out-of-bounds it was too steep to climb back up. They thought if they heading in the direction they believed chair 4 was, that eventually they would find chair 4. They knew based on the trail map that chair 4 was at 4,100ft and they knew they were at 4,000ft because my son used snapchat to take a picture and scrolled to get the elevation listed on the photo. They had a plan but did not realize just how far away they were from chair 4 or how deep the snow in the dense forrest would be. At times they were hiking in snow that was up to their chests and occasionally pulling each other out of tree wells. Their skis were too heavy and cumbersome to hike and climb with so they decided to ditch them. It was dark by 5:30 but thankfully where they were lost the fog had lifted and stars lit their way. During their time lost they discussed how if they got to chair 4 there would be a blankets and a radio they could use to call for help or could just stay the night in the chair house. They weren’t sure if anyone would be looking for them or if they could be found. They believe they went out of bounds around 2:45pm.

Blue circle is the mountain house were gondola arrives on the mountain. Red circle is about the area they went out of bounds and they roughly followed the red line to the X area where they were found.

In the 4 hours before they were found my sons dexcom continued to show him dropping and he consumed 2 pouches of fruit snacks, the tube of frosting, and most his jelly beans. He was saving his remaining two pouches of fruit snacks in case they had to spend the night in the dense terrain or chair house, one for him and one for Lucy. They checked their phones periodically for service with no luck.

Based on his Dexcom graph it doesn’t look like his blood sugar ever went below 70 while they were lost. He did not take an actual blood sugar with his meter while they were lost but said he felt low often and didn’t trust his Dexcom was keeping up with his numbers.

My son insists that the hot Gatorade was the best thing he’s ever consumed in his life. I’m fairly certain he only feels that way because he was starving and freezing and it was hot.

This sign hangs both at the bottom of the gondola and the top. Let me just say again how very thankful I am for the Silver Mountain Ski patrol. They truly did go above and beyond (or technically below and beyond) to find, collect and return my son and Lucy to me. I will never truly be able to thank them enough.

Ski patrol rarely, if ever, recovers ditched equipment from the mountain.  Their job is to get people safely off the mountain. So in addition to being forever grateful to the men who rescued the teens and the women who stayed late to operate the gondola to get us and the ski patrollers off the mountain, I am also thankful that the patrollers risked their own safety a second time the following morning to recover the skis the kids ditched.

While I won’t be able to ever fully thank them I did send what I could up the mountain on Thursday Morning. Gift cards to the local grocery store, hand written thank you notes from the teens to each person involved in the rescue and an appropriate treat. *upon returning home Lucy’s mom was very generous and reimbursed me for half the cost of the gift cards.

So over a late breakfast at the Morning Star lodge restaurant the teens shared more about their ordeal. During their hike they discussed how if their story ever became a movie the writers would ruin it by adding a bit of romance into the story and would also likely add injuries or other drama. They also said they thought they kept hearing planes overhead but I explained that the sounds they would occasionally hear were likely snowmobiles searching the boundaries. We also discussed all the real dangers the teens could have faced while out there including, wolf packs that roam the mountain after dark and the risk of avalanches. I think I began a number of sentences to them with the words, “you could have died…”

Lessons learned include:

  • Staying in one place once you realize you are lost.
  • Suspending or disconnected the insulin pump to help avoid the low blood sugars.
  • If you feel compelled to hike, leave a trail by maybe ditching equipment in separate areas to help rescue teams know the direction you are headed.
  • Always be sure other members of your party who are not skiing with you know which areas you plan to ski.
  • If you don’t know the mountain and visibility is limited ski conservatively.

 

In the 3.5 hours between when the kids didn’t show up at 3:30 and when they climbed out of the groomer a bit after 7pm I aged at least 10 years. I vomited 3 times. I made a number of promises to the universe and to God. I pleaded with the mountain and the forrest to keep my son and Lucy safe. I cried. I silently screamed (I was carful to not actually scream because I was experiencing extreme fear of avalanches.) I prayed for the safety of the ski patrollers out searching. I apologized repeatadly to Doug and the other men in the ski patrol office for all the trouble. I saw visions of my oldest son from the day he was born through that afternoon in my head on repeat. I whispered the words ‘please be safe’ well over a hundred times.

Luck was with the kids and the patrollers. Finding their ski tracks was a huge break. But luck alone didn’t save the kids. The keen eyes, dedication, experience, courage, and selflessness of the ski patrollers and mountain staff saved the kids, but I don’t believe they worked alone.

Last photo before we left Silver Mountain Resort for home. I love these two crazy teens. Again so thankful for Ski Patrol and Silver Mountain staff.

Have Fun.

Play Hard.

Carry Glucose.

A community United

For the love of all things –  stop trying to wage war on each other.

Ok that may be a bit dramatic.

It also doesn’t apply to most of my friends.

But seriously no type of diabetes is easier or more difficult than another.

No one asks for any type of diabetes and no one causes their diabetes regardless of type.

I’m not a scientist. I’m not a medical professional. I’m a coffee drinking, Doctor Who watching, lover of all things chocolate, that has no real education in diabetes aside from raising three kids with diabetes and having hundreds of friends with various types of diabetes, but I’ve been around the block. I’ve read a bazillion (slight exaggeration for effect) articles and even watched a TED talk or two and I’ve learned that new thinking suggests that Type 2 diabetes isn’t caused by obesity, can’t be cured, and has never in the history of the universe been caused by the person inflicted with it.

I don’t need a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo (I actually really love scientific stuff) to recognize that there are countless people who are fit, eat healthy, and exercise that are still diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – they don’t fit what diet companies and mass media has portrayed as the stereotypically mold of people with Type 2 diabetes. Then there are huge numbers of people who are over weight, some considered obese, who have never developed diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the ultimate post hoc fallacy. (look it up or watch The West Wing – that’s where I learned what Post Hoc Ergo Proctor Hoc means).

A number of smart people are saying that Type 2 diabetes has a genetic component. That a person who is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was very likely experiencing insulin resistance for many years prior to a diabetes diagnosis. Insulin resistance itself causes weight gain. There for, obesity or excess weight is not the cause of diabetes, it is a symptom of an underlying condition that may have been present all the time. The added weight over taxes the pancreas which can then lead to a full diagnosis, but losing the weight, while possibly reducing the need for medications including insulin, will not cure the insulin resistance – a person with insulin resistance will always be at risk for weight gain and a re-diagnosis of diabetes – so there really is no reversing diabetes in reality.

