How to Save a Life, Part Two

by Elena on November 6, 2011 in Family Relationships

Yesterday, Principessa told her story about how she saved her dad’s life.

Today, I tell the story of watching my seven year old daughter demonstrate something that some adults never even learn. The story of a daughter who now lives each day knowing that she saved her dad’s life. The story of a seven year old who is now constantly worried about her dad, about watching him, about taking care of him, always wondering when the next morning will come when she will need to call the paramedics.

Diabetes is a disease that while when well controlled, can be unnoticeable.  Healthy diabetics lead normal lives, working, playing sports, doing anything and everything they want.

My daughter assumed that her dad was a healthy diabetic.

Living with a Diabetic Family Member | C.MomShe never questioned the candy that he ate, or the energy gels that she saw him take on occasion after having checked his blood.  She never questioned his habits. Until now.

Now she questions everything. She wonders when she sees him taking a gel, if he will spit it out like he did when she tried feeding one to him on that fateful morning.  She wonders if his being silly is just her dad being her dad, or if it is because her dad’s blood sugar level is too low and he cannot help himself.

She watches him out of the corner of her eye. The heaviness of knowing that she saved his life weighs on her seven year old brain.  Her first thoughts about being a hero and deserving to be on TV have been taken over by the new realization that she only lives with her dad every other week–and the question starts to bubble in her brain.  What will happen if she is not there. Who will make the call? Who will save him that time?

Diabetes is a disease that our children need to understand.

Diabetics can lead full and active lives.  Spouses of diabetics usually learn to notice the signs of high or low blood sugar early on. I can always tell if my ex-husband’s sugar is low by his voice.  The repeating of words, the long pauses in conversation.  The truth is, that although I had talked to Principessa in very basic terms about her father’s diabetes, and while I have often thought about what would happen when he was alone….I had never thought about the fact that it might be her one day, with him…..having to take action.

What I thought I had time to teach, is something that needs to be taught explicitly to our children.  Children of diabetic family members need to know what to do. They need to be equipped to deal with the eventuality of calling the paramedics.  They need to understand that there diabetic family member is not being silly or mean when they have these episodes.

But also?

Our children deserve to be children.

Principessa deserved to enjoy her seventh birthday party without watching her dad eat her birthday cake out of the corner of her eye. She deserves to be able to go to sleep without worrying that she will not be able to wake up her dad. She deserves to walk with purpose instead of fear.  And yet, it does not always work that way.

Sometimes our children experience life and learn fear. We can only hope that the fear can teach them courage. And although I wish that they could learn responsibility in another way, sometimes fear can teach them how to respond, how to react, and how to survive.

I spent most of the rest of that day wondering.  Wondering if my ex-husband would heed this as a wake up call to change his habits. Wondering if Principessa would be traumatized by this memory. Wondering how we would ever have moved on had we not been so very lucky on that morning.

So now we move on. We try to learn but not dwell on that morning.  We try to be proactive without being over protective.

I am lucky that I live and work within fifteen minutes of my ex-husband’s house. I am lucky that we taught Principessa how to call us long ago, and that she knows to do it if something does not feel right.

I am lucky. He is lucky.  She is lucky.

And while I hope that she never has to be the hero again, I know that she knows what to do.



November is American Diabetes Month. Learn how you can be involved.


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Jen @ Born Just Right November 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I grew up with a Type 1 mom and saved her life on my own when I was six years old. (I called my neighbors who helped me call an ambulance after I couldn’t get her to drink orange juice as her blood sugar continued to drop.) It changed my perspective of life with her, but it also helped educate me about the importance of how my mom managed her health. It made me a little more mature as a kid… but I don’t think that was a bad thing. I know I’m more aware and I’m so glad it gets easier to manage blood sugar levels… It sure is a lot better than it was 30 years ago!

Elena November 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Absolutely it is better than 30 years ago! Unfortunately my daughter’s dad does not manage his health as well as he should, so this was a reality check. I am all for her being more mature and understanding, but in her case, I worry about her being even more worried since she is only with him every other week due to our divorce.

Jen @ Born Just Right November 6, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Yeah, your concerns are totally valid. Poor thing! I really do hope this is a wake up call that will help her dad learn to pay better attention. Keeping his blood sugar in check will extend his life by years!

Just Jennifer November 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Elena, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today, thank you so much for sharing this story like this. I hope it will help others have a little better understanding of the told diabetes takes on people. I do want to point out, though, that sometimes even those who manage their sugars well will have hiccups. A hypoglycemic episode can happen to ANY insulin-dependent diabetic. And it happening during sleep is very dangerous. My husband checks his sugar and has a snack EVERY NIGHT before he goes to bed. And even still, I’ve had to call 911 in the wee hours of the morning. There’s something that happens to their sugars during the night (I can’t explain exactly what it is). Anyway, thank you, and I may link back to these 2 post from my blog.

Hopes@Staying Afloat! November 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Thank you for spreading such an important message!

Susan @WhyMommy December 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Incredible. You, and her, and this post. Nicely done, my dear. Sometimes it’s hard growing up, isn’t it?

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