Saira Qamar is a mother of two type 1 champs. Her journey started a decade ago with the diagnosis of her firstborn, Omer.
He had been experiencing abdominal pain, frequent urination, and tiredness. He started losing interest in everything and lost about 5 kgs in one month. He had labored breathing but he had been anemic so I gave all iron-boosting foods like apple, mangoes, qeema so that his hemoglobin levels get better.
Omer had frequent visits to the doctor but his condition remained undiagnosed till 6th June 2011. He was a child with type 1 diabetes, but was in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). His body was shutting down because his pancreas was no longer producing insulin to carry all of that sugar to his cells. He was severely dehydrated. His breathing was labored because his body was trying hard to reverse the acidosis and increase the oxygen in his system. He was so very sick.
The next memory Saira had of him is being placed in ICU. IV fluids started flowing into his body, an oxygen mask was tugged upon his nose because his oxygen saturation was low and he was injected with insulin to bring his sugar levels down. They reversed his DKA with insulin and fluids.
Saira at that time was shocked and confused but relieved at the same time.
Relatives and friends started pouring in with sympathies, countless advice, and prayers. The most painful thing I heard was that this disease came from my side of the family as I had a paternal cousin suffering from type 1 diabetes.
She blamed herself for the faulty genes! It took her some time to re-evaluate herself, to realize that it was a test from Allah and she should be thankful that her son is with her – hale and hearty – as if born again!
But whatever she was feeling at that time she could not show any emotions to her child with whom she was with 24/7 in the hospital.
Omer was depressed, confused, and scared! He did not know what diabetes was and how his life has changed. Being smart and sensitive, he could sense the danger that lay ahead but being an introvert he never gave voice to his fears! That time was tough! Everyone wants to be part of your laughter but few give you a shoulder to cry!
Saira was alone at that time, she felt she had no one except Allah. He gave her the courage and wisdom to realize that if she will not gather herself and stand up on her feet again, her child will be in distress for the rest of his life.
It took her some time to digest the ‘new norm’. She knew she had to be the pancreas for her son! With no medical degrees. With no daily help from a doctor. She did not know carb-count, ICR, ISF, etc. back then. She used to keep a log and with little help from the leaflet given about carbs/proteins/fats content of few foods, she had to decide how much life-saving medicine to give him all day, every day. Diabetes never takes a break and needs to be managed 24/7/365 days a year, making sure glucose levels are constantly within range. And by the way, too much of this life-saving medicine could be dangerous!
While she and her husband were getting used to the ‘new norm’, she started noticing symptoms of diabetes in her four-year-old daughter. Her fears and denial turned into reality on 14th April 2012 – seven months after Omer’s diagnosis, Mominah was also diagnosed to be a child with type 1 diabetes!
That day Saira realized how helpless human beings are!
Allah bayniaz hai!
Their healthy four-year-old daughter who did not even take a single dose of antibiotic in the first 3 years of her life was diagnosed with diabetes.
But Saira was not given a choice, so life went on!
She learned the basics as best as she could and so started her journey again with two type 1 kids, totally different from each other. What applied to one mostly did not work for the other!
Both their kids started school. They had good support from the school for which she is very thankful. Her parenting philosophy became “I am not perfect, but safe and happy.”
Type 1 diabetes is unpredictable and it laughs in the face of perfection.
Saira wants to raise happy children despite them having type 1 diabetes. Both Saira and her husband tried their level best to make things work. Checking blood sugar, injections, lows, highs, juices – all became part of their routine.
We eat our dinner by 8 p.m. We have our outings, cheat days, etc. They can eat whatever they want as long as they bolus for it. Yet, junk food is not good for anyone! So we have limited it.
Saira also told us that when Mominah started full-day school, she also joined as a teacher. That was a great help but difficult at the same time. She could check her blood sugars, bolus for her lunch but being a full-time teacher also became very hectic. Her husband supported her at all times. When Taha (their middle one who is not diabetic) is in charge of his younger sister, he makes sure that he checks her blood sugars and make sure that it is in a safe range.
I am so proud of all my three children!
In our journey, we learned 2 magic sentences.
Koi baat nahi.
Sugar is high! Koi baat nahi abhi insulin lagao theek ho jai gi. You are getting low. Drink the juice.
The second sentence is:
You can do whatever you want!
Do you want to go to a football or cricket match? Want to ride a horse? Invited to a birthday party? Ok. We’ll go. Check your sugars. Eat something that will keep your sugars stable.
Saira said that they do not miss a single event because their children have diabetes! She went on trips, local and abroad. They go everywhere with their “kit” that includes insulin, cooling pack, glucometer, juice boxes, biscuits, maybe some fruit snacks, etc.
Mominah doesn’t hesitate to check her blood sugar in the class openly and I love her confidence!
While on their trip to the USA, Mominah got very sick. She went on a day trip to Cedar Point, Ohio with her cousins. Though she took care of herself well by checking her blood sugar at regular intervals the heat of July had a bad effect on her body. When she came back, she complained of pain in the stomach, and the next day she started vomiting. Luckily, Saira had antibiotics with her which she had taken from Pakistan. With a family of doctors, Mominah was taken care of immediately and recovered in two to three days, Alhamdulillah. But I learned one lesson that a child with diabetes needs more hydration. So when they went to Chicago, Saira made sure that Mominah drank water at small intervals. So we came back safely. The trip concluded with a lesson that you learn from mistakes!
Diabetes has taught Saira lessons of life! It has prepared her for hardships. It taught her to push through her hardest days, to find strength when she needed it the most, and constantly reminded her it’s “okay” not to be perfect. It taught her to count her blessings more! She learned that the best way to deal with negative people in our lives is by ignoring them, focusing on positive things, and accepting others the way they are. She is more empathetic towards children with different abilities now than before. She has become less judgmental about others. She has started to forgive others!
Saira said that the best part is that their children have taken ownership of their new lifestyle (I try my hardest to avoid calling it a disease or condition) and Saira encourages them to fulfill their dreams. Omer remained a straight-A student in both O and A levels and is a Medical student now. Mominah is in class 8th now thriving in debates, sports, and academics. We talk a lot about the future – their health, career, marriage, and everything else in between (God knows what)! We discuss the uncertainty of life. We talk about blessings and tests in our lives and I know Allah is very kind. He has the best in store for my children – I just need to be patient and grateful!