Looking for faces of diabetes

When my youngest son Matt was in early elementary school, he would occasionally come home with a long face and big, sad eyes — his hang-dog look.

“How was school, bud?” I would ask. Because I recognized the signs, I knew what the answer would be.

“It was the worst day ever,” he would reply so mournfully that I would have to hide a smile.

The reasons varied, but always involved someone else. One day it was because one of his schoolmates had fallen on the playground and cut his chin. A week later a little girl was crabby and yelled at another girl, which made her sad. A teacher announced her father was sick, a friend reported his grandfather had died, a boy’s dog was hit by a car…we heard about them all at home because it was “the worst day ever.”

One day in third grade, Matt came home with his hang-dog expression, so I did my part and asked how his day went.

“It was the worst day ever,” he replied as expected.

He was pretty upset, and I actually had to work to find out what was going on.

“Rachel is sick,” he finally told me.

Thinking his little friend had the flu or a cold, I gave him a hug (what Mom couldn’t appreciate his sweetness?) and assured him she would be fine in a few days.

“But she won’t,” he insisted, a little angry that I wasn’t understanding his concern. “She was gone for a lot of days and has dib-something and can’t eat candy and might get dizzy.”

It took me a little bit of questioning to figure it out. Rachel, a fellow third grade student at Murray County Central, had been diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. For Matt, it was a “worst day ever” because he was worried about his friend and scared that she might get sicker.

Having had a child diagnosed with a chronic disease a few years earlier and remembering the fear, I sent a quick prayer winging toward Rachel and her folks.

I’m pleased to say Rachel Carlson, a junior at MCC, is doing great. A fine young lady, as a matter of fact, with an engaging smile, a fun sense of humor and an amazing amount of different talents. If you have attended a choir or band concert or theater production at the school in the last several years, you’ve probably seen her on stage.

I sat down with her earlier this week and asked her to tell me the story of her life as a child and teenager with diabetes, and she was kind enough to agree. I’ll share that story with you in a week or so.

I had decided a few months ago to do a few articles in November about living with diabetes and she seemed like a great place to start, partially because I run into her in my kitchen or yard or living room every now and then.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and I want to tell the stories of people who have been affected by the disease, starting with Rachel.

What I’d like to do is talk to a few others in our coverage area who have been impacted by diabetes, either through having it or having a family member who has it. I want to call it “Faces of Diabetes,” and run several articles throughout the month.

I want to hear stories of either Type I or Type II — triumphs, frustrations, daily living and thoughts about the future.

So, anyone who is interested, give me a call or drop me an email.

I can be reached by phone at (800) 642-3243 or locally at (507) 376-9711. My extension is 222. If I’m not around (sometimes I run in and out a lot), please leave me a voice mail. Or I can be reached via email at jwettschreck@dglobe.com.

For anyone who is curious, Matt generally doesn’t come home and announce it was “the worst day ever” anymore, although I do still see that hang-dog look every now and then. These days, he’s almost 17 years old and shares information about his day one of two ways — either I can’t pry it out of him or I can’t get away from it, depending on whether or not he feels like talking to his old mom.

For anyone who has ever followed a teenager around trying to drag information out of them or stood in the kitchen trying to whip up a quick supper while listening to rant about the unfairness of the public school system, part-time jobs or life in general, you know exactly what I mean.