Helping Children with Diabetes Gain Independence Part 2: Texting Diabetes

Posted by scott on Tue, 08/13/2013 - 12:23 in

Join Scott Benner for part two of his series on helping his daughter Arden achieve greater independence with her diabetes management.

I sat down in my daughter’s 504 meeting after she finished second grade with a plan. Each year we make small adjustments - preparations for new aspects of the school day that come with advancing to the next grade level. These meetings are very productive, somewhat brief and usually not very eventful.

The nurse began to talk about how we could give Arden a little more responsibility with her diabetes management in third grade. This was something we did each year during this meeting and sometimes, if warranted, during the school year. We strive to shift Arden’s diabetes care onto her plate bit by bit, as she is able to accept new responsibilities. The idea is to slowly get her acclimated until the day comes when she is completely self-managing her diabetes without even realizing anything has changed.

I like that process very much and it was working extremely well. So well, in fact, that before the nurse could finish her thought I stopped her and said, “I don’t want Arden to come to your office next year. It takes up too much of her day and I think the lost time is damaging her learning process. She is missing vital parts of instruction and I want to change that.” They of course agreed, but were initially confused about how I intended to change the situation.

I continued, “Arden is going to manage her diabetes herself from now on and I am going to help her. She will handle everything right from her desk and I will oversee each decision with text messages (and phone calls if and when necessary).”

Cue the blank stares...

Texting-DiabetesI filled the silence before anyone could protest too much. Our previous governor signed a bill giving students with diabetes the ability to test their blood glucose anywhere in the school. So testing in the classroom wasn’t an issue. And Arden’s 504 plan already allows her to carry a cell phone, so all I needed to do was explain that sending text messages wasn’t going to be a distraction to the other students. They were intrigued.

I began to explain how much better I imagined Arden’s A1C would be if we could make small adjustments throughout the day instead of only addressing her blood glucose every few hours. Then I turned to her teacher and asked how much cumulative time she thought Arden missed each day while she was at the nurse. She replied, “Forty-five minutes maybe.” I didn’t hesitate to show off my impressive math skills and said, “That’s almost four hours a week... fifteen hours a month.”

They couldn’t disagree with my argument. Everyone knew that a student can’t thrive when they miss that much of their school day. There were a lot of faces in the room and I could see on each one of them that I had made my point. I reassured them that my idea would work and that we should try.

Arden and I practiced all summer and came up with our own little diabetes management shorthand. I found a few emoticons that were representative of the arrows on Arden’s continuous glucose monitor and we were off.

Putting Arden’s New Diabetes Management Plan into Action

Today, almost one complete year later, even I can’t believe how well my plan has worked. One week towards the end of the school year Arden’s blood glucose had been low all week. I didn’t know why. I had been using temp basal rates and adjusting boluses, and she just kept running low. I’m talking about blood glucose levels in the 50, 60 and 70 range - situations that required immediate action.

But guess how many times Arden had to go to the nurse’s office that week? Zero. Guess how many times Arden had to go to the nurse’s office all year? Yes, you guessed it... zero! Arden did not need to leave her classroom once to address a diabetes-related issue. We treat lows, bolus for highs and count carbs all with text messages like in the screen shot above.

This simple technology that most everyone possesses is one of the most valuable and productive diabetes technologies that we employ. The independence that it gives Arden and me is unmatched. The peace of mind that being able to text her brings me is soothing. The effect that this process has had on her diabetes management is staggering! Just wait until I tell you about Arden’s A1C in my next post.

Scott believes the technology available today can help children with diabetes gain more independence in their diabetes management. The advanced technology of the Omnipod insulin pump guides you through insulin delivery steps with simple language, so it makes managing diabetes easier. Click here to learn more and get a free demo.