Young children alone overnight with father who is diabetic

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Becky posted on Thu, Jun 18 2009 2:18 PM


Please help - I'm looking for your thoughts on this very, very difficult situation.  Someone who has been diabetic since age 8 is fairly recently separated from his wife (7 months now).  They have 2 young daughters, ages 5 and 7, and have joint legal and physical custody of the girls. He had been having fairly frequent low blood sugar reactions which he needed 911 help for, prior to a pancreas transplant, but stabilized afterwards. However, after less than a year, he lost the pancreas. 

Last week he had his  first reaction in about 1.5 or 2 years.  Unfortunately, he had his daughters with him that night.  They woke up to strange noises, discovered him convulsing, tried to give him glucose gel, and called 911.  The EMTs revived him.

Most people I've talked to agree that this is a situation that two young children should NOT be put in. Too much responsibility.  Period.  It's a VERY scary thing for an adult to deal with, let alone a 5 and 7 year old.  My question is, since it has been about two years since he had a reaction (he says he was overtired, too much activity), would you say it's okay for them to still spend some nights alone with him?  Or, should they not stay overnight alone with him?  The risk of potential emotional (or physical?) damage is too great?  I do know they were quite scared when it happened.  Are there others out there who have had to deal with this?

Could it be that the girls just see him during the days, but stay with their mom at night?  Since it hasn't happened in 1.5 or 2 years, should they assume it's okay for now, unless it happens again?  In which case, although, the girls will be in the same situation again?

Any thoughts or experiences you might be able to share would be appreciated.  Thanks.






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Spirit replied on Thu, Jun 18 2009 2:45 PM

The only experience I can relate to you is not my own, but my sister-in-law's.  Her husband was Type I and she NEVER left him alone with their kids because of the potential problem of having a severe low. 

It seems dangerous for all concerned.  If I were the mother I would work out some other arrangement.  Perhaps more frequent daytime visits?  Is there a paternal grandparent who would be willing to stay with the father when the kids visited overnight?


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Becky replied on Thu, Jun 18 2009 2:55 PM


Thanks for relating your experience. This is just the kind of thing I am curious about. I just don't have any knowledge about how people handle it.

And no, he has no relatives of his in the area at all. He does already have alot of daytime contact with the girls, since he is home on medical disability, and she has to work.

I wonder what the frequency of reactions is for your sister-in-law's husband.

Thanks very much.

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Spirit replied on Thu, Jun 18 2009 6:12 PM

I wonder what the frequency of reactions is for your sister-in-law's husband.


Not especially often, but sometimes severe enough to call the ambulance. 

I guess she felt that even once was too often.  Her husband was in agreement with this plan.  He was able to work full time during this period, but the kids were in a different category from co-workers.  To put the burden of having to handle a medical emergency on the shoulders of small children does not seem good parenting. 

But I also understand how much a Dad would want to spend overnight time with his daughters. 

This is a tough call.  I hope everyone can come to some sort of resolution of this without a lot of hostility and feelings of deprivation surfacing. 

You might get some more pertinent feedback by posing the question on a board specifically for diabetic children.  I'd be willing to bet this is not the first time this issue has arisen.


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Becky replied on Thu, Jun 18 2009 7:26 PM

Good idea. This is my first time at this site but I will look for that board.

Thanks again.


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RobertIA replied on Thu, Jun 18 2009 9:24 PM

As always, there are two sides.  We have heard the "spare the child from problems and any trama", which I would tend to agree with in many cases.  However, depending on the children, their ages, and to relationship of the parents - agreeable divorce or very disagreeable. 

One of my cousins who was a diabetic T1 since age 9, divorced after 9 years of marriage.  The children were both told the facts and that they still respected each other, but could not agree on too many things and were divorcing to stop the heated arguments.  Children - boy of 6 and girl of 10.  Both children enjoyed spending time with both parents.  Then dad had an incident with his diabetes and was rushed to the emergency room.  The daughter made the 911 call.  Everyone rushed to advise against further overnights with father.  About six months later, the daughter woke up about midnight, screaming that Dad was in trouble.  Mother tried to reach by phone and could not get him so she called 911 and both children and she headed for Dad's house.  Ambulance was there and he had had another incident. 

Upshot of this caused the son to say infront of the paramedics and a couple of other relatives to say, if we had been here treatment would have been faster.  Yes, he survived and both parents after he was out of the hospital sat down and talked to the children.  Both children were in agreement that they wanted to be there for their dad and the daughter said she did not care what some doctor said, they wanted to be there in case dad needed them. 

BTW, Dad did wear a "Life Alert", but had taken it off for a shower.  He now has a waterproof one and the children stay over every weekend when possible.  So I would like to add that the children should be talked to and allowed to express their feelings.  Which type of trama could be worse for the child?


