It was “parents watch day” at my youngest daughter’s dance school and everyone was excited. Every other dance class week, parents drop their kids off and do errands or wait for the hour in the small waiting room; no peek into what was going on inside. But this was the week before the holiday break and as a treat each year; the teachers let the parents in to see just what the kids had learned. My daughter was excited. So were all the other kids.
As we settled into our seats the kids lined up to perform, the mom next to me got a bit, well, restless. I heard her mutter “Uh-oh,” under her breath. And then she said out loud, “she’s gonna blow.” Then she yelled, “Suzy! (or whatever her name was) … run for the trash can!” Sure enough, a heartbeat later, Suzy had ralphed. All over the dance room floor.
The mom was embarrassed, and set Suzy aside and cleaned up the sickness herself. She looked around the room at other parents (we who were thinking: Oh, poor dear. What time to get sick), and said “I’m so sorry. She’s be throwing up all morning. But I couldn’t have her miss Parent Watch Day!”
The mom knew her little girl was sick. Probably contagious sick. And she still brought her out that day.
I was livid. And sure as the sun rises each day, my daughter with diabetes was in the ER and then held overnight at the hospital a few days later.
I am reminded of this because right now, the flu (the real flu!) and stomach bugs are at a crazy peak. Our state announced it as an epidemic this week, offering suggestions on how to avoid germs.
For those of us in the diabetes world, this goes a billion levels beyond anything those not in our world can imagine. Because for us, illness means crisis. And sometimes, even catastrophe. What might be a messy, tiring and somewhat annoying stomach bug for the rest of the world is, for us, an expensive, frightening, challenging vigil that usually involves hourly blood glucose checks and ketone checks, constant calls to the doctor on call, a scary rush to the emergency room, an overnight (or more), an expensive co pay, exhaustion and just plain terror. This is no exaggeration. While we parents (and adults with Type 1 Diabetes) work hard to make our lives “normal,” there’s often nothing at all normal about sicknesses.
Which is why it absolutely infuriates me when parents allow their children to go to school or the store or anywhere at all (other than the doctor’s office) when they are sick. And if there is one thing I can ask – make that beg – the rest of the world during this extra sick time, it’s this: For goodness sake, make the sacrifice and keep your child (or yourself) home if you are sick in any way that might just spread to others.
I understand this is a terrible hardship. Parents work full-time (and adults run low on sick days or have huge projects due at work that must get attention). Juggling a sudden sick day can be stressful and even somewhat costly. But here’s the thing: when you take that sickness out and send it to school or to the store or to work or even just for a quick ride to the dry cleaners, you are putting actual lives in danger.
I know. You think I’m exaggerating or overprotective. But I’m not. Here’s the chapter of my book on sick day management with diabetes on board. It’s enough to make your head spin. And for a parent – or an adult with diabetes – who might not be a pro with all this or might not have the kind of medical support my family is blessed enough to have, sickness can quite literally kill a person with Type 1 Diabetes.
I remember the winter of the Novo Virus, that year they were even cancelling cruise ships because so many germs were being passed around and causing sickness. My daughter was a hospital inpatient, oh, seven times that winter? Not because I don’t know how to take care of her; not because her diabetes was not well-managed. She was an inpatient simply because sickness like that puts her life in immediate danger. It was expensive, scary, and just plain horrible. And time and time again, I could look back to a point when I knew she’d been around a person who should not have been out in public. I didn’t point fingers, but I did pinpoint (privately) cause. (I did also consider getting her one of those giant balls that hamsters can run around in. But they don’t seem to make them that big).
I had to recently practice this sacrifice myself. My family and I were on a holiday trip to Mexico. It had been a life-long dream of mine to be able to jet my kids and husband off to some exotic spot and wake up on Christmas day, toss on a bathing suit and lounge at the beach or pool with a tropical drink in my hand. This year, we’d finally been able to do it. But the third day into the trip, I started to cough. And then spiked a fever. I could just feel it: I was “real world sick.” So Christmas Day, much as I wanted to live that dream, I stayed in my room, alone, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in while the rest of my family lived the dream for me. I was sad, but later, Lauren said to me, “Thanks mom. You know, that kind of sick just scares me silly.” I did the right thing (and now I have a reason to beg my husband to let us go back again one day. Ha!)
So consider this blog a public service announcement. If you or your children are sick or even close to sick, step back and keep yourself sequestered. If you need a medication, send a friend. If work is going to get mad, ask your doctor for a note or just let them be mad. If school work needs to be done, have someone drop it off on your doorstep. Stay home. I know this might mean hardship. You might get docked a day’s pay. Your child might miss the class musical performance. Your boss might get mad.
But on the flip side, you might save a person from a true crisis. Heck, you might even save a life. Remember, when you bring that sickness out with you, you never know who is next to you, walking by you or sitting near you. It could be the cancer patient. It could be someone with a weakened immune system. Or it could be the person with Type 1 Diabetes, who is quietly working each day just to keep alive even without the attack of your germs.
Stay home until you are well. And for that, the diabetes world will be forever in debt to you.