Chris is a devoted father and husband and takes care of his daughter Maggie who lives with type 1 diabetes. Chris is very active in the diabetes online community. You can follow Chris’s journey with his daughter Maggie @t1ddad on Instagram.
Chris, 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. Knowing that you fit this demographic, or have someone you love who does, adds an extra layer to this challenging time. I am sure you are anxious about your daughter, Maggie, who is living with type 1 diabetes. I see you are very active within the diabetes online community and doing your part to advocate, educate, and support others dealing with this disease. I thought it would be helpful for our readers to hear the perspective of such a dedicated dad!
At what age was Maggie diagnosed, and how old is she now?
Maggie was diagnosed when she was 3.5 and is now almost 11.
How did your family and daughter initially handle the diagnosis?
It came as quite a shock for us. I have a first cousin that has type 1 diabetes, but I didn’t know what that meant as he lived further away, and I didn’t even see what that meant for him. Maggie was constantly drinking and urinating, and we noticed that she seemed to be losing weight. We reached out to our doctor, and he was very quick to test, then admit her to the hospital with DKA, which we are extremely grateful for his quick response. Within a month after diagnosis, we also found out we were pregnant with our youngest son as well, so there was so much going on at the same time that we had to take in and figure out as well.
Before this pandemic started, how were things going? How was Maggie’s management? Does she use any technology? Are you still very involved?
In July 2019, we came up to the 5th year of her being on an insulin pump. We had already been using the Dexcom G4 system to monitor and track her blood sugars remotely and, after doing some research, decided to upgrade to the Tandem t:slim X2 pump and upgrade to Dexcom G5. In January, we upgraded to the G6 along with the release of Tandem’s Basal IQ update. I’m so glad that these upgrades and updates all happened, so we had time to get used to them and see their benefits before all this came about.
I provide the primary care for her diabetes as my wife’s health is very poor right now as well, and I’m still quite involved in the overall monitoring and management of her day-to-day care. She can calculate most carbohydrates and give herself insulin for meals, but adjustments, corrections, etc. are all done by me. She has always been afraid of needles as well, so I also still do all the insulin pump, and CGM site changes too.
Once you heard COVID-19 was picking up speed in your area, what was the first thing you did to prepare?
So it’s interesting. The timing of everything seemed almost perfect. I was due to refill her insulin prescription right at the beginning of March, and the doctor gave us a prescription for 3 months at a time to reduce filing fees. So before all the panic started to build, and before pharmacies began to limit the amount of insulin they would dispense, I was able to get her normal supply, which I am very grateful for. I also ordered an extra box of infusion sets and reservoirs right around the same time, but I don’t have as long of a supply for that, so I will have to watch carefully and order that a little further ahead to allow for extra time to deliver.
How is your daughter handling what is going on in the world? How did you go about explaining the severity without completely scaring her?
We have been fairly open to all our kids within reason. We try to be clear what’s going on, and there was some talk in school before it was temporarily shut down as well. Once we got word that schools were shut down (right as we were getting ready to start March break here), we had a family meeting and were clear that everyone needed to pitch in and help out so that I can keep working as much as I can to provide for the family and that everyone would need to respect each other’s space since we wouldn’t be able to get away from each other in quite the same way. We try to keep some structure while being flexible and understanding of the situation.
How has the stress of this affected Maggie’s blood sugars? How about her overall management?
I’m really not sure if stress has affected her blood sugars or not. I know she is not nearly as active currently as she was at school, so we are finding her blood sugars are a bit higher on average, so I’ve made some adjustments to her bolus ratios and basal rates to compensate. It’s finally getting warm enough here that we should be able to have the kids play in the backyard more, so I’m hoping that will help.
One thing we have is time. Do you plan on using this time to tackle anything diabetes-related? For example, some are using the opportunity to do basal testing. Other’s are hoping their kids get more involved with their management, etc. Or are you just taking the time to let Maggie relax and be as stress-free as possible?
The one advantage I have to her being home is having a little more control to monitor and correct compared to when she is at school. So, I’m not letting her blood sugars get quite as high before making adjustments or corrections as she would have at school. Otherwise, I have a lot on my plate, so I haven’t had the time to let her take on any more responsibility for additional things quite yet.
If there is one piece of advice you would offer to other parents who are going through the same thing, what would you tell them?
I think that maintaining some structure, even if it’s not school work-related is very important to keep things more ‘normal’ for my kids, and for managing diabetes as well. Keeping bedtime at around the same time, meals at fixed times etc. helps to keep the day flowing instead of it just being one long day lying on the couch with one Netflix show after another. Kids feel our stress, so hiding what’s going on isn’t going to help, but allowing them to feel free to express what they are feeling as well so we can all get through this together is very important!
If there is one positive to come out of this crisis, what would it be? I think we could all use a silver lining!
Connection & finding opportunities to love. I know for me personally, my skills, talents, and experience give me tremendous advantages and flexibility to help people. Especially small businesses and nonprofits understand that now, more than ever, they need to get clear on their message and communicate it to their clients, prospects, and those they serve. I have no clue when or if they will be able to pay me, but I continue to do what I can to help.
I have also found that myself, as well as my family, have taken the opportunity to reach out with an email, text or Facebook message, or video chat with many of our friends and family, probably more frequently then we might have even done previously in person because those relationships are so important. I hope that when we come out on the other side of this crisis, we can continue to make relationships an important part of our lives and continue to serve those around us.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I hope you and your family continue to remain safe and healthy!
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