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Word Choice.

“Mom, why do you wear that bracelet again?”

She knows why, but every few months, she asks again.  Why do I wear a medical alert bracelet?  Why is that thing as important to leaving the house as having my keys?

“I wear it because it says I have diabetes, just in case someone needs to know.”

“Why would they need to know?”

“In case I wasn’t able to say it myself.  Like if we happened to be in an accident or something, or if I was asleep.”

She thinks about this.

Medical alert bracelet #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Is this why we have a house phone?”

“Yes.”  She knows the reason but asks anyway.  We decided to get a landline telephone in the event that there was a storm that knocked the power out, or if we had a babysitter and needed to call the house.  Or if my husband or children ever needed to call 911 on my behalf.  “We have a house phone on the waaaaay off chance that I’d have trouble waking up because of a low blood sugar.  You know, if I was passed out.”

I forget that the words we use matter.  That they are easily confused and conflated.  That she’s just a little kid.

“Passed out?!!”

“Yes, but that’s a very rare thing.  It hasn’t ever happened to me.  It probably won’t ever happen, but it’s smart to be prepared, just in case.”

“PASSED OUT?!!!”

It was then that I remember hearing her and her friend talking about her friend’s grandmother, who had recently passed away.

“OUT, honey.  Not AWAY.  Passed out means I would be having trouble waking my brain and body up and need extra help.  Not dead.  It’s very different,”  I scooped her up and held her close, aiming to hug the panic away from her as I listed all the reasons why passed out was different from passed away and also how it wouldn’t ever happen to me, right?  Right.

The reality of my own thoughts every night before bed stood in contrast to the confidence in my voice talking to Birdy.  The thought is fleeting, but also sharp and cuts through my mettle, reminding me that diabetes looks easy and seems quiet but exists with an undercurrent of worry.

And I’m learning that I’m not the only one who worries.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. This touches me on so many levels. Part of that includes dealing with a parent involved in a bad accident decades ago, and my own reaction to that. Words matter.
    Also, I’m hiding this post from my wife who tells me she wants to keep the landline for the same reason.

    12/21/16; 12:50 pm
  2. Anna Presswell #

    As you know I have my own little lady, and how I explain this to her is often on my mind. Thank you for putting down in words how I might choose my own more carefully.

    12/21/16; 2:39 pm
  3. Yes, the words we chose to use are so very important. Your daughter will continue to need reassurance, especially as her social world enlarges and conversations with friends will bring new situations into her world. My daughter grew up learning to watch her mom for all of the symptoms of low blood sugars, long before any of the new technology existed to help guide my actions. I’m glad that we had those frequent conversations on what to look for and what to do. She helped me several times, and was also immediately able to assist a patient who needed glucose when she was working as a physical therapy receptionist.

    12/21/16; 5:47 pm
  4. As parents we are tasked many times with being braver than we are. It looks like you fulfilled your role well.

    12/21/16; 7:41 pm
  5. My little one (now 25. YIKES!! How did that happen!!) still needs reassurance from me that I’m ok, especially after a low. He gets nervous when he hears my dex alarming. The first question he asks (Or screams from any part of the house) is “LOW???”

    so, no matter what age our “little ones” are, they still need LOTS of assurance that we are ok. Thanks for the reminder!!

    12/27/16; 5:30 pm
  6. This one gave me a lump in my throat.

    12/27/16; 6:57 pm

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