Bodily Fluids – by Olly Double


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Few things make you realise how little privacy you have as a parent more than being called away to do something whilst urinating. I realise that’s not the most delicate opening sentence you’re ever going to read, so if you’re offended either stop reading now or buckle in and get ready for more where that came from.

I was literally mid-stream when I heard Jacqui’s voice calling me. ‘Olly, can you come here, please?’

‘I’m busy at the moment,’ I called, but not too loud as I didn’t want to disturb the neighbours – it was well after 11pm.

She obviously didn’t hear me, as practically straight away I heard her call again. ‘OLLY, CAN YOU COME HERE, PLEASE?’ She sounded even more strident than the first time. Now I felt annoyed. Is anything so important that I can’t even finish my pee off in peace? ‘I’m on the toilet!’ I called, quietly.

‘Come here, NOW!’

Without even washing my hands, I stormed through to where Jacqui was – which was in the bedroom of my 15-year-old son, Joe. ‘Do you mind, I was busy having a pee!’ I hissed. I was so completely convinced of having the moral high ground that I was failing to spot a rather large detail.

‘Just LOOK, Olly,’ said Jacqui, firmly.

Suddenly I took it in. Joe’s bed, and his carpet, and his bookcase were covered with vomit. I don’t want to be unnecessarily unpleasant, but if you’ve ever seen the Mr Creosote scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, you’ll get an idea of the awfulness in front of me. Poor old Joe was clearly very unwell indeed. He was bleary-eyed, confused and dripping with sick.

Earlier that evening, Jacqui and I had been having dinner with some friends (who also happen to have a son with type 1 diabetes). It’s rare for us to get a night out together as diabetes tends to get in the way, and this night was no exception. We had to have frequent phone conversations with Joe because his blood sugars were low, and as the evening progressed it became clear that even though he had turned his basal insulin to zero and had eaten various sugary snacks, his glucose wasn’t coming back up to normal levels. Eventually we realised we had to get home, and quickly.

By the time we got back – thank goodness – his blood sugars had finally started to rise and he was back up to a safe level. Nonetheless, we would have to keep a close eye on him through the night. I’ve blogged about night time glucose testing before, and some of the comments I received were a bit hostile to the idea. One person said it indicated ‘a paranoia within your household’.

The fact is that having two sons with diabetes, it’s quite common for us to find one or the other has out of range blood sugars in the night. If we want to protect them from dangerous prolonged hypos or high blood sugars that may, over time, increase the risk of side effects, then our choice is to make that extra effort and test their blood sugar at night.

But whatever your views on night time testing, on this occasion we had no choice. Given what Joe had been through, anything might happen. The oncoming sick bug had sent his blood sugar plummeting, and given that he’d just thrown up everything he’d eaten since breakfast, there was a risk of hypos. On the other hand, he’d also missed out on a fair amount of insulin and drunk a fair amount of sugary drinks, and was now running high – 11 or 12 mmol/L , if memory serves me correctly. We didn’t want him to go raging high and start producing ketones, but nor did we want to be too aggressive in bolusing insulin to bring him back down, as it would be exceptionally unkind to have to force him to eat or drink when he was feeling so rotten.

Through midnight and into the small hours we took it in turns to test him, and we both helped soothe him through another bout of vomiting. Jacqui called NHS Direct, worrying that he might get dehydrated, and they said we probably shouldn’t worry about that. I could see how the night was panning out, and I realised what I had to do. I persuaded Jacqui to go to sleep and promised I would stay awake for the rest of the night.

I told Joe I was going to look after him through the night and keep him safe, and that if he needed anything he only needed to call and I’d come running. From then on, I went through to him regularly, checking his blood sugars and his ketone levels, and giving him small amounts of insulin to carefully bring down his glucose. Of course I also did all the stuff you’d do for an ill kid who doesn’t have diabetes, like getting him glasses of water and generally being sympathetic. In between all that I lay in bed and did stuff to help me stay awake – which on this occasion meant reading PG Wodehouse. I found myself wondering how Bertie Wooster would react to this situation. ‘I say Jeeves, this diabetes rot really is the bally end!’

The next day, I felt pretty awful. In the entire night I can’t have had more than a couple of hours of sleep. But before morning came, Joe said something that really hit me hard.

‘Thank you SO much for looking after me, Dad. I’m sorry you’ve had to stay awake.’

He said it quietly and sincerely. He was clearly feeling guilty about having inconvenienced me. Grim and unpleasant as he felt, there he was apologising for having a chronic condition.

What he obviously didn’t realise was that when it comes down to it, I’m more than happy to interrupt a quiet pee to keep him safe from the perils of diabetes. I’m his dad.

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@Sid – have you been back to your doctor, or spoken to your diabetes healthcare team about this? We’d recommend you do, just so they can check you over properly and see what’s happening.

You might want to give our Careline a ring about it too: 0845 123 2399.

Olly I relate to everything you have written. my son is only 2. He was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 16mths old. He caught a sickness bug about a month ago and we ended up in hospital for 5 days. All the things you mentioned about vomiting, hypos, ketones etc all happened to him & because he is so little and didnt understand what was happening he needed to go on a glucose drip for 3 days and was closely monitored until the vomiting stopped. I guess it is just part of the ongoing care that our children with type 1 will need if they become ill like any other kid. My 2 older daughters caught the bug when I was in hospital with my son but they were able to stay home & be looked after by daddy. I was really touched by what your son said to you. My son doesn’t understand yet but I know one day he will and I will do all I can to continue to keep him as healthy as possible. Not an easy task with a toddler but we take each day as it comes & deal with whatever comes our way & thankfully in all others ways he is a healthy happy and mischievous 2yr old! Thanks for your blog, it is in a way comforting to hear other peoples experiences.

Great blog. As another parent of 2 children with diabetes, that expression ‘just diabetes’ sometimes followed by ‘oh well once they have their injections thats OK’ really sends my blood pressure up – and by just typing that I can feel my BP rising…..

Olly – you might not realise but what you did that night and what you do every day/night is heroic, life saving at these critical times and life prolonging in the long run. I have thankfully remained complication free despite 28 years of type 1 diabetes that I took when I was 13. The main reason I would say for this – my parents and the meticulous care they took of me/my condition with all its 24/7 needs. This set me up for life. Their example in those early years meant I continued to strive for good control and still do.

Don’t forget to look after yourself too…

I have some other kind of problem with me. I have been having painful, swollen and tingly feet, hands and legs for months and I’m thinking I might have diabetic neuropathy. I showed my doctor a few weeks ago and she just wanted me to take anti-inflamatories. Now, when I try to take a bath my feet hurt sooo bad that I have to get out. I’m not taking hot baths.

I have had the same sense of sadness when my 6 year old apologised to me for being type 1. She was refereeing to me having to test her copious amounts of time once.
Thanks Oliver Double for blogging.

If you only people understood what a sick bug means to us they might realise it is not ‘just’ diabetes. I would certainly go to the moon and back too, and Joe is lucky to have such fab parents.

Oh Olly I have tears streaming down my face after reading this blog. I was doing fine until near the end and Joe said what he did. My daughter says the same sort of things sometimes. It is as though they feel guilty they have type 1 and need to really thank us for looking after them or indeed keeping them alive. They don’t need to thank us, we are their parents and would go to the moon and back for them. Ok must stop crying now. xx