Health care is a basic human right, not a privilege. For some reason, we’ve allowed ourselves as Americans to be fooled into accepting that one must be blessed with “means” to actuate appropriate health care. As a nation we have failed to realize that our health care system is a barometer of our society’s value for human life.

-Me

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Finding Peace with Diabetes (a Three Year Old’s Perspective)

What does having diabetes mean to a three year old? How does a three year old deal with a new diabetes diagnosis?

As a 28 year old diagnosed at age thirteen, I can tell you what diabetes meant to me at that age and how I dealt with it. Diabetes meant that I would have to have a series of pokes (daily). Diabetes meant that I would be on the same turf as my mom, and I would start taking insulin shots. Diabetes meant that nothing would ever be the same. I dealt with the diagnosis by learning more about it. I read books. I asked my mom a LOT of questions. I pouted some. I asked my doctor questions, and I pouted and cried some more. I then threw myself into my treatment, working hard to eat according to my exchange diet (haha! Remember those?), take my insulin as prescribed, and record record record.

Looking back, diabetes meant that I was going to have to be poked a lot. I dealt with this by grieving, and learning more about the disease through research and asking questions. I dealt with my new diagnosis also by taking control of what I could, and managing my disease as best as I could.

How would a three year old do this?

You can ask Gracie this today, and she will tell you: “Diabeedees means I get to get poked in my fingers and my bottom.” So, well, that’s pretty much the same eh?

What about the coping skills of a three year old? How does she grieve? How does she learn about it? How does she take control of her situation and her diabetes?

That’s a tall task for any three year old! I think about this and even I feel overwhelmed. It must be so confusing for my little Gracie! All of the sudden, after some loud tears from mum, she has to get poked, A LOT! So how does she grieve? I think she cries, and I think she pouts. I think that is okay. How does she learn about it? She learns about it from me, from what I tell her. That is a huge responsibility. I am her sole resource for learning (other than the 1 per 90 day visit at the endo.) Considering how important learning was for me at my diagnosis, being the sole learning resource for a newly diagnosed peanut is a tall task.

Lastly, how does she gain control over a situation that has very few things she can control? She can’t give herself shots. She can’t even draw up the shot. She CAN go get me the insulin bottle. She can pick where she wants to lie on the floor when we give the shot. She CAN put the strip in the meter, and she CAN look at the number and talk with me about it. She has control over these things. But she needs more. How do most three year olds learn? Through PLAY. My daughter needs to be able to act out what is going on in her life. My daughter will get the control she needs through play.

Isn’t that a novel idea? It isn’t all that novel at all, actually. I thought it was, but they have these Child Life Services employees at Children’s Hospital for which control through PLAY is damn near gospel. Today they gave my daughter a Medical Play Bag. Complete with dolly, play syringe (no needle), medical tape, cotton balls, band-aids, alcohol swabs…..You name it, it is in there.

You can not even believe how awesome it is to give the control back to my peanut. It is so scary to be in her world, and she just doesn’t have the tools to really understand. But we can all help her learn, and we can help her find her peace. The peace she can and will only find in play.

5 comments:

Shannon said...

Look at that big mask...how cute, but then so damned sad...ugh.

Brendon was diagnosed at 2 1/2 yrs old and he loved giving us shots with a needless syringe....I think he was a little too shot happy!

He also loved and still loves his Rufus bear that JDRF gave him when he was first diagnosed.

Now at age 6, we let him dose himself with his pump as well as test himself ONLY IF HE WANTS TO. We never ever force him to do it. I want him to feel in control without the pressure of the huge responsibility he'll get once he's on his own.

Your daughter will have a special gift of having a mom who knows EXACTLY what she feels like. You're giving her more than you know.

Scott K. Johnson said...

I think that is a really great idea. Kids do learn through play.

And what a great picture! My heart just melts when I see your kiddos.

Tiffany said...

What an awesome idea; not only is playing a great vehicle for learning, but it also holds the attention of busy kids! :)
Your Gracie is very lucky to have you as a role model!

God, I wouldn't go back to the exchange system for all the money in the world!

Jamie said...

It's amazing to watch them "play" and incorporate Diabetes into it. My kids will play doctor and give their stuffed animals treatment. Even my four year old says "Mr. Monkey has diabetes - he needs a needle." Danielle does the same thing.

I think it shows us that they've, in their own little ways, accepted what has been brought into their lives and are dealing with it on their own terms.

Amazing, really.

julia said...

That's a great idea. O got a Rufus Bear just after her diagnosis (almost aged 3) and she used to give it shots and talk to it. She also got some books about diabetes, and a movie. She wasn't all that interested in any of it until she started going to camp, though. She wanted me to do it all, so I did.

Now, at age 12, she does most of the stuff herself, including putting in her own sites.