Friday, November 5, 2010

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Something happened to me about one year ago. Life was unexpectedly put in perspective – I mean really put into perspective.

At the end of August of 2009, my son was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, or Type 1 diabetes. This is not something that runs in our family so to say it was a shock is an understatement. Immediately he was admitted into the hospital because his blood sugar had been high for who knows how long and needed to be corrected immediately before it caused serious damage to his little 20-month old body.

Like any mom in the same situation, I experienced the emotional roller coaster of feelings - upset, angry, wondering if I did something to cause this to happen because it was so unexpected. Since my husband and I both work in healthcare, we immediately called all our contacts in the UAE, Turkey and the US to determine what we could do and where we could find the best treatment. Texas Children’s Hospital was the end result.

Having worked in hospitals and consulted to various healthcare organizations, I always thought that TCH and others like it would be an amazing place. And it was. Such dedicated staff like I have never experienced before. After spending some time abroad I forgot how good healthcare could be. Don’t get me wrong, there are great doctors and good facilities everywhere, but when everyone in the system is at the top of their game and giving so much, it is an incredible experience to receive that kind of service and results in the best healthcare you could possibly receive.

Erin and I stayed in Houston for almost a month – at the advice of the doctor to extend our stay that we naively planned for about a week or 10 days - to ensure I was comfortable enough with what I would need to do to manage Erin’s disease for him. Not that I didn’t understand what needed to be done, but he knew there would be no healthcare providers here to provide the support or follow up required. He was right.

As angry and upset as I was at this disease throughout the experience, there are absolutely no words to describe what you go through when you get in the elevator with your child and you are surrounded by children and their parents who are facing much more challenging conditions.

On the particular day in mind, I entered the elevator and there was a child in a wheelchair that had obviously lost their hair from chemotherapy. Just as the elevator doors were closing, someone pushed the button and another patient entered. This time a boy on a stretcher entered with his mother and his personal nurse. He was connected to a very large medical device. I do not know what the machine was for, but obviously, he also had a very serious illness. I am sure no less serious or difficult than the family to my left who was dealing with cancer.

That was the longest elevator ride in my life. The feeling of being in there comes back to me often. How did I ever get so lucky? How was my son blessed with a disease that was manageable? That enabled him to live a full, normal life? I was numb because for days I was so upset that my child had diabetes. The harsh reality of this was realizing that we had won the lottery.

This did not make me jump for joy by any means. My heart ached for those other parents. I didn’t pity them as I was still coming to terms with my own situation. On the contrary, I was in awe at how they were handling everything under such difficult circumstances. I continued to experience this throughout our visit. The children and the diseases they had, it was all so random.

I returned to Dubai with a lot to learn, but at least with the knowledge to become Erin’s pancreas and manage his diabetes for him until he is old enough to do so himself. I have learned many things from this experience in the last year and on some days feel like a pseudo endocrinologist, nurse, dietician and more. But still, nothing is as profound as the 15 seconds I spent in that elevator that day.

Do not sweat the small stuff people. Every day really is a gift. Think you are having a bad day, or angry about something? Think again, because in the grand scheme of things it is often not as significant as you may think.


Irmgard said...

My Dear Pam!
This time your blog almost broke my heart... not because of Erin, because even though I pity the little man, that he has to go through this, I am also aware that he is in pole position (parents in healthcare, pump, insurance...) no it is heartbreaking, because your blog is so true. We run around, busy with ourselves most of the time, self-pity us for every little thing that goes wrong and forget within that "hamster-wheel", that we take ourselves way too important most of the time....Irmi

Pam said...

Yes Irmi, those are my thoughts exactly.... Everyday I see people getting upset about things that are really meaningless, focussing on the insignificant, taking people for granted just to name a few... and yes, we take ourselves way too seriously too!