7/30/10 was supposed to be a great day. It was a Friday, and it was my last day of work before a scheduled vacation. I was off the first week of August to have some fun with the family. On the schedule were a bunch of local trips, including Stella’s first trip to our local water park.

And then all hell broke loose…Back Camera

You see, Stella hadn’t been feeling good for awhile. She was always thirsty. As a matter of fact, I got angry with her because she made a HUGE deal about going to the grocery store and I didn’t have a bottle of water with me. She would finish off a bottle before we left the driveway. And then 2 minutes later I would have to find a place so she could use the restroom. She wet her bed. She was always tired. I thought it was because she was home for the summer and being lazy. We even argued over a lemonade label.

You see, it was the middle of summer vacation. She was in between 1st and 2nd grade, and a new reader. We had 3 different kinds of lemonade mix, so when she asked for one, I asked her which one she wanted. We had regular (a yellow label), pink ( a pink label) and Raspberry (a red label). She said she wanted the middle one. I asked her what the middle on was called. She said it was the red one. I asked her again what the red label was, and to read it to me. I thought I was being sneaky by trying to squeeze some reading in. She insisted it was the red label. This went on for awhile, and we both got upset. I was angry, and she was crying. Can you imagine how shitty I felt, when I discovered a few days later that my baby couldn’t read, and was having trouble seeing because of her high blood sugar going unchecked? And how devastated I was to learn that she was too scared to tell mom and dad?

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I came home that Friday, excited to be on vacation. But life had other plans. We took Stella to ER that night, and had Grandma babysit Dash. I had no idea both Grandma’s would be watching him for the next 4 days. We were supposed to be gearing up for a great, fun week!

My wife knew. And she told me what it was. She knew that Stella was going to be diagnosed with type 1. She had seen her grandfather deal with it when she was younger. And she knew the warning signs. We were lucky, in that we caught it quick. Lightning quick. My daughter’s blood sugar was in the 700’s, not the 1200’s you sometimes hear about. Thank God my wife had an inkling of what it was. We got a jump start. But even though we caught it quickly, she still had the issues with blurry vision. She still lost 6 pounds. She still had to deal with this desperate thirst, like her life depended on it, and the humiliation of wetting her bed, and fear she would wet a car seat. And she thought she was alone… She was 7 years old, frightened, and too scared to tell anyone.

Back CameraIn the ER, they confirmed our worst fear. And that instead of spending our vacation at home, we would be spending in in one of the most expensive resorts in the world, the hospital. My daughter was transferred by ambulance to a Kaiser Sunset, as that is where the weekend PICU is and the weekend Endocrinology staff. The next 3 days were a blur of needles, screaming, mass quantities of information, crying, nutrition, having to pin a 7 year old down while she was thrashing because she didn’t want another shot, feeling very unequipped, ill prepared, and scared. I can’t even IMAGINE what my daughter felt.

4853938948_0708af175c_b 4853474404_40900673a3_bBefore I continue, bookmark this page: Type 1 Warning Signs Print them out. Commit them to memory. Pay attention and look for them. There are tragic horror stories of children that are misdiagnosed with a cold or the flu. Insist on a simple, $1 blood test to rule it out. Please.

My daughter HATED getting shots. As a parent, it was the single hardest thing to not only have to watch, but to actually have to do to our child. It started off with first having to pull our daughter out from whatever she was under, a bed, a desk, a table, then having one of us straddle her chest and pin her arms, and one of us pin her legs to keep her from kicking and getting away. And then giving her a shot in her arm. It was horrifying. And I when I think about that weekend, this is the first image that comes to mind:Back CameraThe pain. The fear. The “why me?”. It’s all there in that picture. And it’s raw. And after 4 days, I still can’t believe they sent us home thinking we were somehow ready to tackle this demon. And with all of this new stuff:4871402767_48240b40a7_b

As we were leaving the hospital, my daughter was crying. My wife pulled her aside and asked her what was wrong, assuming it would be “I’m scared” or “why me?” type of thing. What she said next changed my life forever. She was worried about me. See, I had a heart attack 3 years before. I was a smoker since I was 11, and at the ripe old age of 38, it happened. But I didn’t quit. I tried and failed.

But on that day, as we were taking my baby home from the hospital, after her being diagnosed with type 1, she was crying, telling my wife: “I don’t want daddy to go back to the hospital”. And I knew right then, that I finally had the ammo I needed. My daughter, with all of the devastating, crazy life altering things going on with her, was worried about me. I am absolutely convinced that diabetes, and the love of a beautiful little girl, saved my life. It took 5 more months, but on 1/1/11, I threw out my cigarettes, laced up my running shoes, and never looked back. Thank you Stella. I love you. And I owe you my life.

7/30/10. The day that Type 1 Diabetes moved into our house. It permeated every facet of our lives. Not only did it invade our daughter’s body, it invaded our bathroom, our refrigerator, our closet, our drawers, our cars, backpacks, purses, bathrooms, it became unavoidable. And when she came home on 8/3, we had about 8 days to get ready for school. And we still couldn’t get her out from under the desk.

