It’s been a while, but we’re back with our ongoing series by and for loved ones of people with diabetes (PWDs), the so-called Diabetes Partner Follies. Today, we’re happy to introduce a very special Type Awesome (those who are loved ones or care for a PWD) — my very own dad, Larry Hoskins!
Not only is he a D-Dad who looked after and helped me become the person I am today, but he’s also a D-Husband; my mom was diagnosed back when she was a child and is now more than five decades into her life with type 1.
Given that my wife and I have just returned from vacation and were able to meet up with my parents as they were dog-watching our pup Riley, this was a perfect time for me to talk my dad into sharing his perspective as a Double Type Awesome…
Take it away, Dad!
My wife Judi and I recently celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary.
It’s hard to believe that we have been together for so many years, but it’s just as amazing in that Judi was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 5 in 1958. At the time, doctors told her parents that she would probably not live to see age 21. Obviously and thankfully, they were very wrong.
We met in the early 1970s when we worked together at a Detroit law firm. I was in law school at night and worked as a law clerk during the day, while Judi worked as a legal secretary and paralegal. We worked together on various projects and I knew she had diabetes, but had no idea what the disease was all about. The only thing I knew was that high blood sugar had to be controlled by taking a shot of insulin. Looking back to those days, boy was I uneducated! I had a personal policy of not dating a co-employee and so we almost didn’t get together, but as it turned out, Judi gave her two-week notice to take another job. And so on her last day of work, I asked her out. I am sure glad I didn’t get sick and miss work that day!
Over the first few years of our marriage, I learned much more about diabetes, but had the sh** scared out of me many times when Judi went low and I was unable to wake her. Sometimes orange juice would bring her around, but I did administer glucagon on several occasions. Over time, I also learned to recognize her symptoms of hypoglycemia and many times, stop it before it was too late.
When our son Mike was born, he came about six weeks before our planned due date and Judi was very sick at the time she went into labor. She was fine afterward, but Mike spent three weeks in ICU at the hospital before it was clear if he’d be OK. When we finally brought him home, we always considered ourselves very lucky because he was healthy — and because he was able to sleep with the lights on and through any noises. We never had to tip-toe around the house because we were afraid we would wake him!
Mike was a healthy non-diabetic boy in his early years. However, shortly after his 5th birthday, he came down with a bad case of the 24-hour flu. The day after he recovered, my parents kept him overnight so Judi and I could have a night out. When we picked him up the next morning, we were told that Mike had been very thirsty the night before and spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Judi and I just looked at each other, reaching the same diagnosis at the same time. We took Mike to his doctor and sure enough, his blood sugar was very high.
On that day in 1984, I became a Type 3, Times Two.
I was certainly better equipped to deal with Mike’s diabetes, having already been with Judi for about seven years. Also, when Mike had a problem, I was not alone. He had several seizures in the night when he was a young child a couple of years after his diagnosis. They were very scary and a new experience for us, and we were afraid that he also had developed epilepsy… it wasn’t until a few years later, after several EEG’s, when doctors finally told us that they were in fact related to diabetes and possibly very severe low blood sugars. Then one day, it all just stopped.
Mike was scared to death of needles in his early years, but became acclimated to them pretty quickly when he had to get a shot every day. We both struggled with the thought of Mike being diabetic and turned to the JDF (now JDRF) for support. We were told that a cure was on the horizon in 5 years…. (insert your laugh here). Actually, I became a board member for our local Southeast Michigan chapter and engaged in many fundraising activities. When Mike was 7, he rode in the annual Walk/Ride for a Cure event and I secured quite a few pledges for a number of dollars per mile. People were later very surprised when Mike actually rode his bike with training wheels for 20 miles!!
Over the years, I saw Judi take better and better care of herself following Mike’s diagnosis and as time went on. Especially when Mike was a teenager and rebelled and struggled with diabetes control. He went on multiple injections of insulin each day, but still bounced between the 400s to very lows that caused scary reactions.
During his last year of college, Mike became interested in the insulin pump. At the time I was an attorney for a major insurance company and Judi did the paperwork to get approval for Mike to buy a pump. Mike’s pumping lead Judi to also purchase an insulin pump several months later, and I watched her then and now take on the difficult task of fighting with the insurance company when they frequently decided that things they needed were not covered. She passed on her knowledge to Mike who now knows firsthand that you have to watch insurance companies closely and fight for what you are entitled to have.
Mike’s career took him from Michigan to Indianapolis, IN, about 10 years ago. It was difficult and scary for Judi and I to lose our diabetic son to another state. As a parent, you worry about your child when he is not home. Is he OK? He is late, is he having a reaction somewhere? Fortunately, Mike had met Suzi who later became his wife. She did everything possible to learn about diabetes and the insulin pump, and she’s now the “Type 3” that’s with Mike every day. During married life, she has experienced many of the same scary things that I have, when you love a PWD.
Yes, I’m still a Type 3, Times Two. But now, I have Suzi as a “partner Type 3” down in Indy. I’ll forever be grateful for her taking on this difficult job. At the very beginning, I was happy that Mike found someone like Suzi but was also afraid that she might not be able to cope long-term with the responsibilities of being a Type 3. That fear has long since disappeared. She has been in the same boat as me for 10 years now and in many ways has handled the responsibilities better than I ever have.
Thanks, Dad! Love you and all you’ve done for mom and I — you truly are a Type Awesome! As is Suzi 🙂