I get that parents with young kids and many newly diagnosed people with Type 1 become exasperated by the lack of public knowledge between different types of diabetes. It is human to take the overall general ignorance personally. I know this because for a brief time after my youngest son was diagnosed I was one of them. I think had there been a petition to change the name of Type 1 diabetes to something that couldn’t be confused with Type 2 diabetes I would have signed it. After a few months I realized my anger was displaced. I wasn’t really angry at the ignorance and confusing names, I was just fucking angry at diabetes and I couldn’t take it away from my son. In my fear of being unable to do anything I thought changing the name would be something. It isn’t something and it won’t cure diabetes. Calling out one type of diabetes as ‘not a choice’ while saying the other ‘is a choice’ or can be prevented, divides a community. A community of people who all face the same complications, the same or very similar frustrations over food choices, cost of medications, inexperienced physicians, and the never-ending media clusterfuck that is diabetes education for the masses.

If you want to make a difference in how the general public understands diabetes then speak up and educate but please don’t do it at the expense of another type of diabetes. United as a community we are stronger and we need everyone in the game working toward the same goals, to end diabetes, to improve health care, to push innovation, and to stop stigmatization.

I had scribbled all these unfiltered thoughts here. Then I was reminded of a post a smarter much better looking person wrote about a year and a half ago and I was going to delete all my scribbles. She said I should still share them but I’m sharing her post below because it says more and doesn’t call science ‘mumbo jumbo’. She actually uses real numbers too.

Click HERE to read a A House Divided.

 

 

 

Primum Non Nocere

25943840033_ee6b1ba12a_o.gif” title=When we embark into the realm of social media we leave ourselves vulnerable to the harbingers of doom as well as to other more sinister types of people.

Harbingers are not to be confused with trolls – folks who intentionally set out to cause disruption and chaos.

Harbingers are not charlatans – folks who claim to have special knowledge who pander to people’s fears and hopes with snake oil.

Harbingers are not the catfish – folks who falsely represent a person or group to gain trust but have malicious intent.

The harbingers of doom are the folks who criticize others regarding managing diabetes, chastise others for mental health concerns, are always negative, focus on all that could go wrong, and never what has gone right.

Today is day one of Diabetes Blog Week. A week of focused blogging started seven years ago by Karen of Bitter-Sweet.

Today’s blog week prompt is Message Monday.

Some might think that my favorite diabetes message is the motto I stole from Nike (maybe? I never could find who coined the phrase) “It Never Gets Easier, You Get Better”. Recently I read somewhere –  I can’t recall where, a new version of the phrase, “It Never Gets Easier, You Get Stronger” < that is way better than the version I originally stole.

But today my favorite message regarding diabetes advocacy online and in real life is:

First, Do No Harm.

When we start writing, sharing, posting, commenting, and communicating with others about diabetes it is imperative we understand how our words can affect the lives of others.

My kids use specific insulin pumps. I do not criticize those who choose different pumps, especially right now when #choicematters and #mypumpmychoice.

My kids have A1Cs slightly above recommended guidelines but they are decent (their A1Cs – not my kids – although my kids are pretty awesome too when I don’t want to throttle them) and they work hard to maintain them. I don’t brag about them and I don’t berate others for having a less than stellar A1C. Diabetes is really ducking hard.

I don’t watch my kids blood sugars live via Dexcom or NightScout. They occasionally wear the Dexcom G5 when they will be away for long periods or I will be away. Mostly for my piece of mind. I know there are parents who watch CGM graphs for their child throughout the day and night. Those parents are doing what works for them and their child. I don’t judge them and hopefully they don’t judge me.

My kids eat a ton of crap. I don’t put many restrictions on edibles. If their blood sugars are below 180 and they want a sweet, chips, or other crap food then have at it. Honestly trying to micromanage my kids crap intake was futile. They are teens. They have opportunities to buy crap everyday without my knowledge. I wish they didn’t, but they do and punishing them does not instill in them a desire to eat healthier. I do not critique the diets of other children or adults with diabetes. Not my body, not my business.

For the most part I see good in the community. I see support and empathy and sharing of knowledge. Occasionally I see things that are hurtful or harmful. Sadly much of the hurtful and harmful remarks or posts come from the newly diagnosed or parents of the newly diagnosed. The ones who are still struggling with identifying with diabetes as a whole instead of putting a box around certain types of diabetes and in the process alienating those with a different type than themselves or those they love. I get it. I was there. It was a long time ago. A time before I was part of the diabetes community, before I fell in love with the hearts and souls of people with all types of diabetes in all walks of life. There is a learning curve – not just in managing diabetes but in understanding the community and our place within.

My kids with type 1 diabetes have made me stronger. My friends with all types of diabetes, who use all different tools, different tricks, and are honest about the emotional, psychological, and physical toll diabetes take on the body and soul have made me smarter.

So today my message is First, Do No Harm. 

After that – make noise, raise awareness, be badass, check-bolus-eat, act justly, live honorably, walk humbly, and always love fiercely.

You Are Enough For Me

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What does insecurity cause?

Fear

Anger

Depression

Resentment

I have been insecure with myself for nearly my entire life.

I’ve rarely thought of myself as attractive or smart or funny or worth anyones effort.

Insecurity leads to destructive behaviors and poor decisions fueled by fear, anger, depression and resentment.

So my wish for the remainder of 2015 and all the years to come is that my family and my friends always feel they are enough for me.

That may sound odd, maybe even a bit arrogant. That isn’t my intention. I can’t change how others in this world make my children, husband or friends feel, but I can change how I make them feel. I want them to always know that they are enough, that they are my joy, that I am their biggest fan and that they are my world.

I don’t ever want to be the source of their insecurities.

That is a hard wish to fulfill as a mom of 3 children with diabetes.

There are endless questions regarding diabetes.

“Did you bolus?”

“Did you check?”

“What’s your blood sugar?”

“Do you have fast carbohydrates on you?”

“Why are you so high?”

“How much insulin is in your pump?”

“When did you do your last infusion site?”

Those questions can often feel like attacks. They aren’t. They are just questions.

The hardest part is those questions are asked daily often to different children at different times, but that doesn’t matter since the other children hear the questions all the time. It is an almost endless narrative.

I don’t want it to be their internal narrative.

Diabetes is hard. It is constant. I want it to be nothing more than white noise.

