Parent Paranoia – By Olly Double
When your kids are tiny you’re around them for most of the time, but as they get older they spend more and more of their life away from you. First it’s a couple a hours at nursery once or twice a week, then it’s school every weekday until eventually – gulp – they leave the nest permanently to go off to university or whatever.
At those moments where they start being away from you more, it’s inevitable that you start worrying about them. You’re not there to protect them and frankly anything might be happening to them. What if they get abducted by aliens while on a sleepover at their friend’s house? What if a zombie apocalypse breaks out while they’re playing at the local park? What if they’re on a school trip to the British Museum, and one of the statues turns out to be a Weeping Angel like on Doctor Who?
Of course, some fears are more realistic than that, and a couple of things make me genuinely worry for Joe’s and Tom’s safety. My two big worries are, one, they get hit by a car and, two, something goes wrong with their diabetes. This kind of thing is playing on my mind at the moment, not least because the other day Tom saw a kid from his school being knocked over by a car whilst crossing the road outside the railway station on his way home. As it turned out, the kid avoided series injury. Still, with so many cars on the roads nowadays – and so many idiots who drive too fast even on the smallest and most residential roads – I imagine every parent worries about this.
However, not every parent has type 1 diabetes to worry about, and I’m sure it helps to stoke up my parent paranoia. The fact is that however hard we all work to keep diabetes under control, things can and do go wrong from time to time when we’re not around to help. Joe once went low at the railway station on the way home from school and realised he’d run out of hypo treatment. He called home on his mobile, and had to sit on the edge of a wooden planter until Jacqui arrived to rescue him. Similarly, Tom once found himself hypoglycaemic and without Lucozade during the school Christmas carol service, and had to leave before the end to get a new bottle from the secretaries’ office where his spare supplies are kept.
Luckily, his friend went with him to make sure he was OK, but there isn’t always somebody sympathetic around. A few years ago one of the boys – I won’t say which one to spare their blushes – had raging high blood sugars and desperately needed a pee. The supply teacher who was taking the lesson didn’t know anything about diabetes and refused the request to go to the loo, thinking it was just a crafty attempt to skive off for a few minutes. By the time our boy got to the toilet it was too late, leaving him in the extremely embarrassing position of having wet himself at school.
So far, in nearly 14 years of dealing with diabetes, the things that have gone wrong have been more unpleasant than life-threatening, but one of my biggest fears is that a major hypoglycaemic episode might leave Joe or Tom lying on a pavement somewhere with nobody around to help. Joe’s 16 now and has started studying for his A-levels, so Jacqui and I are keenly aware that he’ll be going to university in two years’ time. What if he has a massive hypo and his confusion and slurred speech are mistaken for traditional student drunkenness? What if instead of helping him to eat or drink something sugary, passers-by just laugh or tut at him? After all, we know that the general public’s knowledge of type 1 diabetes tends to be on the primitive side.
When I start to dwell on this kind of runaway fear, I find calm rationality very reassuring. I focus on the fact that Joe and Tom tend to be pretty good at managing their own diabetes. They never leave the house without their BG meter and a bottle of Lucozade. They test their blood glucose fairly regularly, and both of them tend to know when they’re going hypo. It’s not uncommon to hear the fizz of a plastic bottle being opened, and when they’ve had a good old swig from it, they explain that they’re feeling a bit low and do a finger prick test to confirm it. In addition to this, both of them wear a CGMS monitor most of the time that will let off an alarm when their blood glucose is out of range, and even suspend the delivery of insulin from their pumps if it thinks they’re seriously hypo.
All of this helps to calm the nerves, although goodness knows how parents felt before all this great technology was invented. Still, knowing how sensible the boys are and how many great little gadgets they have to help them keep their blood sugars in range makes it much easier to let them leave the house by themselves without spending the whole day fretting about them.
You can never entirely get rid of your parent paranoia, though. I mean, will Joe remember to grab their blood glucose meter when the aliens abduct them on their sleepover? What if they have a hypo while they’re running away from the zombies? And what the heck will they do if the Weeping Angel sends them back to a point in time before the discovery of insulin?