At the end of August of 2009, my son was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, or Type 1 diabetes. This is not something that runs in our family so to say it was a shock is an understatement. Immediately he was admitted into the hospital because his blood sugar had been high for who knows how long and needed to be corrected immediately before it caused serious damage to his little 20-month old body.
Like any mom in the same situation, I experienced the emotional roller coaster of feelings - upset, angry, wondering if I did something to cause this to happen because it was so unexpected. Since my husband and I both worked in healthcare, we immediately started searching for care and treatment options. Texas Children’s Hospital was the end result.
I used to have a career in hospital management and consulted to various healthcare organizations. I always thought that TCH would be an amazing place. And it was. Such dedicated staff like I have never experienced before.
My son and I stayed in Houston for almost a month. We had naively planned to stay for only 10 days. The doctor was right to suggest this so I could become comfortable with diabetes management.
As angry and upset as I was at this disease throughout this experience, there are absolutely no words to describe what you go through when you get in the elevator with your child and you are surrounded by children and their parents who are facing much more challenging conditions.
On one particular day, before I entered the elevator to go to my son's appointment, I saw two parents pushing a child in a wheelchair that had obviously lost their hair from chemotherapy. Just as the elevator doors were closing, someone pushed the button and another patient entered. This time a boy on a stretcher entered with his mother and his personal nurse. He was connected to a very large medical device.
That was the longest elevator ride in my life. All I could think was, How did I ever get so lucky? How was my son blessed with a disease that was manageable? That enabled him to live a full, normal life? I was numb because for days I was so upset that my child had diabetes. The harsh reality of this was realizing that we had won the lottery.
This did not make me jump for joy by any means, but my heart ached for those parents and others. I was still coming to terms with my own situation, but I was in awe at how they were handling everything under such difficult circumstances. I continued to observe this throughout our visit as well as the randomness of the diseases.
I returned to Dubai with a lot to learn, but at least with the knowledge to become Erin’s pancreas and manage his diabetes for him until he is old enough to do so himself. I have learned many things from this experience, and continue to learn something new every day. On some days feel like a pseudo endocrinologist, nurse, dietician and more. But still, nothing is as profound as the 15 seconds I spent in that elevator that day.
It reminded me to not sweat the small stuff. While diabetes is big, every day is still a gift. Sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, it is not always as bad as we think.