Being a Father to a Child with Type 1 Diabetes

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • Beth McNamara has handed over the reins this week to her husband, Dan, who wrote the following post to honor all of the Dads supporting Type 1s …


    Let's face it, for most dads of a Type 1 your role in the management of Diabetes is likely to be as the Secondary Caregiver. However, this doesn't excuse you from being able to step into the role of Primary Caregiver on a moment's notice. Whether on a Dad and Sons weekend or while your wife is on a business trip or just because you are the nearest adult your son or daughter can turn to when they are suffering a high or worried about a low.


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    Like most dads (I suspect), I was totally unprepared for the diagnosis that was handed down to my son on New Year's Eve 2008. I knew very little about Diabetes, and could count on one hand the number of people I had known with the disease over the last four decades. My wife, on the other hand, had suspected for weeks that something was wrong with our son, but did not know exactly what and hence did not share her fears with me. As his symptoms became more pronounced (unquenchable thirst, constant hunger and frequent urination), my wife zeroed in on the cause and was not surprised at all when our family physician diagnosed it over the phone.


    I, on the contrary, continued to be in denial "Wasn't this more likely a bacterial infection or even a virus? How could my son be diabetic? He always seems so healthy". It wasn't until the blood and urine tests came back positive that I moved from denial to acceptance. Then and only then did I swing into action. My wife and I quickly figured out how best to work as team - sometimes dividing and conquering and sometimes tag teaming - each problem that arose and continues to arise as our son deals with this life-long chronic disease that involves every member of our family.


    For example, as my son needed to be admitted to the hospital through the ER to get an 'official diagnosis,' we decided, with my son's input, that his mother would go with him to the hospital and stay overnight with him. Meanwhile, I stayed home to take care of my other two sons, (with generous help from their grandparents). Since our insurance is though my workplace, I also took lead on working with our insurance carrier to get my son all of the initial help that he needed from the medical system.


    However, on my son's second night in the hospital, my wife came home to get some much needed sleep and I folded myself on to fold-out couch in the hospital. I have to admit that when my wife and my other sons left after dinner, I was nervous. The nurse and doctors had shown us everything we needed to do to test my son's blood and administer his insulin, but I wondered how I would ever learn to do this? This was probably one of the longest nights of my life and I thought back to the last time that my son and I had been in the hospital together, 13 years earlier when he was born. I made a decision right there and then that I would do everything in my power to ensure that he had the healthiest life possible and hopefully he and I would never need to spend another night together in the hospital.


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    As the months rolled by I became more adept at helping my son, first with his insulin needles, then with his insulin pen and now with his pump. Also, there have been several times that I've needed to attend an endo appointment, wrangle with an insurance rep, or take supplies to the school clinic. Often, when attending to these important tasks, I feel like the only Dad on the scene, and I wonder why? Have we as American Dads in the 21st Century abandoned our role in caring for our kids? And if so, why? Nothing was more rewarding to me than seeing my son finally get his pump to work after all of the adults in the room couldn't figure it out.


    Looking back on that long night my son and I spent in the hospital, it's amazing to think how for we've all come. While my wife remains the Primary Caregiver, I need to remain just as informed as her. Whether on short notice or when planned long in advance there have been many times that I've been called on to be a "pinch hitter", and I have to be ready to go, and I've been glad to do it.


    Happy Father's Day to all us Secondary Caregivers. Congratulations to all of those who are not afraid to get in the game and swing the bat once in a while. For those that are nervous about stepping into the batter's box: You might just surprise yourself and hit a home run!


    Finally ... Hats off to all of the single Dads who do it all. I salute you!


Published On: June 18, 2010