Enter Raging Waters. One of our planned trips for our vacation was our first trip the local water park. and Stella really wanted to go. She may have been more upset about having to cancel that trip than she was about type 1. But i had a compromise. My wife thought I was crazy. But on Tuesday, exasperated and desperate to make this a little easier, as my daughter was crying and screaming and asking why we couldn’t go to Raging Waters, I told her this: “Honey, when we go, we will need to check your blood sugar. We will also need to eat, meaning I will need to give you a shot. I can’t have you screaming and running away as I chase you with a needle, I will be arrested. But I would consider taking you on 2 conditions. 1. You absolutely need to be able to take the injection, and you need to prove that you can starting now. And 2. That you let us bring our own lunch. We can eat leave it in the car, they will let us come out, eat it and go back in, and I will know exactly what the carbs are”

And that brave little girl said okay. She was willing to try. And she let us give her shots, starting from that day forward. No more screaming, no more hiding. She didn’t enjoy them any more then she did before, bur there was an acceptance, an “okay, I can do this”. That Thursday, we were at Raging Waters. She learned for the first time that her life would need to be different, but that she could still do any and everything. And that we, as a family, were going to make sure of that. To this day, we still go every summer. It is one of my favorite things to do with her, a tradition now, and I will forever be grateful to Raging Waters. We will be going back next week 🙂

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Stella and I, just 6 days after diagnosis, having fun at Raging Waters

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Heading down our first water slide

Now don’t get me wrong. Diabetes is still evil. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I still worry about Stella constantly. We still have scary moments. But through it all, I have watched her blossom. I have watched her take on challenges big and small, with a new found penchant for finishing. She doesn’t quit anymore. She doesn’t give up. She is my hero. She is my benchmark. When I reach mile 20 in a marathon, I look down on my wrist (I write my kids names on my arm before every race) and I remind myself of 2 things. 1. She wouldn’t quit. 2. And I don’t have to go through everyday battling diabetes, I just have to run for another hour.

So where are we now? 3 years later we are surrounded by amazing people. We have an amazing support group of type 1 families, and an amazing organization in Canine Hope that has brought us these wonderful dogs. My daughter is healthy. Happy. We still have our scares. The stomach flu gave us a reality check a year and a half ago. But her dog Major gave us a huge head start before disaster struck.

20111210-IMG_5287 20111211-IMG_4382 20111211-IMG_4394 20111211-IMG_4398 20111211-IMG_4407 20111211-IMG_4405Life with diabetes will always be a guessing game. Everything seems to come out of nowhere with this disease. Just when you might get a little complacent, it rears up and bites you.

I still can’t believe how much she has blossomed since diagnosis. She has run races, competed in triathlons, taken on Marines, and now she is jumping horses. She doesn’t ever think she is different or disadvantaged. She doesn’t know or believe she needs any extra help. She just wants to go. She has a zest for life that is amazing. She is this mad mixture of freight train, bull in a china shop, Spinal Tap at 11, animal lover, and gorgeous little girl all rolled up into 1. She is my hero.

20130119-IMG_7526 20130119-IMG_7584 20130119-IMG_7591 20130728-IMG_1385 20130728-IMG_1366 20130728-IMG_1349 20130720-IMG_0293 20130525-IMG_515420130630-IMG_8577She is my daughter. She is a force to be reckoned with. Don’t feel sorry for her, she doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with her. And she is the face of type 1 diabetes. I love you Stella. Happy Diaversary. Maybe camp will make you a cake. Because everyone knows you can eat cake…

20130525-IMG_5063-EditLove,

Dad

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9 Comments

  1. Johanna DeGidio-Reynolds

    Brings me to tears every time!

  2. Jeez Frank, you’re killing me here! Crying like a baby…boy you can tell a tale, it’s like I can FEEL the experience. But you are right, Stella is one amazing young lady, and with the support of your family and #teamblackdogsrule she’ll continue to flourish and live out-loud!

  3. Simply beautiful.

  4. Thanks for sharing your heart in your blog. My sweet one Hannah was diagnosed with T1D at age 7 on the second day of second grade on 8/21/08. We are in the beginning stages of researching diabetic alert dogs. Your blogs about D.A.D.’s are extremely helpful. Keep them coming.

  5. Beautifully told Frank. I can relate 100%. Diabetes has a way of putting everything into perspective very quickly. Your family (dogs included of course)
    make an awesome team!

  6. Wonderful post Frank. Love you man. I think you left out one HUGE thing in this post. It is YOU! My friend, are a wonderful example for Stella, as well as all the other parents T1 or not. You used this to better your health and life. You are the face of the Parents of Diabetes! You my friend, are a hero. A leader. An advocate. A MAN. You embraced the challenge head on. You stand tall and proud. You are a wonderful example. I am grateful to call you my friend. (For the record, Laurie is an angel. God has blessed you!)

  7. Just when I think I’ve read the best post from you, you post the next one. Awesome.

  8. This is such an amazing story – It brought tears to my eyes. I’m also a type 1 diabetic for 15 years now. We need a cure for our children xxx

  9. Ok, read, absorbed…..and now I have stopped crying long enough to type. I knew I admired your mom. I knew I admired your entire family.

    I guess I just didn’t know how much.

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