I spoke of the nine year old boy’s diagnosis in 1966 of type one diabetes. It would be eight years after Reid’s diagnosis before the first glucometer was invented. The glucometer is used to measure the levels of glucose in the blood. This provides immense support for the person with diabetes as this is the only tool they have to understand what is happening in their body.
This child had symptoms of his changing blood sugars. He would sweat and feel weak and shaky indicating things were happening. It was still a guessing game as these symptoms can sometimes indicate high glucose as well. He had to sort out his activity level, what he had eaten, any emotional upsets, sleep interruptions, to figure out what was going on in his body. Playing hockey was challenging. A tablespoon of maple syrup, before each shift, would counteract the expended energy.
This is where the saying came from years and years ago. “when in doubt give sugar.” A high blood glucose reading took much longer to cause coma and death. A low blood sugar can result in coma and death within a few minutes.
Can you imagine a child who does not feel symptoms of changes in their blood glucose before the invention of the glucometer?
Complications from fluctuating blood glucose are devastating. A person with diabetes who has hypoglycemia awareness (can feel their lows) over time may lose the ability to feel symptoms. Other complications of fluctuation are blindness, neuropathy, heart disease, kidney disease, reduced defenses to fight infection to name only a few.
The work of JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in partnerships with many of the companies that provide glucometers, test strips, insulin pumps etc., has improved the management of diabetes incredibly since the diagnosis of the 9 year old boy in 1966. The race for the cure is always at the fore front. Centres in hospitals that are dedicated to supporting children with diabetes provide medical care that can make the difference. A long healthy life with few complications is a reality.
For the children who experience little to no hypoglycemia awareness, life is a lot more challenging. The words of a mother with a young child recently said, “I don’t know how I am going to keep this child alive until he can qualify for a Diabetes Alert Dog.”
A specially trained dog does not replace the glucometer. It does not replace the support of family for young children. It does not replace the care and expertise of the medical teams at the Diabetes Education Care Centres. An extra safety net is what a dog can provide.
Sweet Charity’s ability to help is a gift we are so happy to give.