Rosaleen Bradley is a mum four children; 3 boys; and to Beth age 5, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April 2016. The Bradley family live in Donegal.Rosaleen very quickly realised that having support from extended family members was going to be very important for them to be all that they needed to be to support Beth. They also realised that Beth’s school needed to be supportive also.
"Here’s our Story..... Beth Bradley Age 5 - Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 23rd April 2016
Words continue to fail me when I attempt to describe that horrific feeling that ran through my veins as our Local GP turned to me, with so much empathy in his eyes, and said “Your Daughter has Type 1 Diabetes”. Internally, I battled with my emotions as I allowed my mother’s instincts of protectiveness to kick in to ensure that my devastation wasn’t obvious to my beautiful little girl, who would inevitably have this cross to bear for the rest of her precious life. Although very unaware of the complexities and impact of Type 1 Diabetes at this point, I felt very strongly that this would not change the feisty little girl that we had. I knew how important it would be that she remained the strong and positive wee lady she had always been.
We spent 7 days in hospital trying to gain control over her blood glucose whilst getting what seemed like a very intensive crash course on how to keep our little girl alive. I certainly considered ourselves lucky, firstly due to the early diagnosis which had avoided a DKA scenario, but secondly, because of the invaluable support we got from the diabetic nurse, who herself has type 1 diabetes. I honestly believe she went way beyond her call of duty to ensure that every aspect of diabetes was covered during our stay.
Beth continued to thrive although her wee personality didn’t make things easy during that week for staff. Beth developed a tendency to bolt from the ward for every insulin injection. We found her in various places like fire cupboards, behind nurse stations and under consultant’s desks throughout the week. This was heart breaking, but my husband and I both knew that this ability to fight back would see her through some tough years ahead. We found that the more we learned about diabetes the scarier it got. Yet, having so much to learn meant that folding, emotionally, as we felt like doing, just wasn’t an option. We needed to absorb so much information in so little time.
Being discharged and returning home with Beth to her Dad and three adoring big brothers was almost as scary as the initial diagnosis. The overwhelming need to get back to “normal” or indeed our new “normal” presented many challenges such as figuring out school arrangements and trying to give both our boys, immediate family and friends, an insight into the impact of this diagnosis. We found ourselves completely exhausted and reluctant to share how completely terrifying diabetes was for us, fearing that it would cause a barrier to their normal interactions and time with Beth. Very quickly, the standard answer to the question “How’s Beth?” became “Fine”.
We are very grateful, though, to have had family who saw through this and asked the question again. They took the time to learn how to manage Beth’s diabetes so that we could have respite from time to time which has been invaluable. I think it’s vital to seek out those who are willing to be of a practical support to you and invest your, limited time, and energy into giving them the training and confidence they need to best support you.
Returning to school was an issue for us, as Beth’s existing school showed very little desire or competency in putting measures in place to ensure her safety. They would have been quite happy for me to come in to do all that was required but I didn’t feel that that was acceptable at any level. I needed to continue to work. And I needed to know that Beth was in an environment that understood the necessity for monitoring her and have the ability to ensure a positive perception around her diabetes. We took a decision to move Beth to a new school. And I haven’t looked back. We are delighted with the approach that her new school has taken to her diabetes and we can both feel confident in her care throughout the day which is so important.
Beth herself inspires us each and every day with her strength, sense and positivity. She has a very no-nonsense approach to people who don’t understand diabetes, which is comical at her age and has often been heard telling people “well you’ll just have to learn” or “mammy can write it down for you and I can go with you then”. She uses the Freestyle Libre which we wouldn’t be without and by now there is not a kid on the street that doesn’t know how to scan her blood glucose levels. I am not sure that sharing our story will benefit anyone, but for me, taking time to reflect has given me a certain sense of release and acknowledge how far we’ve come.
Little did I know seven months ago when setting out to the GP’s that our lives were about to change forever but we’ve met some great people along the way. We still have our great wee family and although I know diabetes will continue to be a challenge for us all, it won’t beat us. To all parents of children with Type 1 out there “I genuinely salute you”
Thank you Rosaleen for this wonderful piece. If you are a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes and you would like to either connect with the Diabetes Online Community, or if you would like to meet other families living with type 1 diabetes in real life, and believe me now is the time with all of those christmas events happening in those groups, follow this link.