Burning Out at an Early Age

Last night I watched a "dLife" show that featured a mom talking about her son's T1 diagnosis. The child was about nine years old. She said that she did not want her son managing his diabetes care at all since she did not want him "burned out" at such a young age. And there was a lot of footage of the mother testing her child's blood glucose in various locations--as he went out the door to school, as he sat at the table.

As an "old school" diabetic, the mother's comment really struck me. Back in the day when I was a young T1, there were no blood meters, we tested urine maybe twice a day, and I only got one insulin injection in the morning (Lente as the basal and a big load of Regular to handle breakfast/lunch and the morning rise). My diet was somewhat restricted, but I don't remember feeling deprived of anything.

I look at the T1 children of today on MDI and pumps. Their blood glucose is tested constantly, even overnights. And some have a CGMS device attached to them as well, providing their parents with alarms and a constant flow of data round-the-clock.

How is is possible not to feel burned out on that regimen? And I'm not only referring to the children, but also to the parents. Technology has its tradeoffs and it's hard for me to imagine how I would have handled that intrusiveness as a child.

It's a lot different being a T1 child today.

I can empathize, to a certain extent. I was dx’d in 1986 and I remember the urine testing and the glucose meters that took 120 seconds to pop back a result based on the color pads of the old Accu-Chek strips. I can’t imagine how my mother and father figured out how to dose me, feed me, and keep themselves sane.

As a diabetic today, there’s way more to balance. There’s pumps, CGMS, different insulin types, insulin-to-carb ratios, and a bevy of complications to be paranoid about. It’s a full-time job, managing all this stuff. Burnout is evitable. But at least it comes in waves, like some kind of diabetes ebb-and-flo.

By the way, I work as an editor for dLife. What did you think of the rest of the segment?

I liked the segment on caregiving. I usually skip the “Real Stories” segments on kids only because I think of my own daughter and it freaks me out.