Feeling like you are enough is a powerful thing. Feeling like you make a difference in the lives of others gives you strength and motivates you to do more while knowing you don’t need to. Feeling unconditional love encourages us to love ourselves.

I don’t ever want my kids to think they aren’t enough and I’ll be damned if I let diabetes get in the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Spare a few Dollars? My Blood Sugar Is Low.

Yesterday I took my daughter and 3 friends into Seattle for a concert.

The concert was scheduled to begin at 8pm. It was general admission seating and a sold-out show. That meant lining up outside the venue hours before the show in order to get a good seat.

Of course it’s December in Seattle which meant constant rain and wind gusts.

We got into the city at 4pm and I got the kids settled outside the venue in the line with water-resistant blankets, ponchos and hot chocolate.

My daughter had put on the Dexcom G5 CGM (continuous glucose monitor) sensor a few hours before and was able to monitor her blood sugar via her iPhone. Thanks Dexcom – what a great advancement in diabetes care!

There was construction happening on the bridge connecting the Eastside with Seattle and I had no intentions of having to sit through the traffic so rather than dropping the kids and returning home I hung out at a shopping mall, had dinner, took in a movie and relaxed in Barnes and Nobel with a coffee and a book.

After a enjoying a salad and some crab fritters in the mall I ventured out onto the Seattle sidewalks to get some shopping done.

Among the many holiday shoppers, families visiting the Nordstrom Santa and riding the carousel, there were many homeless souls holding signs, playing music, and huddled under overhangs for a brief respite from the rain.

I always try to have a few dollars in my outer pockets for those in need. I gave out $7 in my first excursion from the indoor shopping center.

I put the few items I purchased in my van in the parking garage and went to check on the kids. They had been out in the weather for a bit over 2 hours at that point. The so-called ‘water resistant’ blankets were soaked through. The venue doors were due to open in 30 minutes so I collected the sopping wet blankets, gave some reminders to the kids to not accept any food or drink from strangers, always stay together and locate emergency exits before taking their seats.

I avoided asking my daughter about her blood sugar. She had it covered and I wanted her to know I trusted her to manage her diabetes. Still wish I would have asked her to ‘share’ her CGM info via the cloud but alas – she is such an independent soul.

I put the sopping wet blankets in the van and headed up to the theater to watch a movie.

I was actually extremely excited I was going to have the package of Red Vines completely to myself.

I saw the Tom Hanks movie. It was decent albeit a little slow.

After the movie I returned to Barnes and Nobel and purchased a latte from the cafe. The rest of the mall was closed.

It was 9:30pm. The concert only began 1.5 hours earlier and there were two opening acts. I knew it would likely be 10:30 or even 11pm before the concert ended (concert didn’t end until nearly 11:30 btw). Despite the mall being closed the streets were still alive with pedestrians and shoppers enjoying deals at businesses outside the mall.

I meandered up and down the avenue window shopping and people watching. I had finished my coffee but was thirsty due to the copious amounts of popcorn I had enjoyed with my Red Vines. There was a small market open about a block up. I set off to get a soft drink. As I waited for my turn at the cross walk an older black man approached me.

He had a backpack and a number of coats on. He walked with a limp and wore a baseball cap. His beard was graying but well-trimmed. He was an average height with a slight build. His face was friendly but worn.

“Excuse me, I’m a homeless veteran. My blood sugar is low and I was hoping you could help me get some food.”

He had large clear dark brown eyes. I can’t remember if he wore glasses. Weird I would forget if I had to look through glasses to see those bright eyes but I just can’t quite remember. He spoke confidently but with humility. I could sense he didn’t like asking for help but also recognized he needed help.

“I’m sorry, I’ve given out all my cash.”

Pause

“But I’m heading up to that market. If you wait here I will come back.”

He walked beside me, other pedestrians parting or moving aside for us as we walked.

I asked him which branch of the service her served in.

Army.

He had served for 28 years. He told me of his various deployments, his job in the army when stateside, and the hostile engagement that left him with shrapnel in his right leg and cost him his career in the service. He was given good medical care when he returned from deployment, including rehabilitation services. He still has a good deal of pain. The pain and PTSD lead to substance abuse and ultimately left him homeless at times or struggling to stay a float at other times. He was receiving VA disability assistance due to his combat injuries but he said the government reclassified his disability and reduced his benefits in September. He said the same has happened to many of his VA friends. He still receives medical services at the VA clinic but it can be 3-4 months before he can be seen. He said despite his past substance abuse he had been sober for a long time now. I don’t know what a ‘long time’ is but I remembered thinking – living on the streets, having to ask strangers for help, not knowing where meals would come from or how long his medications would last – to me I would think a day would be a long time. I believed it had been much longer than that for him.

I went into the market alone and purchased my soft drink and took $20 cash back.

I returned to the gentleman and handed him the cash. Instead of walking off he walked me back to Barnes and Nobel. There was a dinner buffet place he planed to go to around the corner.

On the way back I asked him how he was feeling. Was he taking insulin?

I had remembered how he said he felt a low blood sugar. He said he was ok and going to eat. He didn’t take insulin, he used Metformin (an oral medication used by many people with Type 2 diabetes that can help manage blood sugars when used with meal planning). I didn’t ask anything more about his diabetes.

The remainder of the block we chatted about how so many Veterans are forgotten after returning from deployment with service related injuries causing them to be medically discharged. How he wishes more can be done to take care of the soldiers that return home but are less than what they were when they left. I could see so much in this mans eyes. Pain and pride and hope.

Before we parted he held out his hand. A thin yet strong hand with calloused fingers and trimmed nails. He said his name was Kevin. I shook his hand and told him I was Tina. I thanked him for his service to our country and said what a pleasure it was passing the time with him. He did the same and continued walking.

After he left I pondered why this man chose me in the huddle of folks waiting for the cross walk. I hadn’t made eye-contact until he addressed me. Would I have engaged in a conversation with him had he not said diabetes? Other folks had asked me for money after I had exhausted the $7 in my outer pockets but I had just shaken my head and kept walking mumbling an apology that I was out of cash. Why this man?

I’m not a big believer in religion let alone angels, but if I was, I would have thought I had met one.

He may not have meant to leave me with anything but a hand shake and a smile, but he left more.

He left me with humility and gratitude.

 

 

Elle & Coach

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Back in September I was asked if I would like to receive and review a copy of Elle & Coach by Stefany Shaheen.

