With the frequent release of upgraded smartphones, everyone talks about the cool new features, apps and design. Having an app that shows you what you’ll look like in your elder years or with a mustache sounds entertaining, but to a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, a cell phone is so much more. It can serve as a lifeline, allowing for peace of mind for yourself and your child.
My son Joey has just started 8th grade. It’s hard to believe that after nine years at the same school he is in his final year! Ten years is a long time to be at the same school. His friendships are so solid and special! As you can imagine, we have gotten close with some of the families at school. When Joey was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2nd grade, we received a lot of support. However, I wasn't sure what the reaction would be to us giving Joey a cell phone at that age.
What we learned over the years is that the standard age for getting the first phone was 13, in 8th grade. A lot of kids got them as a gift for 8th grade graduation. Makes sense to the "normal" family. Our decision to get Joey a cellphone at age eight was based on need; our need to know that he could contact us no matter where he was and vice-versa!
What Led to our Decision to Get a Cell Phone
When your child has a chronic illness, one with the potential for harm to the child, it’s hard not to become helicopter parents. That first summer of his diagnosis was very scary for us and filled with challenges! Especially because Joey played baseball. The other parents dropped their players off for practice and even some games, but we couldn't do that because we were too nervous to leave him. My other son Tony also played baseball and his home field was at a park that had a playground pretty far away from the fields. Joey wanted to go with all the younger siblings to the playground, but it scared the life out of me! I was a nervous wreck every time Joey went to play there.
So this all added to our decision to get him the phone. With a phone, we could call him to come back or just to see how he was feeling. Another reason we wanted him to have the phone was because, on the rare occasion that Joey would be invited to a friend’s house (prior to diagnosis he was invited all the time), he would have a phone to call me if he needed to. This was really nice, gave us peace of mind and, believe it or not, it gave him piece of mind too.
What we didn't realize right away was that as scared as we were with Joey's diagnosis, he was just as scared! He wanted to know that the parent in charge knew how to take care of him. For the first year Joey was on injections and wasn't able to give himself shots at meals yet, the parent he was with had to do it. He wasn't counting carbs or figuring out insulin-to-carb ratios either. We would discuss what was for lunch/dinner with the parents and most times I would run over to dose him. It's a lot to ask a parent to stick a needle in a kid that isn't their own! It's no wonder Joey stopped getting invitations! But once he had a cell phone, he was more confident to go to a friend’s house because he knew he could reach us on his own.
This same scenario played over at birthday parties, school parties and baseball parties. We were faced with being attached to Joey’s hip. At least he was only eight so it's not unusual to be at all the events in his life. The school parties, where most parents would just send in their treat, I needed to physically be there to see what treats he would eat so I could dose him.
Convenient Management with a Cell Phone and Insulin Pump
Once Joey started using the Omnipod insulin pump, life became much easier for everyone. All I had to do was send Joey a text and ask him what his blood sugar number was and we could discuss how much insulin to dose for meals. The combination of Joey's cell phone and his Omnipod insulin pump has made all of our lives much easier! And now that Joey is 13, most of his friends have phones as well, so there’s no more feeling guilty about that.
Now the amount of cell data and texting that a 13 year old can go through, well that's an entirely different blog!
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