54. Bag of Hope

54. Bag of Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Bag of Hope

There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.

~Baruch Spinoza

It was five o’clock on a Friday afternoon when Nathan came to the door. His blond hair was cut short; his blue eyes matched the warmth of his smile. It was his eighth birthday.

Instead of receiving gifts, he was bringing them. He brought with him his parents, his younger brother, and on his shoulder he carried a Bag of Hope.

My six-year-old son, Kaipo, greeted them at the door.

“Show Kaipo what’s in the Bag of Hope,” said Nathan’s father.

The boy spilled the contents of the bag onto the couch. He didn’t save the best for last. He started with the best, a teddy bear named Rufus.

“I sleep with mine every night,” Nathan told Kaipo.

Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes, comes complete with a medical identification bracelet to show that he has diabetes and patches on his body to show where he takes insulin shots: his arms, legs, abdomen and buttocks.

“I give Rufus shots, just like I have to take,” said Nathan.

He went through the rest of the items in the Bag of Hope, giving some to Kaipo and some to me — kids’ books, coloring books, a video, and some literature for parents. Then he took out his blood testing kit and showed Kaipo how he tests blood from his arm instead of his fingertips.

Earlier that day, Nathan’s father had called me to set up a time to meet. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation had hooked them up with my son and me.

Nathan had been diagnosed with diabetes six months earlier, his father told me.

“When was your son diagnosed?” he asked.

“Two weeks ago,” I said.

“You must be a basket case.”

He understood. Here was someone who could actually relate to me in a way that others couldn’t.

“Yes,” I told him. “Sometimes I just start crying in the middle of a conversation.”

He knew the fear I felt, the grief, the sadness, the loss. He could identify with my pain.

It was amazing how much life had changed overnight. Suddenly I was a nurse checking my son’s blood at least four times a day, giving him shots of insulin twice a day, making sure he had the right amount of food to eat six times a day. I dropped my son off at school with worries that were so magnified from what they’d been just days ago. Would my son know if his blood sugar level was too low? I recited the symptoms over and over to him.

Our three-day stay in the hospital had been intense. It was a crash course in diabetes, and it was overwhelming. I knew that once we got home, I wouldn’t have the nurses there to answer my questions. I was on my own. What if I couldn’t remember something I’d learned over the past few days? I didn’t have the other parent in the home to help me remember all the information that had poured into my brain.

My worry was constant and extreme. That’s the part of single parenting that I find the hardest — taking on 100 percent of the fear and stress of the situation. The other parent isn’t there to take on half of it. Nathan’s mom said she worried about her son’s blood sugar level getting too high. His dad worried more if it got too low. I worried about both, but was more scared of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It happens quickly and can lead to unconsciousness. If it became low in his sleep, would he wake up?

Parents like Nathan’s say, “Call anytime,” and they mean it. They let me know that I’m normal.

“It was bedtime and his reading was low. I gave him extra carbohydrates and had him sleep in my bed.”

“We’ve all done that.”

When I first called JDRF, the woman I spoke with told me, “I cried every day for three months after my child was diagnosed.” With time, the tears eventually dry, replaced with experience and knowledge.

Nathan’s Bag of Hope brought more than its contents. With it came experience, kindness and sympathy. I’d heard that most parents say it takes them a year to feel comfortable with their child’s diabetes. Just six months into their own son’s diagnoses, Nathan’s parents were out offering support — that alone gave me a lot of hope.

That evening after I gave Kaipo his shot of insulin, he took the used syringe and gave Rufus a shot. As a matter of fact, Rufus had several shots that night. It must have been the right dose — he slept peacefully in Kaipo’s arms all night. The dose of hope was just right, too — Kaipo’s been holding that teddy bear tight every night since, just like Nathan.

If it’s true that in giving we receive, Nathan had the best birthday ever.

~Jo Eager

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