Monday, March 25, 2013

Welcome to Type 1 Diabetes

Allysan shows us her diabetic ID dog tag. ~ Our granddaughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few weeks ago. The diagnosis blindsided us. She was wasting away before our eyes, becoming more listless and tired, but it happened so gradually. Her father, JD, was the one who sounded the alarm, and I give him credit for saving her life. We took her to Fulton Family Medicine one Saturday morning to have her checked out. Thanks and a tip of the hat to Sarah Hebert, who examined Allysan, took blood, and called us the next day. Sarah told us to go to the Emergency Room immediately because Allysan had Type 1 diabetes and was in diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition which can be life-threatening. We said yes, ma’am, and took Allysan in to Children’s Hospital, where she began her new life. How could this happen? How could a child be so ill, and appear so ill, and we did not pick up on it until she was dangerously ill? I’ll tell you how it happens. It sneaks up on you. Diabetes is called “the sneaky disease” for a reason. I have heard the warning signs of diabetes more than once – drinking a lot of water, peeing a lot, eating a lot but losing weight. I had noticed that toilet paper was going fast on the weekends. I thought, boy, little girls sure use a lot of toilet paper. News flash: they don’t use that much. These things were right in front of us, but we didn’t see them. She wears long sleeved shirts and jeans. It wasn’t until she put on shorts and a tank top one night that we saw it. How did she get so thin? How could our granddaughter, our slip of a girl who is thin naturally, get diabetes? Don’t you have to be fat? No. Diabetes strikes where it will. It can be genetic. The closest relatives Allysan has with type 1 diabetes are two of my brother’s grandchildren, one of whom was diagnosed as an infant of 20 months. This might indicate that there is a diabetes gene hiding in my family DNA, but we know of no other relatives that have it or had it in the past. As with most terrible things that happen, you don’t have time to sit around asking why and how. You hit the ground running and learn how to count carbohydrate grams and give insulin injections, among other things. Allysan is on the mend now – gaining weight and more her kid self. I admit I’m still in shock. I’m in awe of her parents, JD and Nycol, who have stepped up to the plate and are taking care of their girl, working as a team. They are truly rising to this demanding occasion. And I am grateful. I am so grateful that Allysan’s diabetes has been diagnosed and is being treated, grateful for the prayers and good wishes people sent our way. She has begun to gain a little weight, and is much more lively again. A couple of people have asked me if she’ll outgrow it. No. This is for life. I am writing about it here because even though Type 1 diabetes is rare, it happens, and it sneaks up on you gradually. I’m telling Allysan’s story so you can look at your child or grandchild or even an older person who might have Type 2, adult onset, diabetes. Or how about yourself? Do you or someone you know, drink tons of water and go to the bathroom constantly? Is this person always hungry, eating constantly, and losing weight? Take a new look and ask yourself what you haven’t been seeing because you didn’t think there was any need to look. If you read this and it leads to even one person getting diagnosed and beginning treatment for this killer disease, then hurrah. If you or someone you love gets checked out and is healthy, double hurrah. Diabetes is sneaky, it is deadly, and you need to get on top of it. Pay attention. So that’s my public service announcement for this week. May you and your children and grandchildren all be healthy and live long.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Wartime Romance

Mark & Dawn Tuel, December 1943.~ My husband, Rick, has time to write now that he has retired, and he recently wrote up this recounting of how his parents met during World War II. He writes: My dad, Mark Tuel, was born in Lehigh, Iowa, in 1921, the elder of two brothers. Two years later Mom was born on Sugar Creek Road in Dover, Ohio, the younger of two sisters. Dad was raised in Lehigh and Ford Dodge, Iowa. He was a small town boy who grew up swimming and fishing in the Des Moines River. His dad was a tailor and sign painter. After graduation from high school he and three of his buddies pooled their money and bought a well-used Ford Model A flivver which they named “Penelope.” Together the four of them drove to Los Angeles and back in a month, sleeping on the seats and running boards and following U.S. Route 66, when they weren’t patching flat tires. My mom, Dawn Kennedy, grew up on her parents’ farm on Sugar Creek Road, essentially being raised by her older sister Doris. In those Depression years the farm couldn’t support itself and like most farmers in the area her dad worked at the Reeves Steel Mill to help make ends meet. The tradition in rural Ohio farming communities was for the children to grow up and take their places within the social fabric of their forebears, preserving and strengthening it for the succeeding generation. When Mom completed the 12th grade, her parents asked her what she wanted for a graduation present and were shocked to the roots of the family tree when she instantly answered, “Luggage.” They complied reluctantly and in July of 1943 she shook the dust of Sugar Creek Road from her feet and boarded a train for Los Angeles. It was not a random decision. Some months earlier two of Mom’s acquaintances from Dover High School made a break for it and landed in Los Angeles. Gladys and Hilda found jobs there and a nice house close to the beach and apparently the Great Depression was finally ending as the wartime economy began to rev up. It was freedom, excitement, and a whole new life out on the West Coast. The early years of World War II shook an entire generation of kids out of their nests, some to return, some not. One of the first casualties of the war was tradition itself as the new generation took wing, leaving its parents wondering what the world was coming to. By that time Dad had literally taken wing. He had enlisted in the Army in April of 1942 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. He was deep into flight training starting with the Stearman Biplane, a forgiving aircraft that allowed the cadets to learn the basic skills of flight control, takeoffs and landings. It was like flying a box kite with a 12-cylinder radial engine. The next step up the ladder was the BT-13-A, a fixed single wing trainer that the cadets called “the Vultee Vibrator.” A day in the trainer was the equivalent of taking a laxative. Dad was in training throughout the war, advancing to pursuit fighter aircraft and light bombers. As his skills increased he was shifted through a variety of duties from towing airborne targets for aerial gunnery training to flight controller duty on the ground. Here the miraculous begins to unfold. While working the Flight Control Center in L.A. he met Gladdy and Hilda. Off duty Gladdy and Hilda would go out night-clubbing with the flyboys and would invite homesick young men to their house for meals and socializing. At about this point, another train filled with Midwest-American refugees pulled into Union Station and in the fullness of time, Hilda invited Mark to come over to the house. There was someone staying with her and Gladdy who she wanted him to meet. And so Mom and Dad’s separate paths finally crossed and their meeting was…tepid. “Mom didn’t like me much at first,” Dad said years later. “She thought I was too cocky.” Likewise, years later, Mom added her own thoughts. “I had only been on my own for a few months,” she said. “I wanted more of that.” But there was a war on; there was no time for more of that. Dad didn’t know when he’d be shipped out and didn’t want her to be “the girl I left behind” to be snapped up by some other guy. When he received orders for further flight training in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he popped the big question right away. Mom went back to Ohio to think it over while Dad changed duty stations. Mom’s family tree got its roots shaken once again when she abruptly flew the coop and caught a train for Dalhart, Texas. Fears of shame and scandal back in Dover finally were put to rest when Dad and mom were united in marriage on Christmas Day, 1943.