by Richmond mom Sue Ayers, freelance writer and training designer.
After Emily’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and her weekend in the ICU, on Wednesday, January 27, she was ready to return to school. I had called Short Pump Elementary on Monday notifying them of her absence and spoke with school nurse, Mary Babcock, to make sure the school had everything they needed to provide Emily’s care.
I found out that we had to have forms sent from the MCV Pediatric Endocrinology office before Emily could return to school. That was a pretty easy process as it just required the doctor’s office to fax paperwork to the school. The school nurse contacted me later that day with a long list of items that I would need to send in with Emily including syringes, alcohol pads, lancets and testing strips, a glucose meter, candy for hypoglycemic episodes and ketone strips for hyperglycemic incidents. They also required juice boxes and snacks to give Emily in the office as needed. So it was off to Target to hunt down the supplies and a large enough Rubbermaid tub in which to carry it all!
The day we returned to school, the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming to Emily. As a fifth grader, she has been at Short Pump for six years and they’ve become like a family. I met with the school nurse and two nurses from Henrico County to review Emily’s care plan. I was so overwhelmed that once I sat down, I realized I never gave her one of her insulin injections – the long-lasting one that I give her in the mornings. So I ran back home while they graciously waited. We then reviewed the plan and these ladies had everything so carefully organized that I asked if they would give ME a copy of their documentation as theirs was so easy to understand! They allowed Emily to transport her insulin back and forth with her so we didn’t have to purchase a separate bottle which wouldn’t be covered by insurance. They also suggested that they do an additional glucose test before the long bus-ride home each day which is helpful to prevent low blood sugar.
Mary informed me that she was an RN who worked at MCV prior to coming to the school system. We are very fortunate as some of the schools do not have an RN or even a clinic attendant. Some schools just have a designated staff person who administers insulin to kids. I found this out when I began attending a local diabetes support group (more on that in an upcoming column).
The school also allowed me to speak to Emily’s class and talk about her diabetes with them. The kids were quiet as I went to the front of the room. Emily sat beside me. She wanted me to be the one to tell the kids her story. Mrs. Brock started out by informing the kids that Emily had been in the hospital and then it was my turn! I talked to them about what happened at the doctor’s visit taking great care to let them know that Type 1 diabetes is pretty rare and that they couldn’t ‘catch’ diabetes from Emily. I didn’t want them to worry that it might happen to them. We discussed a diabetic’s care and I asked them if they knew how Type 1 was treated. A few of them answered “with pills”. They were shocked when they found out Emily would need four injections a day!
But they listened intently and I told them about blood sugar lows. I asked them to look out for Emily and if they noticed her having any symptoms to please tell the teachers. We asked Caroline to be Emily’s buddy and she agreed. Caroline walked with Emily every single time she went to the clinic for glucose tests and insulin!
I left Short Pump that day knowing that Emily was in good hands. It wasn’t easy to leave her and it wasn’t easy to trust that others would take care of her the way I would. As I left the room, Emily’s friends were hugging her quietly. I walked to my car.