Lately I’ve been ruminating on what makes people look at other people. What draws your attention? Why?
Richard O’s insulin pump draws a lot of looks from strangers. It’s okay, it doesn’t bother me, but it does make for some interesting conversation.
At the post office:
“Is that a cell phone that he’s carrying around? Wait, don’t tell me, it’s a GPS device.”
At the grocery store:
“Check out the mp3 player on the baby.”
Then there are the looks you get when your T1 child is having a Wacky Blood Sugar Moment (WBSM) in a public place. Like the day I got to the grocery store after a long morning of running errands and decided to test a slumbering Richard O. in his carseat before going to shop. When a low number popped up, I had to rouse him from a sound sleep to begin treating him. And he went nuclear on me – it was a Category Five Toddler Tantrum – tears, flailing of the limbs, screaming bloody murder. And he DID NOT want any of the fast-acting carbs I had with me – he screamed louder every time I tried to feed him a morsel of something.
This continued for 30 minutes, I kid you not. And whereas with a “normal” tantrum situation I would have timed him out and/or ignored him until the tantrum passed, with the threat of a low blood sugar and the odds that he would drop further, the above was clearly not an option. So I held him, tried to squeeze some cake icing into his mouth between bouts of wailing and flailing, and talked to him in a soothing voice.
To the casual observers who witnessed this spectacle, I’m sure it looked like a classic case of a mother being completely manipulated by her bratty offspring. And I heard at least one of the women who walked by the minivan “tsk” loudly and watched her shake her head in disgust.
Shortly thereafter, I felt the need to yell “I hate this disease! I hate it hate it hate it!” at the top of my lungs, which, of course, drew some more looks.
Yeah, that was a fun afternoon at the grocery store.
And then there was last night, when I caught a woman studying Richard O’s medical ID and his monkey backpack as we sat outside of Purity Ice Cream. She looked at me and said compassionately, “He has diabetes, doesn’t he?” And I was amazed that finally someone recognized his stuff for what it really was. It turned out that this lady has a 13 year old T1 daughter who is also an insulin pumper, and who also goes to Joslin for her D care. We spoke for several minutes as we ate ice cream and chased Richard O around the picnic tables, and I marveled at how calm, cool, and collected this woman was in describing her child’s battle with this disease. She was relaxed, positive, and even hopeful.
After we left, I thought, I hope I can feel that way someday. She has been at this for 6 years – I’ve barely been at it for 6 months. Maybe it will get easier, or at least more manageable, with time and experience.
And for the first time, I realized that I was glad to have caught someone looking.