As the country slowly resumes activities and finds its “new normal,” this could look different for everyone. We spoke to one mom who parents a child with type 1 diabetes about what the transition may look like for their family.
Hi Teresa, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. The COVID-19 pandemic has left us all in fear, especially for those who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions…and for those who love them. Knowing that your son, Bauer, fits this demographic adds an extra layer to this difficult time.
I know that you live in Georgia and your state has reopened the economy. This means life is going back to “normal.” I thought it would be nice for our readers, especially those who are “type 3” and love someone who is living with diabetes (and other conditions) to hear a perspective of a mother who is navigating her new normal while also keeping her son’s condition of utmost concern.
At what age was your son, Bauer, diagnosed and how old is he now?
Bauer was diagnosed just after his sixth birthday, and right before starting 1st grade. August 2015. It will be five years this August.
How did your family initially handle the diagnosis? How involved is your son is his diabetes management?
I was in shock. He had been visiting his dad for four weeks over the summer and when he came back he exhibited what I know now are classic symptoms–weight loss, excessive thirst, peeing all the time… I looked up his symptoms and didn’t believe what I was seeing. Though I knew people growing up who had type 1, my diabetes knowledge was mostly based on type 2. I took him to the doctor who immediately admitted him with a blood sugar of over 700. I was terrified and shocked that there weren’t some better treatments for diabetes than shots and finger pokes.
My son has been attending diabetes Camp (Camp Kudzu) since the beginning. That has really helped him take some ownership over his management. He has good days and bad days, like everyone. I try to strike a balance, where he is empowered to manage but knows he has me to help him. It’s a huge burden for a child.
Once you heard COVID-19 was picking up speed in your area, what was the first thing you did to prepare?
The first thing I did was get refills of Bauer’s prescription for 90 days. I had read that there would be no disruptions with supply chains, but that insurers had also loosened guidelines regarding getting scripts early. Since at that time, I was not sure what a lockdown would look like, I wanted to make sure we had everything he needed.
What extra precautions are you taking given that Bauer is living with type 1 diabetes?
Though I have seen some kids playing in the neighborhood, Bauer has not played with others except his siblings. He has seen neighborhood friends from a distance. Since the state is one of the first to open, I am waiting for another couple of weeks to see if there will be a second surge. I not only have to protect Bauer, but also my 82-year-old mom who lives with us.
I know this is a scary time for all and especially for children. What have you told your son about what is happening and how is he handling it?
We have talked about what is going on, but have avoided the news. Several times, Bauer has come to me in tears, scared about getting coronavirus. I assure him that we are taking all the precautions and that we just need to keep doing what we are doing–social distancing and washing hands. And we cuddle a lot. We stay pretty busy and distracted during the day, so these moments happen usually around bedtime.
I am sure you have been very diligent about protecting your family and your son’s health up to now. Since Georgia is back up and running, how do you feel about going back to living your lives?
I have moments of feeling confident that everything will be OK, and moments of pure anxiety. Things changed so rapidly and we still have no vaccine or proven treatments, I’m not sure we will really get back to normal. My job has been affected–I am furloughed for 2-3 months and the kid’s schools are closed and camps have cancelled sessions through June. “Normal” events like swim team are cancelled. It will take me a while to do things like eat in a restaurant and we will avoid situations where we gather with people we do not know well.
You must have mixed emotions about people going back to their everyday lives. What have you observed so far, are people out and about? Obeying social distancing rules?
I have noticed an increase in traffic and also stores are again limiting the number of items you can buy of meat and hand soap, and sanitizer. I have also noticed an alarming number of people who do not wear any face covering or mask and do not respect the 6 feet apart rule. People seem very comfortable while the number of new diagnoses looks to be increasing. I don’t think the majority of folks are “going back to normal,” but I think people are more inclined to get together with friends and neighbors outside while respecting the social distance rules. On my Facebook feed I see people going hiking, boating and kayaking and enjoying the nice weather we are having. There was less of that just a few weeks ago.
Will you be going right back to your daily routines or will you take extra precautions and if so, for how long?
We will continue taking precautions. Although I think cases will go down in the summer, I think we will be right back in a difficult situation come flu season.
Are you fearful of there being a second wave of COVID-19 in your area?
Absolutely. We are maintaining shelter at home rules for at least the next 2 weeks until I can see what will happen now that the state is opening up.
Are your schools opening back up? How does your son feel about going back?
Schools are closed for the remainder of the year. He does not like school–so it has been a relief for him to be able to stay home. Stressful for me–but less for him.
Has your son’s school communicated any new practices to prevent transmission?
We have not been given any information about schools opening in August. Depending on what happens with my job, I may consider looking at some of the state’s online school options.
I am sure this time has been very trying for you personally. How do you make sure to take care of your own wellbeing? What advice can you give other caregivers in your situation?
I think it is incredibly important to take time for self-care. I try to take a walk every morning before the kids wake up and spend time connecting to friends or watching a TV show by myself, reading a book out on the patio–things I find relaxing. It’s important to take care of your own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Is there is one piece of advice you would offer to spouses, parents or anyone else with loved ones with preexisting conditions or other health issues who are going through the same thing?
I would say do the important things like avoiding crowds and hand washing and wearing some kind of face-covering when doing necessary things like grocery shopping, but don’t live in fear. Find ways to connect to others, get lots of fresh air and sun, exercise and be creative. Try something new you have wanted to try, but maybe not had the time. Something that has really helped us is trying a new hobby as a family. Bauer and I have done a lot of gardening together. My daughter has taken up painting. My other son is riding his bike a lot. I think finding something to give purpose to your day is important. Cut each other some slack. We all deal with stress differently. And don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Many counseling centers have shifted to telemedicine.
If there is one positive to come out of this crisis, what would it be? I think we could all use a silver lining!
This whole situation has been tough for sure. But it has also made us stop and enjoy some of the most important things in life. In the spring, I would normally be rushing everywhere. Rushing from work to soccer practices as a mom and as the coach, rushing to AM and PM swim team practices, securing sitters to watch Bauer when I cannot be there, preparing for neighborhood events like the pool opening, spending every weekend at soccer fields and trying to get a load of laundry done in between everything, often eating on the run because there was no time to cook. It has been a blessing for us to slow life down, enjoy our home, and eat meals that I actually cook. I am not sure I ever want to return to an overcommitted schedule!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I hope you and your family continue to remain safe and healthy!
What will your transition to the “new normal” look like? Will you be more cautious than what is recommended? Do you feel confident in returning to some activities? Please share with us in the comments!
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