Looking at her, you’d just see a “regular” kid. But she (and we) work hard to keep her that way. “People with type 1 diabetes can lead very normal lives, as long as they closely monitor their blood sugar, give themselves the proper amount of insulin at the right times, get enough exercise, and know when their blood sugar might be too high or dangerously low so they can immediately and appropriately treat themselves to avoid an emergency situation,” Pellizzari says.
“There is a level of maturity with these kids,” Rapp explains. “They have an enormous responsibility to keep themselves safe. The change in my son, Turner, before and after his diagnosis when he was 10, in the matter of a week or two...it was incredible. And I see it all the time. They are doing so many things right. They rise to the challenge. It’s incredibly inspiring.”
Soon after her diagnosis in first grade, Ellie was in the school cafeteria eating lunch. She accidentally dropped her sandwich on the floor. She knew she had already taken her dose of insulin and if she didn’t eat quickly, her blood sugar would drop. (“Early signs of hypoglycemia include shakiness, sweating, and irritability, and if not treated right away, can lead to seizures and even death,” explains Pellizzari.) So what did Ellie do? She picked her sandwich up off the floor and ate it. I only learned of this incident two days later. And my heart broke.
Life with diabetes isn’t easy. There are days when you hardly ever think about it; and other days when you wonder how something like this could happen to your child. You wonder how you’ll ever manage. But, as every parent of a child with a chronic disease knows, you just do—with the help of school staff and camp staff and coaches and trainers and doctors and diabetes educators and friends and family who are willing to take the time to understand the disease and learn how to help. It takes a village, but it works.