Coach is a D.A.D, a diabetes alert dog. Elle is a CWD (child with diabetes).

I responded to the invitation with candor. While I have not been anti-D.A.D. I haven’t been pro-diabetes alert dogs either. I have a couple of friends who had awful experiences with a particular dealer in DADs and I also had some misgivings regarding how having a service animal for diabetes could potentially label the PWD (person with diabetes) as being disabled. Without knowing where Coach came from I shared that I would be happy to read the book and provided that Coach didn’t come from a particular dealer I would be happy to share my thoughts.

I received my copy of Elle & Coach in September. It happen to come on a day I wasn’t scheduled to work and for a few hours I devoured the first half of the story. However, before I started reading I flipped through the book until I came to the chapter that revealed where Coach had come from; the organization that trained Coach was not the dealer I am familiar with so I was happy to invest my time in learning about Elle, her family and her best friend Coach. Life, a new school year, work, and the beginning of the holiday season meant less time to read and write blog posts so here I am a few days into December finally sitting down to share my thoughts about Elle & Coach.

Stefany writes in a way that allows the reader to believe she (Stefany) is sitting at the kitchen table sharing her story over a cup of tea. Stefany begins her story with something anyone who has diabetes or has a child with diabetes can relate to, the diagnosis story. While all diagnosis stories have unique circumstances they are also very similar to each other. Something isn’t right, there is excessive thirst, exhaustion, excessive urination, changes in behavior or attitude and often times the belief that the person about to be diagnosed has a stomach bug or some other minor illness. For parents of children diagnosed one or both parents often just know something isn’t right. Some diagnosis stories coincide with other events such as a family vacation or a holiday while other stories begin on a random weekday and culminate in an extended hospital stay. Regardless of what time of year, the location of the diagnosis, the age of the person diagnosed or other life circumstances of the family, one thing remains the same for all those with a diagnosis story – life changes for everyone involved and a new normal emerges.

As a mother of 3 kids diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes I am no stranger to diagnosis stories and while the two subsequent diagnosis were less eventful than my youngest sons diagnosis (the first child diagnosed) I remember vividly every moment of each. Still the first diagnosis; the one that landed my son in the ER where he lost consciousness, was revived and stayed 5 days in a room in the same hospital wing as children with cancer while his dad and I learned about diabetes and how to keep our 2-year-old alive, is the diagnosis I relived as I read Elle’s diagnosis story. Stefany shares her experiences in the hospital with Elle in a way that allows all readers, regardless of past experiences, to experience the fear, pain and exasperation of learning about diabetes and how to keep a child alive after diagnosis. I tell you this because this book isn’t just a book for people ‘in the know’ to read and relive. It is a book that will allow extended family, friends, neighbors and the general public a better understanding of what it is to manage diabetes. It is never a pity party or a plea for sympathy. It is a story of a brave and clever girl diagnosed with a life long chronic disease that while difficult to manage is manageable and as the reader continues on through the book he/she will understand that diabetes doesn’t restrict what can be done – it just changes how things are done.

Oops – I got ahead of myself, back to the story.

I believe the most powerful moments of each persons life typically begin with “me too”.

I didn’t count the number of ‘me too’ moments in this book but I assure you there are many, including how for parents of cwd and pwd – diabetes is often the last thing we think about before bed and the first thing we think about in the morning. Then there are the daily diabetes reminders and the fear that our questions as parents are seen as nagging. No parent wants to be the nagging parent and we all wonder if we nag too much or not enough. Since I have a fully functional pancreas I can’t speak for pwd but I know as a parent I am constantly asking if I am doing enough, do I have the best tools for my child(ren), do I do too much, will they be safe, etc. I am guessing many adults with diabetes ask the same questions of themselves. Stefany’s questioning of her own support, the tools she and Elle used to manage diabetes and some unique events, lead her to research diabetes alert dogs.

I don’t want to tell you where Elle and her family got Coach. I really want you to read the story for yourself because I don’t want to take away from the moments in the story you will experience the same joy and relief that I did while reading it.

I will say that while I still have concerns regarding diabetes alert dogs being the best option for all pwd or cwd I do feel Coach has been a priceless addition to the Shaheen family.

A pet is a full-time job. Well, maybe not all pets – cats are pretty self-sufficient and I’m pretty sure a fish won’t wake you up in the early morning for a walk, but a dog is a huge commitment. A service dog is an even larger commitment because the dog needs to work. It can’t be a part-time service companion and Elle agrees. If you are considering a diabetes alert dog or any service dog for the many reasons dogs are trained to be service animals, it is another reason to read Elle & Coach.

You can pick up a copy of Elle & Coach at a bookstore near you or order a copy online at Amazon.

You can also read more about Elle & Coach on their Facebook page.

Diabetes is never a one-size-fits-all disease. Every person, every child, diagnosed will have different experiences. There is no magic formula that allows for perfect diabetes management. What worked last year, last month, last week may not work tomorrow. The human body is ever-changing. Our life circumstances are ever-changing. I believe the best way to approach diabetes care is acknowledging the ebb and flow of it all and finding the resources that best fit your family and life. For some that may be a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), for others it may be a huggable, playful companion that has your back. It could also be that having an endless stream of numbers or a pet (service dog) that has to be fed, walked, and with you always may be too much. The point is – everyone is different and the best thing we can do for each other is respect the choices of our brothers and sisters in the diabetes community and beyond.

Act Justly, Live honorably, Walk Humbly and Love Fiercely

 

 

Whack A Mole

When my kids were younger I would take them to Chuck E Cheese often. We lived in Texas and the summers were hot so the days we didn’t hang by the pool we would hang out with the mouse. Yes it was a petri dish of germs. No I didn’t take hand sanitizer, might not have even required the kids to wash hands before eating. A favorite game was always Whack A Mole. All three of my kids loved whacking the mechanical moles and often we would race since there were two games right next to each other. There was something therapeutic about whacking those plastic heads repeatedly always trying to beat the game.

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It is no longer therapeutic. The moles are no longer cute plastic rodents with hard hats and a grin.

The moles are highs and lows, the game never ends and I don’t get any tickets to trade in for trinkets.

