I’m from a very big family – my mother is one of seven and my dad is one of five, for starters – so I had plenty of relatives who used to babysit for me when I was small. Overnight visits at my aunts’ houses were part of the fun, and I always looked forward to them. (Because – let’s be honest – I liked that they let me put makeup on them and do their hair. My pretty aunts were like living Barbie Doll heads to me.)
Things changed a bit when diabetes came into the picture. Sleepovers weren’t as easy to manage, because now we had to juggle insulin injections, blood sugar tests, and being on the lookout for high and low blood sugars – especially back in that first year when everything diabetes-related was so new to all of us. I was still a little kid, and now all this medical stuff, too?
When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t do my own insulin injections. At the outset, my parents did my injections for me, but after a few months, my extended family started to learn. I think about it now, having baby-sat for my nieces and nephews and little cousins, and I can’t even picture that learning curve. I’m so grateful that my family came together to learn to deal with diabetes, instead of leaving my mom and dad as the only ones who were “in the know.”
One of my earliest memories with diabetes is of me waiting on my aunt’s couch while my mother tried to explain to my aunt how to administer my insulin injection. And every time I recall it, it makes me laugh. It also makes me love my family even more because they embraced all kinds of awkward to make diabetes “normal.”
“You need to uncap the syringe, check for any air bubbles one last time, and then pinch up where you’re going to stick the needle. Once the needle is in, you press down the plunger and pull the needle out. No problem!”
My aunt was nervous. “I pinch the skin and then put the needle in? How fast do I put the needle in?”
“Pretty quickly,” my mom responded. “Don’t think about it. Just jab it in there, as gently as you can.”
“Okay, so pinch, jab, plunge, remove. Got it.”
“Great, so are you ready to give it a try?”
(Mind you, the entire time they’re debating this, I’m face-down on the couch with my pants pulled down, waiting for the insulin injection to be given into my seven year old butt cheek. Another truly classy moment for me.)
My aunt came towards me, brandishing the syringe like a hot poker. She uncapped it nervously, pinched up the top of my hip, and said (and I remember this clearly), “Ready, Kerri?”
“Yessh I amph.” I said into the couch cushion.
“Okay, here we go!”
She expertly stuck the syringe needle into my skin, and I barely felt the pinch. And then she pulled the needle quickly out, letting out an “Oooh! I did it!”
My mother sighed.
“You didn’t push the plunger down.”
“The plunger. To dispense the insulin? You didn’t push it down. You just stuck her with a needle and then pulled it out again.” I could hear my mother trying not to laugh.
“Oh shit!” my aunt exclaimed.
I laughed, despite the fact that they were about to advance on me again with that syringe.
“You shed de esh word.”