Case Study – Having a Young Child with Diabetes

Laura and Tom planned their third child to be close in age to their other two children, Mark, four, and Robbie, two. Laura was enjoying her third pregnancy, and even looking forward to her delivery. She was sure this baby would come fast and that she would feel like a real pro. She could never have believed that when it came time to deliver this little one she would already be in the hospital with her two-year-old son, Robbie, who had just been diagnosed with diabetes.

Fortunately for everybody, little Sally was an easy baby, happy to nurse or take a bottle and easy to put to sleep. Laura and Tom have their hands full, learning how to take care of a youngster with childhood diabetes.

At first, Laura just cried and cried. She was depressed and angry, worried that her inattention to Sally was going to damage her permanently. She worried constantly that Robbie would have a diabetic crisis. She couldn’t let herself think about his future. Tom got grumpy and withdrawn. He didn’t want to talk to Laura or any of his friends or family members. He got angry at Laura when she called her parents and “complained” to them.

Every day, Laura or Tom prick Robbie’s finger, drawing out a tiny bit of blood to test his glucose level. Only then do they know how much food to give him. One of them watches Robbie with eagle eyes to be sure he doesn’t snatch a piece of bread off his brother Mark’s plate or go into a cupboard and find and eat a cookie. They can’t imagine how they are going to cope, especially when Laura’s maternity leave is over and they must find a baby-sitter or day care provider to take care of not just the new baby but Robbie too.

Two years later, it would be hard for an observer to believe they were witnessing the same family. Laura and Tom talk like experts on diabetes. They have joined a parents’ support group in their community, and Laura is on an Internet chat room with other mothers of children with diabetes. She has taught four people, one baby-sitter, one neighbor and two family members how to take care of Robbie, and she no longer feels so alone. Tom and Laura visited a counselor together and now they are communicating much better.

They understand they both have different ways of coping. Instead of differences driving them apart, they have learned to feel comfortable with them and work with each other instead of apart.

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