Also I am now playing three games at once. Are you imagining me dashing between three arcade machines with a mallet whacking heads? Oh and the mallet – it is always attached to a single machine with a short cord so often I forget which mallet I’m holding and find myself flat on my ass because I tried whacking a mole with the wrong mallet. (giggling yet? It’s ok – I find humor in it too because if I didn’t I’d need to be drunk off the cheap beer)

My kids are 15, 13, and 11. Hormones, puberty, outside play, missed boluses, sports participation, lazy day electronics, lack of any meal schedule, late nights, endless snacking, and more make the whack a blood sugar game all that more difficult.

Yesterday on a FB page for parents of kids with diabetes another mom was waging war on a stubborn high with her 14-year-old son. Multiple highs and multiple corrections with different insulin (MDI) and she and her son likely felt they were using a 19th century flintlock pistol to lay siege on an enemy using 21st century armor. At least that is how I felt between 10pm and now at 6:30am. In the FB feed when she first posted her concerns of repeated highs despite corrections I, like others, had said if it’s a pump it may be a bad site. If it is MDI it may be bad insulin. Any chance the child was sneaking food? This exchange took place long before my 13-year-old returned home from a babysitting gig and learned of his 432.

Of course he isn’t currently wearing his Dexcom so he didn’t realize. He had checked his blood sugar at 7pm and was in the upper 200s. He and the boys he was watching ate pizza (yes part of the issue I’m sure) and he bolused and corrected. I called him a bit before 9 and asked him how he was. He checked BS and was in the 400s. He corrected.  He returned home a bit after 10 and checked, still in the 400s. He corrected again with his pump thinking it was pizza related and went off to bed, well he is a 13-year-old boy and it was a Saturday during the summer so he corrected and went off to veg in front of his Xbox. A bit after 11 I was going to bed and asked him to check again, 512. What? New pump site, new insulin, correction, kisses good night, alarm set for 1am for me. 1am – 355 not a big drop for 2 hours. Another correction. 3am 279. 6:30am 224. Stubborn ass high for sure. A losing battle of Whack A Mole or laying siege to a heavily armored enemy with a flintlock. Either way I am left feeling defeated.

Every person and child with diabetes reacts differently to insulin – oh and there are different brands of insulin that work better in some than others. Teens have raging hormones that seem to taunt the best offensive line of diabetes management.

I think I may have strayed from my original intention of this post which was to describe what it is like trying to help 3 kids of different ages and genders manage diabetes. Different games of Whack A mole – trying to use the same mallet on all three games, etc. It is true – corrections like the ones my middle son completed would have likely corrected my youngest son with little difficulty – less hormones. The corrections would have also corrected my daughter easily on most days. Why is correcting highs in my 13-year-old son more difficult? Perhaps his pump settings such as his correction factor (how much insulin he gets to correct out of range blood sugars) needs adjusting – although we had increased the ratios just a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure this post has any redeeming qualities. I think I was mostly venting. But if you ever feel like you are playing an endless game of Whack A Mole perhaps you will find solace in knowing it is a game we all play at times and if you are a parent of a teen and the game is getting harder, it is normal. I hope you won’t make the same mistakes I have made and accuse your teen of sneaking snacks (although mine really does often sneak snacks but nearly always boluses for them). I have found the less I trust my teen to be doing the right things (how do we define the right things in a teen that wants to be normal?) the more difficult it becomes to help him manage his diabetes. When he is high and I try to help discover why he immediately goes on the defensive. That isn’t helpful to either of us. I have never punished my kids for high blood sugars and I’ve never rewarded them for in-range numbers. I commend them for checking and bolusing but that is about it. Still the temptation, especially towards my middle child, for me to say “what did you eat?” is a strong one. I have said it many times and accusing him (whether I was correct in my assumption or not) has built a wall of defense. I don’t need an additional wall of defense to negotiate while trying to battle the actual blood sugar.

Sigh. 3 kids with diabetes, two teens and one right on their heels.

Thank goodness for coffee, cookie dough ice-cream and the diabetes online community.

Avoiding Getting High At Van Halen

As a parent of children with diabetes I can choose to get angry at the occasional ‘totally avoidable’ mishaps or I can roll with it and try to fix a bad situation without criticism or blame. Sometimes I can navigate the crazy with ease other times I lose all self control and go all ‘Mommy Dearest’ on my kids*. Thankfully yesterday was more of a roll with it day.

Yesterday my daughter and I were heading off with friends to see the first of the Van Halen world tour 2015. The concert venue was just over an hour from my home. Earlier in the day my husbands colleague and his family were visiting for a BBQ. Since it was my husbands colleagues first time visiting I had begun preparing food and picking up the house early in the morning. The visit with the other family was very relaxing and enjoyable. Still with the food prep, house cleaning and then visiting I had left my daughter to prepare for the concert. I had asked her twice between 11am and 4:30pm if her insulin pump was charged and loaded. She said it was all good.

My daughter loaded the van with lawn chairs and blankets for the concert while I enjoyed chatting with my husbands colleague and his wife while the women’s soccer team was kicking butt in Vancouver. (seriously 4 goals in the first maybe 8 min!)

My daughter sat patiently  anxiously waiting for us to leave to collect friends and be off to the concert.

At 4:50pm I asked her again – “do you have an extra infusion set and supplies”.

Daughter: YES!

So we said our goodbyes to our guests, leaving them to watch the remainder of what was surly a fantastic soccer game.

We collected our friends and were off. 45 minutes into the drive the kids spotted a Dairy Queen and requested a stop.

The kids and other chaperoning adult went to DQ while I ran next door to Walgreens for Advil and water then walked over the DQ to meet up with the kids and get a tasty treat.

My daughter was already consuming a blizzard and fries when I arrived and ordered my perfectly shaped vanilla cone.

My daughter follows me out to the van to get her meter so she could check her blood sugar. She is 326. She pulls out her pancreas (insulin pump) to correct the high blood sugar and bolus for her treats.

Then I hear: “ah mom.”

My heart sank. Crap. I know what’s coming – ‘ah mom‘ is never the beginning of ‘you are the best mom ever and I was sure to be fully prepared for our adventure thanks to your reminders and support’.

Her next words: “I thought I had 66 units of insulin but I only have 24 and my pump wants me to take 23”

In my head: #&*@&%!#&@%!#&%*#!#$*@

I look back at Walgreens and say come on.

It is 6:02pm. The pharmacy closed at 6:00pm and the pharmacist high tailed it out of there with lightning speed.

We walk back to DQ. She boluses 13 units. Why 13? – I have no idea.

