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Surviving a First Sleepover with Type 1 Diabetes

When you are the parent of a child with a medical condition, any event or outing is a significant one. From a quick trip to the grocery store to an all-day visit to an amusement park, medical conditions are constantly on our minds, and we are always acutely aware of the health risks associated with them.

Over the weekend, my eight year old daughter attended her first sleepover since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in February 2014. Her decision to go to the party was not one that we came to easily. It involved a lot of discussion, a significant number of mind changes, some online research, a few calls to her diabetes educator, until it finally ended with a decision. 

Since her diagnosis, we haven't spent one night apart. As her primary caregiver, I haven't been ready to relinquish control, and she hasn't been ready to take on the responsibility of managing her diabetes, even if for only a 15 hour period. How could I trust that an eight year old child would be as diligent about her care as I am? Would she succumb to peer pressure? Would she ignore her condition and rebel?

Diabetes doesn't take a break for sleepovers or for playdates. It's one of the most difficult chronic medical conditions to manage. And when you are asking a young child to assume full responsibility of her diabetes management while you are apart, anything can happen. Pizza, snacks, cake, candy, cookies, ice cream, more candy...oh, the possibilities.

I had visions in my head of what could happen. While I conjured up all the worst scenarios, she was eagerly counting the hours to her first sleepover in almost a year. We discussed the "rules", the best practices for parties, and all the party protocol that has become old hat to us. We've been through it so many times in almost 8 months that we no longer need books for finding carb counts or calculators to compute insulin dosages. But this time was different. This time I wouldn't be there to help her.

I took a deep breath and dropped her off. I felt like I had just stepped off a curb into oncoming traffic.

I spent the next few hours staring at the clock, watching the seconds tick by. A few hours passed, and she checked in to let me know how the party was going. Finally at midnight, she called to tell me that she was going to sleep. She'd give herself her long-acting insulin shot for the night, and she'd call me in the morning.

Now the real worrying began. The nights can be brutal when you are the parent of a type 1 diabetic. If their blood sugar drops to an unsafe level, they aren't awake to recognize the symptoms and recover quickly from low blood sugar. I frequently check her blood sugar randomly during her sleeping hours. At sleepovers that is not a possibility.

I tried to sleep. I did manage a few restless hours, but I was anxious for the morning to come, and when it did, I played the waiting game. Waiting for her to wake up. Waiting for her to call me.

Waiting for her to come home and tell me about all the fun she had at her first sleep over since becoming a type 1 diabetic.

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Comment by Chrissy Fleming on October 20, 2014 at 10:57pm

I know how you feel.  My son has severe food allergies, and I can't trust that everyone understands their severity, and I also can't make him totally responsible for them yet either.  SO hard.  You don't want them to miss out on these great events in their childhood but you just want to keep them safe.  Hugs!!!


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