Dear parents of a child with Type 1 Diabetes,

Hannah was a happy, seemingly healthy 12-year-old in 2005. I say "seemingly" because although her pediatrician never found any chronic illness, I knew something was not quite right. She loved school, so when she became a frequent flyer in the health room, the nurse contacted us. She told me that she knew Hannah was not the type of student to try to get out of class, stomach aches several times a week for the first semester, so something must have been wrong. Still, the pediatrician found nothing.

In January of 2006, I noticed that she was getting up at night to go to the bathroom. Of course, I thought it was because of all of the extra water and juice she had started to drink during the day. When she began to have really dry skin on her hands I decided to Google her symptoms. Everything pointed to diabetes. I immediately called to make an appointment at the pediatrician's office for a test. The first appointment available was over a month away. The second time I called they could see her in less than a month, but they weren't sure they could test for diabetes in the office. WHAT?!

A few days later, I got a call from the school nurse asking me to come up to the health room immediately. She wanted me to actually see what Hannah looked like when she complained of those mysterious stomach aches. Her eyes had huge dark circles under them, her complexion was pasty white. I gave her some soda to drink, hoping to settle her stomach. Of course, she began to feel better. I told the nurse that Hannah had also lost close to 10 pounds for no reason. She told me to get her to the doctor immediately, no matter what they said.

I called the doctor's office and told them that we were on the way, I wanted her pediatrician to test for diabetes, and we would not be needing an appointment. I must have sounded scary, because 10 minutes later, we walked in the door and it was like the parting of the Red Sea... everyone stepped out of our way. A nurse came in with a glucometer and five seconds later our world changed forever.

Our current pediatrician, gave us two choices. Johns Hopkins or Children's National Medical Center. Period. We choose Children's National because Hannah's dad is a metropolitan police officer. He has had to take children to the emergency department (ED) and was very impressed with the staff and facility. We arrived and signed in expecting to have quite a wait due to the amount of people already there, but, before we could sit down a team came swooping down on us and whisked us away! It was like the whole hospital was attending to Hannah. The team also found that she has Hashimoto's thyroiditis and began treating that. Hannah was a real trooper through all of this. I, on the other hand, was running on nothing but adrenaline.

Hannah only spent one night at Children's National (even though I kept asking to stay longer). They educated us, gave us prescriptions, and told us to call anytime... day or night. And we did. Hannah went back to school the following week, and we went with her to every class. She has never had a problem letting people know she has diabetes and answering questions. In fact, last year, the health teacher had her give talks on diabetes to other high school classes. After she was diagnosed, a few more students were also. So Hannah became the Welcome Wagon for diabetes in her middle school.

As a seventh grader, and a newly diagnosed diabetic, Hannah promptly tried out for the high school color guard squad, and made it. She spent eight hours a day in the hot, humid sun practicing that summer. I spent that time standing off to the side watching her. And that time-honored expression came into being..."What's your number?" She went on to spend three years with the guard. Then she found dance! Now for the past two years she has spent at least six hours a week in dance. She is also a part of the Student Dance Company.

The dance studio has embraced Hannah from the start. In fact, this past May, the Company did its annual benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), in honor of Hannah. So having said all of this, I want you to know what I have learned over the past four years. I have learned that expressions such as "I have diabetes, it doesn't have me" are very uplifting, but not necessarily realistic. Diabetes does have Hannah. She can't rally against "it" with happy chants of defiance. Instead she has learned to co-exist with "it." It's a balancing act, especially when she dances.

As a parent, be a safety net, but let them go and do. That was the hardest part for us. She is a brilliant dancer, and now is an assistant teacher. But, she knows that in order to dance she must "RESPECT THE D." Balance! And with teenagers, especially girls, the numbers are not according to the science! HORMONES!!!!!! Insulin is one too! So, try not to be over controlling or get down during this time. This too shall pass. Do not dwell on the future and what might be, instead, (and I know this is tough to do) live in the present and do the best that you can. The bad news is that your child has diabetes, the good news is that they have it NOW. With prayers and blessings…


Hannah's parents, Joseph and Janet



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