At DQ I post on a local people with diabetes FB page: “Emergency, anyone in blankety blank or near blankety? Out of insulin on our way to concert in blankety. Need syringe and insulin” If we couldn’t locate insulin and syringes we would be driving back home to get supplies – that would be 45 minutes to the house and then another hour+ back to the concert which would have made us substantially late.

Next I called the diabetes camp director – She knows everyone and if anyone could help it was her. (Volunteering for camp committees has it’s privileges – it is why I had the camp directors cell number – just so any camp families don’t wonder – why don’t I have the camp directors cell phone number?)

Within minutes after sharing our dilemma with the camp director she texted me that she located a family and the mom would be calling me.

Moments later I get the call. The family lives just 3 minutes from DQ.

A quick detour and my daughter had a vial of insulin and a package of syringes.

I am so grateful for all the Facebook comments, the camp director and the wonderful family who provided the insulin and syringes.

Back in the van my daughter drew up the additional 10 units of insulin she needed and injected, leaving the remaining 11 units in her pump to provide basal insulin while at the concert.

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While she was drawing up the insulin and injecting one friend took pictures while all three kids were laughing about ‘shooting up before seeing Van Halen’. I have mixed feelings about the humor but am also so grateful for friends who are supportive of my daughter.

She put the insulin vial and syringes in her bag to take into the concert. At the security check the security guy saw the syringes and was like ‘ahhhh’ and my daughter simply said she needed the needles for her diabetes. Meanwhile our friends were having to remove the caps from their water bottles and leave the caps at the security table – weird.

The concert was good and while the members of Van Halen are old they still put on a decent concert – finishing with Jump.

Watching my daughter and her friends jump as the band played and the lyrics rang out – “when I get up nothing gets me down” I said a little prayer of thanks for insulin, the diabetes online community, a phenomenal camp director and other diabetes families.

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*I have never beat my kids with wire hangers but I have considered wiping them with infusion set tubbing. (not really)

 

Solidarity

I’m not going to get into the details aside from saying a well-known ‘fitness’ company put out a parody graphic equating sugary beverages to diabetes. It was wrong. It was inaccurate. It was insensitive. It perpetuates the misinformation and stigma often related to diabetes. The diabetes online community was quick to react with a combination of anger and education. Sadly the company made the situation worse by suggesting they meant only one type of diabetes, not all types. It was not an apology and honestly made things worse due to increased misinformation and insults. It has also been written about by many much smarter and more articulate than myself. My post isn’t intended to educate people about diabetes, nor is it a call to action to send further tweets, letters, and FB comments to the fitness company. My post is a plea to all people with diabetes and those who love someone with diabetes to stand together.

If you are reading this you are likely already familiar with the large online presence of people with diabetes. While I don’t know the exact percentages of those who participate in the community that have Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes or Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) – it has been suggested that the community is largely made up of people with Type 1 diabetes or parents of children with Type 1 diabetes. I’m not sure I entirely agree since many of those that I hold most dear are people with Type 2 or LADA and I met them via the DOC. Still the majority of the backlash towards the fitness company came from people with Type 1 and parents of children with diabetes and thus were heavily sided toward defending Type 1, sometimes at the expense of those with Type 2 or LADA. (I am ashamed to admit that my first tweet to the company also included a remark that said my 3 kids with Type 1 did not cause their diabetes)

I can’t speak for all parents of CWD but I can say “I’m sorry” to all my friends throughout the community. Again I can’t speak for all but I would be willing to bet the majority of those that only mentioned how Type 1 is not caused by sugar (Including Nick Jonas who told the fitness company to know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2) did not intentionally perpetuate the inaccurate portrayal of sugar causing Type 2 diabetes or that people with Type 2 or LADA caused their own disease.

I know that as a parent of cwd our first instinct is to educate the ignorant companies and individuals who lump all people with diabetes into one category and insinuate that they all caused their own diabetes by an unhealthy diet. For many of us when our child is diagnosed we are hypersensitive to all the general diabetes comments. Our instinct is to defend our children (and ourselves as their parents) against the never-ending misconceptions that we or our kids did something wrong to cause diabetes. That is good – we should be hypersensitive and should advocate and educate but not at the expense of our brothers and sisters in the diabetes world. While advocating and educating please don’t toss one type of diabetes under the bus.

All people with diabetes face the same health concerns, threat of complications, excessive cost burdens for testing supplies and prescriptions. All PWD think about their food choices at every meal and snack. Diabetes is a 24/7/365 disease regardless of the type. Diabetes often effects all members of a family regardless of who in the family has diabetes. PWD can and do all things that people without diabetes can do. People with diabetes come in all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, and fitness levels. We are the same. Standing together will benefit all.

Next time you read something or hear something that is inaccurate such as “sugar equals diabetes” and want to respond please consider leaving out the Type when you educate, and simply say “sugar does Not cause diabetes.”

There are enough opportunities to educate without increasing the misconceptions of any type of diabetes.

No matter your Type – if you have diabetes (or care for someone with diabetes) you’re my type. Solidarity=progress for all.

 

Wordless Wednesday

Yesterday April 1, 2015 was the first day of The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge.

I’m not starting out well for the challenge since I’m a day behind and it’s only day two. The challenge is to write using the 30 prompts provided.

I also avoid selfies. I’m not feeling great about my physical appearance over the last year.

So instead of a selfie, inspired by my daughter’s socks that depict Edvard Munch’s The Scream, I painted what I call a 5 minute masterpiece. (It actually took about 9 minutes)

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The actual prompt for today:

“Since this is the start of HAWMC, post a picture that shows how excited your are for the next 30 days. We always love a good Health Activist Selfie!”

I am excited to participate in The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. I am a bit worried I won’t be able to keep up. Note again how I am already a day behind. Life gets crazy. with three kids with diabetes. I will do my best and try not to berate myself when I don’t meet deadlines. Also – I should note that the title of todays prompt was supposed to be ‘Wordless Wednesday’. I dare you to find one Wordless Wednesday post of mine in the last 3 years that don’t have at least a couple hundred words.

In years past the first day of HAWMC typically asks writers to tell their story or why they write. I haven’t looked ahead so maybe that prompt is in the mix. But for any that don’t know, I write about diabetes (mostly) and our families adventures in navigating life with 3 kids with type 1 diabetes. There are funny times, scary times, angry times and frustrating times. Everyone has something and there are many days I am thankful for my kids it is Type 1 diabetes (if it has to be something). There are more challenging things to have. My interpretation of The Scream is less about how I feel regarding participating in the challenge and more of how I feel about participating in the diabetes word. (not to be confused with the diabetes community). There are simply days when the world seems to move around me while I scream.

