I was scheduled to work over the Thanksgiving holiday and the following weekend. Given that I couldn’t leave town, I invited my parents to join my husband and me for the weekend. I warned them that I might not be totally available – I would have to go into the hospital when we have patients admitted – and that things like movies and day trips would not be possible because I have to be available via pager 24 hours a day for patients and community physicians with questions.
Once my husband’s family caught word of this arrangement, the weekend snowballed from 4 people to 14 people. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle cooking for that many and my work responsibilities. I figured it would likely be manageable, since previous working weekends involved only a few hours per day in the hospital. Our practice gets, on average, 5-10 new-onset Type 1 Diabetes cases per month. So how busy could I possibly be on Thanksgiving weekend?
Busier than I ever imagined. Two days before Thanksgiving, I admitted 2 new kids with Type 1. The day before, I admitted 3 more. Over Thanksgiving and the day after, 2 more came. Seven new-onsets in 4 days? That was a record for us. And that meant I was barely home at all.
These patients all had to be admitted for multiple days in order to receive diabetes education, which is always a feat to accomplish through the hysteria of emotions that comes with the diagnosis. By now, I have diagnosed many kids and their families and it is always challenging…but the fact that it occurred on or so close to Thanksgiving laid an extra shroud over the circumstances. How sad that a time set aside to be happy and thankful was now showered with anger, sadness, and doubt.
At least, it was for me. My heart broke for these families, with the youngest patient just barely two years old. I was angry that I couldn’t spend that time with MY family. I figured everyone I had admitted felt the same, until they proved me wrong. Several parents were incredibly grateful that the diagnosis was diabetes, and not an incurable form of cancer. Others with broken Thanksgiving plans had huge numbers of family members visit them in the hospital for a make-shift holiday meal. The families of the newly diagnosed kids came together to support each other, instantly bonded through their holiday hardship.
One newly diagnosed patient happened to have two friends with Type 1, and upon hearing of her diagnosis, they visited her with a beautiful, hand-made blanket that read “Diabetic Sisterhood”. This touching gift made me realize that diabetes provides a bond that goes beyond friendship – it is a sisterhood and a brotherhood that connects us and through it, we find strength and understanding.
The stories of that weekend helped me appreciate that there was a positive side to it all, even if it was just a silver sliver on a very black cloud. These families and their friends handled these children’s diagnoses with such grace, and exemplified the idea of Thanksgiving and family in a way I hadn’t thought possible under such circumstances.
I went home to a beautiful Thanksgiving meal that my parents cooked without me, in a home brimming with family. My Thanksgiving was full of hefty boluses of insulin and of love, and it was one I won’t soon forget.