My Son is One of the Bravest People I Know

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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Type 1 diabetes
My son, Cuda, has Type 1 diabetes.

Our son is one of the bravest people I know.

At the age of 10, after we rushed him into an emergency hospital room to deal with dehydration and alarming weight loss, we found out that he is a Type 1 Diabetic (T1D).

This news was overwhelming. My husband and I went over and over again in our heads — what did we do? Why couldn’t we see the signs? Was it our fault? When did it start? But the reality is that it did happen. That we didn’t see the signs. And that we have a deadly serious set of new parenting skills we needed to learn before he was released from the hospital.

As we signed the hospital release papers, looking at him sitting in the hospital bed, we felt more nervous than we did when walking out with a newborn. What if we counted the carbs wrong? How will we have the courage to inject our own son with needles 4-6 times a day? What changes do we need to make for the health of him and our family?

Our new realities set over the first few months.

Here’s how we all made it through:

  • The power of community support. One of the first people we called in the hospital was his principal, Linda Sidone. Her concern and compassion for our family was breathtaking and she sprung into action. Her most important concern was seeing him well — both in the short term as he was going to come back to school in a few days as well as in the long term. Her continued support for both him and our family to this day is incredible.
  • We also became new best friends with the school nurse, Maggie Penix. When we walked into her clinic on his first day back, she gave him a hug and said that they are now part of a team and that he is not alone in this. She too became a steadfast supporter and friend of the family to this day.
  • The power of new connections. There are people out there that you have never met before. Our daughter’s second grade teacher sent me a note home to say if we needed any help in navigating, she had a friend with a T1D son a little older than our son who was diagnosed over five years ago. We met with this mother and son several times over the next few months and it was a godsend. It gave our son a glimpse of a new normal, that dealing with diabetes can be a daily part of life rather than being your whole life.
  • The power of information. My husband scoured cookbooks and recipes trying to find something that our son would be interested in eating. I pored over parent support groups looking for ideas on snacks, what to have on hand at all times, typical signs to look for to see if our son was experiencing a high or low blood sugar. But we still were on the hunt to understand why it happened. What causes T1D? Why did this happened to him now?

From the Mayo Clinic: The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system — which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses — mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing (islet) cells in the pancreas. Genetics may play a role in this process, and exposure to certain environmental factors, such as viruses, may trigger the disease.

Part of our family’s mission is to do whatever we can to support T1D research to find a cure, to make having T1D more manageable, and to understand better why it happens. If you are interested in joining us on September 25th for the JDRF walk in person or in solidarity, please visit our son’s team to sign up or donate.

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