Allow Life – Beyond the Diagnosis
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Allow Life by Diana Nitescu that details a mother’s journey with her daughter’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and how they both found yoga, better nutrition and renewed motivation to live a full life. You can find her book on her blog.
It was a cold and windy December night in the Sunset. My daughter, Naya, was leaning on me, wrapped in her blue monkey blanket named George. She was shivering and her breathing was slow and heavy. “Go,” I said to the cab driver, “We have to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.” … All I recall are lights, paperwork, more paperwork and my poor child staring at the ground, refusing to answer any question directed her way.
“She has diabetes.”
“Your daughter has diabetes. That’s why she is so sick …”
I had enough background knowledge to know what diabetes meant. I realized this condition was not due to diet or lifestyle, but I knew nothing of how it unleashed, and what was happening in her body at that moment. I kept asking if she would be okay as I started crying inconsolably. Would she make it through the night? She started fading as minutes passed. In between the diagnosis and making it to the ICU, Naya was not responsive anymore, partly from exhaustion, partly from ketoacidosis. This condition results as a shortage of insulin, causing the body to burn fats and turning them into blood acids. Her blood sugar was at a 408 high, more than four times what was normal. She must have been that way for some time, none of us really being aware of it.
That night felt like I got thrown into a jail cell, in hell. I recall watching my daughter struggle for air in her half-conscious state. Her breathing was slow and hoarse, and she was no longer responding to outside stimulation. Fear took over me. What was happening? I was counting her every breath. Was she slipping through my fingers and away into the abyss? Would she make it until morning? Was this it?!
Open your eyes, hummingbird! Open your eyes! The room was still, all I could hear was a raspy humming as she struggled for air. My heart was pounding in my head. I took a deep breath and allowed the moment to serve as my guide.
When dawn broke, my hummingbird opened her eyes!
Besides the initial scare of finding out that my child had diabetes, the second greatest apprehension was to take her home from the hospital and start a “new life.” It was indeed the beginning of a new life. Our existence as we had known it up to that point was over. We had to start a complete new journey. The most terrifying feeling took hold of me when the doctor said we could pack up and go home. What would I feed her? How much insulin would be enough; what if I gave her too much? What if I did something wrong and the consequences would be monstrous?
The questions were flooding my brain and I had no answers for any of them. All I wanted to do was stay a bit longer under the doctor’s supervision, where we were “safe.” I realized that it was unrealistic and in the middle of packing our belongings, I went into the small pantry across the hall and started sobbing. I cried and cried and could not stop. Everything I had bottled up that week in the hospital came pouring out. I had been so strong, keeping faith and composure for our family, for our friends, but mostly for Naya, as reassurance that she was all right. Was she, tough? I had no idea. What would happen to us? I wanted someone to tell me that all would be ok, that we would prevail no matter what … No such reassurance came from anywhere, and I realized that no such reassurance existed.
I cried and cried that afternoon until I had no more tears to cry. Then, I accepted that it was time. It was time to cross over, to the other side of fear.
Her father called to say that he was pulling the car around the corner. In some crazy way, it felt like the salvation mobile had arrived. As I took a deep breath, I knew that the moment had come to close the old book and open a new one – a challenging one, but a great one never the less. Before I stepped out of that pantry, I made myself a promise: “There will be hard times and there will be joyous ones. May we embrace it all with an open heart and an open mind. There will be questions and there will be times when the answers will be slow to come. I promise to be patient and I promise to never give up.” In that moment, that was all my brain allowed for.
We packed our things and bundled up. It was a crisp December night, and the drive home was the most comforting thing that we had experienced all week. My child was in great spirits, she had an appetite, and all three of us were relieved to be back in our element. I wasn’t sure what to feed her for dinner, nor had I any idea how much, or what type of insulin we got from the pharmacy. I was ecstatic that my kid was alive and happy and that we would get to sleep in our own bed that night.
Among all the moving pieces, the only sure thing was the ocean to our right, which looked ever so peaceful and infinite. I understood that we weren’t lost, we were simply learning as we were going. Life never offers any guarantees – just open doors that you can choose to step through, or not. When we arrived home, I opened the door to the van and walked out into the crisp night, confident that all would work out as it should.
Through the trials, the tribulations and all the unanswered questions, I had to make a bold choice: courage or fear? What type of life did I want to provide for my daughter moving forward? I chose to cross over to the other side of fear, to embrace life as it was given to us. With the reassurance that all was happening as it should, we embarked on an amazing journey of self-discovery, healthy eating, adventuring and gratitude. Life can be unexpected, but it is up to us to decide what we allow into our experience. With a healthy body, a well-balanced mind and a grateful spirit, anything is possible.
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