Oh and to give you more perspective…

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It is less than 2 square inches – seen above with my Starry Night done back in December.

 

 

The Butterfly Effect

A man allegedly committed felony assault and my daughter ended up in the ER in DKA (diabetes ketoacidosis).

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While this story will in no way be as sexy as the Ashton Kutcher movie The Butterfly Effect you may still want to grab some popcorn and a soft drink because it will likely be long and wordy.

The story begins with a man whom I’ve never met. He allegedly committed an act of felony assault. The man needs to stand trial and so a panel of jurors are needed. My number is called and thus begins a two-day process of selecting the best panel of jurors to decide the fate of the defendant. Day one of the process passes without any issues back on the home front with three kids with diabetes managing themselves while mom is away in the city dutifully participating in our judicial system.

To make it possible for me to attend to my civic duty, my husband agrees to stay home an extra hour in the mornings in order to get the kids off to school on time. Day o1 everyone did exactly as directed. Day 02 dad thought it would be nice to treat the youngest kid to a Starbucks sandwich before school. Sweet of him, right? Well yes, but he made one (almost could have been fatal) mistake – he mentioned Starbucks to my youngest while in ear shot of the oldest. My oldest has a bit of a Starbucks addiction, so of course she sweet talks daddy into taking her as well and then dropping her at school rather than insisting she ride the bus. Shouldn’t be an issue right?

Well lets back up to just 45 minutes prior when I check in with my daughter while she is getting dressed for school. I asked a reasonable question – the same question I asked of all my kids that morning.

“How much insulin do you have in your pump?”

Why did I want to know? Because I was going to be 45 minutes away in a court room with no cell phone. I didn’t want any of the kids to find themselves without insulin. True they all have insulin and pump paraphernalia in their health offices but its easier to be proactive before school.

The boys each had plenty of insulin for the next 48 hours.

My daughter had just 33 units of insulin in her pump. I asked her what her thoughts were. She believed it would be sufficient to last the school day.

Her calculations were based on her typical grab & go breakfast of a banana and granola bar. <<<this is important in the story.

So off I went for day two of Voir Dire. (It sounds super sexy but is a painfully slow but a necessary process in selecting a panel of jurors.)

My husband takes my daughter to get Starbucks and drop her off at school. The youngest chooses to skip Starbucks to instead play on his computer for an additional 30 minutes and then walk himself to the neighbors for a ride to school.

Ahhh Starbucks with your delightfully delicious breakfast sandwiches and steamy creamy sweet beverages of pure bliss. This story wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Breakfast sandwiches and beverages received, my husband dropped my daughter off at school – likely a tad bit after the bell.

Meanwhile in Seattle I am checking in with the bailiff and ordering my own cup of coffee from a machine in the juror pool room.

The potential jurors are called to the court room. In the elevator up I send a group text to the kids reminding them to have a good day and check blood sugars. Then phone silence.

While I was listening to an older gentlemen/potential juror explain to the court that we never actually landed on the moon, my daughter was back in class discovering she had forgotten to bolus for her Starbucks.

Here is where the grab & go breakfast plays a role – she based her daily insulin need calculation on a 30 gram breakfast, 45 gram lunch and daily basal needs. 45 minutes before she left she didn’t know she would get her fix at Starbucks or that her breakfast would actually be closer to 100 grams of carbohydrates. This changed everything. While she woke up with a pretty blood sugar of 124, she was already above 500 when she checked her blood sugar in class. Based on her blood sugar correction factors she barely had enough insulin to correct. That was before lunch.

Now at this time I would like to say my daughter is a teen. She isn’t all consumed with diabetes management. She typically makes good decisions regarding food, insulin dosing, and general diabetes care. Yet she is a teen. She also knows I am in a court room and my phone is off. So she makes a decision that she will likely never make again and it was a learning opportunity. She decided to ration her insulin rather than refill her pump at school.

She decides to take 3/4 of the insulin needed for the blood sugar correction. Thus leaving insulin available for her basal insulin. (I know for those not using an insulin pump or those that have no experience with diabetes some of this may all be mumble jumble – sorry). She eats only 1/3 of a her lunch and uses the last of her insulin. She is still well over 500 at lunch.

When she arrives home she refills her pump with fresh insulin. That was at about 3pm.

I was home but catching a 15 minute cat nap before heading out for a quick birthday celebration with friends. It had been an exhausting day listening to the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney ask the same questions repeatedly. I had been dismissed from the case for reasons not explained to me. (although I have some good ideas as to why)

At 6pm she checks her blood sugar and is now over 600. She decides her pump site has gone bad and replaces the pump site but uses the same infusion site tubbing from the previous site.

I am unaware of most of this. She did tell me she was high and was doing what she needed to do. There was no need for me to ask questions or try to micromanage her. She has done it all before and I was proud she was doing what she needed to do.

She asked for a ride to the talent show at her high school. I obliged.

Two hours later I get a panicked phone call.

“Mom. I need you to come now. I need you to come get me. I feel so sick. I can’t hardly see and my legs are killing me. I need you to come get me now.”

I had been out shopping with the middle kid so we rushed the check out line and sped towards my daughter.

In the car she said “I need to go to the hospital”

We dropped the boy at home, she grabbed some comfy clothes and I grabbed a bucket and a blanket.

She was in the bathroom vomiting. She held a Keto stick that showed massive ketones. (A Keto stick is a strip of paper with a color changing tab that a person with diabetes pees on to check for ketones – I can’t explain it all so if you don’t know – ask) And yes I know a ketone meter is more accurate but tell that to my insurance company would you – thanks.

We rushed to the hospital. The whole ride to the hospital my daughter looked as if she was about to drift out of consciousness. I drove faster. All the while rotating scenarios in which I would get pulled over for speeding while my daughter went into a coma and how I could possibly end up being the most knowledgable person in the ER about DKA. Crap – drive faster.

We arrive and rush into the ER. It was a ghost town thankfully. It takes only 3 minutes to get her checked in and back in a room with a nurse looking for veins in her severely dehydrated arms while another asks questions.

What is her blood sugar? Above 600

Has she vomited? Yes

Do you know if she is positive for ketones? Yes

When was her last dose of insulin? 30 minutes using her brothers pump. 6 units

Is she wearing a pump? Yes but it’s disconnected – we think somethings wrong with it or her site.

