Inspiring camaraderie: the Safesittings effect

WRITTEN BY: Stacey Cunnington

Taking a chance

I was scrolling through Twitter one day (which I do a lot at work as social media is a big part of what I do at College Diabetes Network) and came upon the announcement that Beyond Type 1 would be taking over SafeSittings. I immediately thought of what a cool opportunity it would be for CDN students and young adults to be able to babysit as a part time job while at school for a little extra cash, or even while they’re home for the summer.

But then I realized: I’m a young adult who has Type 1 diabetes, works in the diabetes sector, and have spent some of the best weeks of my life at diabetes camp (and non-diabetes camp) chasing around little kids with T1D. I have lots of babysitting experience, am always looking for ways to get more involved in the T1D community… And that this could be a really awesome opportunity for me, too.

On a whim, I filled out an application on the SafeSittings website, which took five minutes and couldn’t have been easier. It asked for things like a bio and if you have first aid experience, access to a car, etc. There is even a place in the application for you to indicate if you’re involved in a CDN Chapter!

What to expect

Within 48 hours, I had a mom reach out to me – I was shocked at the turnaround time. We ended up setting up a meeting to chat more about her daughter, who is eight years old and was only diagnosed three months ago, and her other daughter who is ten, to see if this could work.

Meeting with the mom was incredibly eye-opening and brought me back to when I was diagnosed, as she reminded me of my own mom during that time. Since they were still in the shock phase where everything feels overwhelming, the parents had not left their daughter in anyone else’s care since since diagnosis. I would be the first person that they’d hand their daughter’s diabetes care off to since she was diagnosed, and the pressure of that situation began to sink in. I was nervous, but I was ready! We agreed that the following Saturday would be a sort of trial run, as they would be going just up the street for a party and the grandparents would be at the house when I would to learn from me and be a second set of eyes.

When I stepped into their home, it reminded me of when I was diagnosed once again. There were scales and measuring cups scattered on the counters, every box of food in every cabinet was labeled with carb info, fact sheets on glucagon and ratios hung on the fridge, and sticky notes lined the walls with math equations and carb info.

Getting down to it

Then came time to meet the girls. They were shy at first, but as they started warming up to me, they were so much fun, beyond sweet and intelligent. I was blown away at how brave the littlest was when taking shots and how she rolled with the punches. She even asked her mom if I could give her her dinner shot before they left.

I am on a pump now, so I had to get back in the groove of giving shots for the night. Screw the pen needle on, prime the pen, alcohol swab the site – the list goes on. She was only taking two and a quarter units of Lantus out of a syringe (remember those days?), and I think I measured out the amount about 1,000 times before injecting to make sure I got the dose right. It was helpful that she had Dexcom G6, as I was able to follow her numbers on my phone right along with my own numbers throughout the night. Whenever I would check her numbers, she would ask to see mine too. You can imagine the excitement when we both looked to find the same number at one point.

Overall, the night was one I won’t soon forget. I learned that it was more than just a night out for these parents, it was a way for this little girl to hang out with a (questionably) cool older adult who is just like her. One of the most important things that my own mom made me realize when I called her on the way home was that the biggest thing I did for these parents wasn’t watch their kids, but let them see that their daughter will be okay. Diabetes seems overwhelming at first, and they may just be trying to keep their heads above water at the moment, but she’ll still be able to play sports (she is a soccer star), go out with friends, drive a car, go to college, and get a “big girl” job, just like me.

This piece was published as part of Beyond Type 1’s partnership with the College Diabetes Network for SafeSittings, a diabetes babysitting service.