“Again?” I snapped.
A deep sigh escaped. I put the new school clothes on the counter. “I’ll be back, I told the cashier.”
“You’ll have to get back in line,” she answered without looking up.
I grabbed Kim and Erin’s hands and barked, “Kimberly Joy! What is wrong with you? This is ridiculous. You act like you’re two instead of nine.”
“I can’t help it,” Kim whined.
I tapped my foot and took stock of all the changes I noticed this summer. Kim was moody, restless, whiny, and more argumentative than usual. Her attitude and behavior ruined our day at Disney Land.
I swept all of this under the rug. She was going through early puberty I convinced myself.
But maybe something was wrong with my blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl whose glasses suddenly looked too big for her face.
Fretting got me nowhere. I managed to get an appointment with our pediatrician for that afternoon. Kimberly showed no symptoms of illness, so we went into the “well child’s” waiting room. It seemed unusually quiet and neat. We were the only ones there.
“Read your book or color, but don’t get out any toys,” I instructed. I signed in on the clipboard.
“Mrs. Putman,” the nurse called before I sat down. “Why are we seeing Kimberly today?”
“I’m not sure.” I explained everything that bothered me and added, “My father-in-law has diabetes. I don’t know much about it, but should she be tested for that?”
Her eyebrows went up, and she called Kimberly to the window, handed her a little cup, and sent her to the restroom. Five minutes later we sat in a room and waited for Dr. Curtis.
As always, Kim nagged, “I’m not getting a shot, am I?”
“I don’t know, sweetie, but if you do, no yelling,” I warned.
Dr. Curtis strode in, his usual smile missing. He carried a little pill bottle. A tremor of fear swept through my body. He hadn’t seen Kim yet, was something really wrong?
He pulled up the stool, sat down next to me, and held out the bottle. He lined up a thin strip next to an identical one on the bottle. He pointed out the matching colors. “Kim has Juvenile Diabetes,” he explained gently. “Normal blood sugar ranges between 70 and 120. Kim’s current blood sugar is 600. Have you noticed how thin she is, fifty inches tall and only fifty pounds? That’s because her body isn’t getting any nutrition. Everything she eats turns into sugar, but instead of going into her cells, it stays in her blood stream. That’s why she constantly needs to use the restroom.
He turned toward Kim. “Do you wet the bed sometimes?”
Kim looked at the floor and nodded.
How did I not notice that? I wondered.
“She’ll need to go into the hospital for a week. We’ll get her hydrated and her blood sugar under control. While she’s there, you’ll learn how to give her insulin and keep her healthy.” Dr. Curtis informed me.
I stared at him. I mentioned diabetes as an after-thought. It never occurred to me Kim would have it.
Dr. Curtis continued, but a single thought looped through my shocked brain: Kim needed shots every day for the rest of her life.
“Go home,” Dr. Curtis advised. “Have a normal dinner, then take Kim to San Antonio Hospital. The paperwork for admittance will be there. They’ll start her on an IV and insulin. Get her settled and go home. Tomorrow all of you will learn about what this is and how to deal with it.”
Deal with it? I am not a compassionate person when it comes to people who are sick. How will I manage this?
Shock waves hit me one after another as I tried to process all he said. The ride home was silent without the normal teasing and giggling from the back seat.
As soon as we stepped in the house, Van asked, “What’s wrong?”
I stumbled through the explanation. Mechanically I made dinner while Van found someone to watch Erin.
Erin’s eyes were as big as saucers when we kissed her on our way out the door. “Mommy, will Kim be OK?”
I stooped down and hugged her. “Of course. We’ll be back soon. I love you. Maybe tomorrow, you can visit Kim.”
Kim badgered me all the way to the hospital, but I didn’t know what to tell her.
Minutes later, we checked in and rode the elevator to the pediatric floor. I helped Kim put on the hospital gown, and she hopped onto the bed. “What’s this for?” she asked and pushed the button. The bed moved up and down. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree.
A nurse bustled in with an IV pole, vials, and an assortment of needles. Kim’s expression switched to fear. She yelled and shoved her arms under the blanket.
Van and I sat on each side of our little girl, “I’m sorry, Kim,” I said, “but you have to let the nurse work. I know it hurts, but it will only take a minute.”
Kim continued to yell.
The nurse was kind and gentle, but she poked and prodded Kim. She inserted the IV, drew blood, pricked her finger, and squeezed a tiny drop of blood on a strip. “This tells me what Kim’s blood sugar is,” she explained. “That determines how much insulin she needs”
“No! No! No!” Tears streamed down Kim’s face and she shoved her arms under the blankets when the nurse filled a syringe and stepped closer.
Neither Van nor I tried to stop her screams.
The ordeal ended, and the nurse brought Kim Jell-O and half a sandwich. Kim’s sobs tapered off. It was after nine o’clock, far past her bedtime, so just like every night, Van and I sat on Kim’s bed. We prayed together and sang our goodnight song:
“Good night, our God is watching o’er you,
Good night, His mercy goes before you,
Good night and I’ll be praying for you,
So good night, may God bless you.”
I rubbed her back in big circles. “Don’t be afraid. Remember Jesus is with you,” I whispered in an attempt to comfort her. And me.
Exhausted, she fell asleep. Van and I stood, clasped hands, and watched her. She looked so small in the hospital bed.
Van squeezed my hand. “We have to go.”
Tears filled my eyes. How can I leave her here all alone? But Erin is scared at home. She needs me too.
My shoes seemed to be made of cement as I followed Van.
I stopped at the door, turned around, and whispered, “I love you, Kim. Sweet dreams.”