Holy crap they speak my language. Amen.

4 attempts and the IV is in.

6 vials of blood are collected

Fluids are descending to hydrate my girl. Another 6 units of insulin is administered.

Heart rate 124

Pulse Ox 69

30 minutes later her color is improving and her heart rate is going down while her pulse ox is going up.

1 hour in and her blood sugar is in the 400s.

Ketones still very large.

Electrolytes improving.

While waiting on the doctor I did exam her insulin pump. There was no insulin coming from the tubbing. There was a smell of insulin coming from where the site tubbing attaches to the pump cartridge. Perhaps it wasn’t attached properly. I removed the old tubbing and replaced it with a set I had brought with. I primed the tubbing until insulin drops dripped from it. I attached it back on my daughter so she would be receiving her basal insulin.

The doctor came in then. He was ending his shift. He suggested once she is more stable we transfer to the children’s hospital in Seattle. It was a longer drive which is why I chose to go to the Swedish hospital only 15 minutes from our home. Plus my daughter is nearly 16 and prefers to be treated as an adult.

I expressed how impressed I was with her care so far and didn’t feel the need at that point to transfer her to children’s hospital. He left to chat with someone at children’s hospital. Then he returned with another doctor replacing him.

The other doctor and I chatted about ketones, hydration, blood sugars, and our prior experiences with DKA.

We didn’t really have any. When my youngest was diagnosed at age 2 he was in DKA because we didn’t even know kids could get diabetes – we thought it was flu-like.

Aside from that, the kids would occasionally have trace ketones if they forgot to dose for a meal but we would always handle it at home. Once when my daughter was 12 she got the flu and we went in to keep her hydrated after a few times vomiting. But she wasn’t in DKA.

After the staff had checked her level of ketones again and noted they were not going down very quickly I asked for crackers and jello. I explained that to get rid of ketones, carbs are also needed. I knew it sounded silly to the nurse but she obliged. My daughter happily ate 4 crackers and some red jello.

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I was impressed with how professional, compassionate and mostly knowledgable the ER staff were regarding DKA.

Still when they hung up the second bag of sodium chloride solution I stepped out to chat with the doctor (not to be confused with The Doctor, the last time lord).

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I questioned him about the possibility of cerebral edema. (I shouldn’t even know those words. I don’t want to know those words. I have not shared a link to explain cerebral edema because I am not qualified to determine which sites contain the most accurate information)

He said he was monitoring things and felt that a second bag would be beneficial and wasn’t concerned about cerebral edema.

I learned about cerebral edema a couple of years back when reading a story of a child lost in the ER because of the aggressive treatment of DKA. I don’t recall the article or any details aside from the idea that aggressive treatment of dehydration combined with aggressive insulin may have resulted in swelling in the brain. I am still not sure there is any consensus on what exactly causes cerebral edema in people (kids especially) during treatment of DKA. There is a whole lot of medical mumble jumble out there that talks about it but much of it goes over my head. I just knew I wanted to ask about the possibilities, especially in an ER that does not specialize in children or DKA.

My daughter fell asleep as the second bag of sodium chloride slowly dripped into her IV while I watched another episode of Doctor Who on my phone. Thank you Hulu.

Each hour a nurse named Don had come in to check her blood sugar. He was gentle and kind and did his best not to wake my daughter.

We had been in the ER for 4 hours thus far. Her blood sugar was still in the 300s. The doctor came in and administered another 4 units of insulin via her IV.  She still had half a bag of fluids to finish off.

Another 2 hours of sleeping for her and The Doctor for me.

When the fluid was finished, her blood sugar was under 200 and her ketones were down to moderate the doctor asked me what I wanted to do. I said “take her home”.

We checked out with her wrapped in the blanket I had brought.

Once home she climbed into bed and I got comfy on the couch to watch more Doctor Who while I waited another hour to check her blood sugar again.

I fell asleep after I checked her at 4am.

On Friday she slept most the day. I napped for a few hours too. She still was showing small ketones throughout the day but they were going down gradually.

It was a scary exhausting night.

As for the Butterfly Effect also referred to as Chaos Theory:

“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”

Would my daughter have ended up in the ER had I not been miles away at the court-house in a court room with my phone off? Would she have called me from school to alert me to her lack of insulin? Would that phone call (had it taken place) stopped the perfect storm of questionable decisions and tech failure? If the defendant hadn’t allegedly committed felony assault would I have still been in a court room? Maybe I would have served on a municipal case involving a red light violation and been done before all the crazy started? Would the chaos have happened if she had boarded the bus with her grab & go breakfast rather than going to Starbucks?

No one can say. My daughter is well and has also learned a life lesson. Better for her to have learned that lesson now when she has a support system to deal with the big issues than when she is an adult on her own without as much support or financial resources. A friend of mine has always said home is a safe place to fail.

Parents – DKA is nothing to shrug off. It is beyond scary how quickly a missed bolus and a few mishaps can escalate into true danger. I know many don’t always check ketones as prescribed by our child’s endo. At least we don’t. Blood sugars fluctuate frequently and a missed meal bolus can usually be corrected within a couple of hours with minimal immediate harm.

Our take-away: If high due to a missed meal/snack bolus – correct by administering insulin. Do the recheck in an hour to be sure the correction bolus is lowering blood sugar. If it is not, trouble shoot other possibilities such as a bad infusion site or bad insulin. Give a second correction preferably by injection to be sure insulin is indeed administered. Then work to fix pump issues. Always plan for emergencies – maybe don’t leave the house with just enough insulin to squeak by with. Check ketones when high for an unknown reason or after staying high despite correction bolus. Be sure someone knows what’s going on other than yourself. My daughter was in a school full of folks who are able and willing to assist her even if she couldn’t contact me. Pride always comes before a fall.

If you actually made it to the end of this post you are a rockstar or need to get out more. But seriously – thank you for reading.

PS.

It was very bright in the room. I tried all the normal white light switches and was able to turn off some small lights but the huge florescent light directly above my daughter wouldn’t turn off. Then I noticed two light switches on the back wall that were red. My daughter told me not to touch them, that they looked important. Was that a dare? 

IMG_5727The large florescent light went out. The hospital continued to function. Plus I had already plugged my phone into the red power outlets labeled “emergency” which were clearly a gateway to my reckless behavior.