Type 2 (10/2003)   Lantus and Novalog   Now added Metformin      Retired


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Spirit replied on Fri, Jun 19 2009 10:51 AM

Bob:  The LIfe Alert is something I hadn't thought of and might be a good piece of the puzzle to add.  That's a little easier to use (by either the Dad or the young kids) than giving information to 911.


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Julie_ replied on Fri, Jun 19 2009 2:11 PM

I am going to try to answer this objectively, but that is hard since I'm afraid I have already taken it personally. 

I raised a child alone with Type 1 diabetes.  I got it when he was 9 months old.  Although I have been lucky enough for the past 26 years never to have had to rely on anyone else to treat my lows, I did teach my son to call 911 as soon as he was capable and to say "I can't wake Mom up."

The key thing is taking steps to make sure the Dad never has to rely on others.  And teaching the children what to do in case he does.  He is their father and it makes no sense to not allow his children to stay with him because he is insulin-dependent.

My solution has always been to run my sugars a bit on the high side.  I never tried to get in A1C contests with anyone.  Mine still runs consistently in the 7's, and that is fine with me, since even though my son is now grown and out on his own, I still do live alone and so need to care for myself.

My son never suffered from having a Mom with diabetes.  In fact, he never considered it anything dangerous or unusual.  He would sometimes say jokingly to his friends, don't bug my Mom if she says she needs a snack - you don't want to mess with her mood if you make her wait!  It was only when he was in graduate school and he heard of a professor who had died while waiting for a restaurant to deliver his meal that he realized a person could die from a low blood sugar.  I also think giving kids responsibility is a good thing that helps them become responsible caring adults.

The other thing the Dad should consider is using an insulin pump if he is not doing so already, since you rarely have a sudden drop in blood sugars while using a pump, especially if you are also taking the drug Symlin.



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Short-Jan replied on Fri, Jun 19 2009 10:58 PM

I've been thinking about an answer to this since I first read it. Julie's post helped.

I was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of eight. I've never been able to afford a pump, have used MDI for many years and I've also had serious lows.

When I started graduate studies in 1977 I was by then a single parent.  My daughter was 7. The two of us moved  from family and friends so that I could study  in another state. I made sure that my daughter knew what to do; how to get  help, if I was having problems.  Once during those three years she had to call for help. When I finally graduated I told her that we had both earned the degree.

Now as an adult and mother to three kids, my daughter has said that the time we spent going to  school together was a very special, important time in her life.

I agree with Julie that if the kids know what to do it'd not too much of a burden.




type 1 dx. 1955

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jen1229 replied on Sat, Jun 20 2009 10:12 PM

I'm not Type I, but I am on insulin and live alone.  I have often wondered what would happen if I had a low and no one was there to help. 

Obviously, the children were smart enough or had enough experience with Dad's Diabetes to know to try to give him glucose and failing that to call 911.  So what are you woriied about?  If they hadn't been there that night might Dad have died?  Would you rather have to explain that to them? 

Children are very resilient and know a lot more than we give them credit for.  Given that they have had this experience and it doesn't seem that they are much the worse for wear, I would not be inclined to keep them from staying with Dad overnight.  Perhaps a talk with them explaining that you are so proud of how grownup they were to handle that problem when Dad got sick, and that they did exactly the right things.  Then you coud add that if it were ever to happen again, they should do the same thing, but add that they should call you after calling 911.  That way you would be aware and could go to the home. 

I agree that the Life Alert is a good thing since he will not always have his children there with him.  I don't think anyone does this on purpose.  I've had a low where I went down to the low 50s and would not want to expereince that again, so I can imagine what it mus feel like to be so low that you can't function. 

Please don't keep your children from their dad.  They need their special time with him and in case you haven't though of it, he could have a low in the daytime when they were with him, it doesn't have to be at night only.

Jen  - LevemirConfused and Novalog Wink A1c 5.8



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I am the mother of a type 1 Diabetic and I have to say that the children should defininitely be allowed to stay overnight with their father. It should be left up to them. If they are smart enough to treat a low and call the paramedics, they can certainly decide whether or not they would like to stay overnight with their father. I do not believe that this type of trauma would even compare with the trauma of living the rest of their lives without their father. I believe he is blessed to have his little guardian angels. I also agree that it does not matter if they are with him during the  night or during the day. Insulin reactions can happen at any time. I do; however, suggest that he find someone else (neighbor, family member, friend, etc.) who can stay with him and the kids just in case something happened and the children were not awakened to provide the help needed. There is a possibility that a situation like that could be fatal and would be very traumatic to the children. The key to a happy ending here is prevention. Perhaps he needs to monitor his blood sugar more often, consider a pump, or even the newly developed continuous glucose monitors. A simple consultation with his doctor to come up with a plan that suits him personally should suffice.  It is a difficult situation and I wish them all the best of luck. God Bless.

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carol replied on Mon, Aug 17 2009 9:48 AM

How about a sensor (CGMS) it would alert him to lows -and highs for that matter?

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