Yes, Kk missed a year... Let's take a quick step back in time.
A lot has happened in the last two years including Kk moving away to Colorado. However the universe had a plan and inevitably brought her back into the lives of the Plunkett family.
If you haven't already, I recommend taking a look at my previous posts that follow the journey of some dear friends who I now consider to be family. In 2020 their first born was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 16 months old. It was one of the scariest days of our lives (I was Gracie's nanny at the time). Ever since, we decided to celebrate what she and her village endured and accomplish yearly.
There is no "getting over" T1D, it is a lifelong chronic illness that can never be "figured out," only managed by those who are willing to be educated on the task.
Last year, for Gracie’s 3rd Diaversary, her family took a trip to Pittsburg. They enjoyed donuts - of course, a day of swimming, games at Dave and Busters, and fun at the Carnegie Science Center. This time around, not only were they celebrating her incredible journey, Gracie Mae was officially going to be a big sister.
Now, bring it back to 2023...
This year, not only did I chat with mom and dad again, I asked Mrs. Danielle a little bit about her experience with Gracie as her full time nurse. Full time nurse you might think? Well yes, someone qualified has to help manage her sugar levels during school and sports. Could you imagine trying to work your day job to provide for your family AND keep a constant eye on someones glucose levels miles away? It is such a blessing that the Plunkett's have this resource for her, in other cases, some families may not. Which is why every year we like educate and spread awareness of this life changing chronic illness. Insulin should never cost someone their life and proper support should never be inaccessible to someone who has been diagnosed.
So tell me what's been running through your mind the last two years? I know you want more children, is that something you two are ready to take on? Has this diagnosis got any easier?
"Jordan and I weren’t sure we would ever be courageous enough to juggle two children AND Type 1 Diabetes, with its ever-changing and omnipresent demands. We spent the first year after diagnosis trying to work through the trauma that presents itself to those who find out their child will have a chronic medical condition for the rest of their life. We leaned on each other a lot, only allowing one of us to have a mental breakdown at a time (mainly me, Jaime). We thought, surely this will get easier if we just hold on. We found out though, that Type 1 really doesn’t get EASIER, YOU just get BETTER. You get better at navigating the erratic and constant changes. You accept that this is your new life and that no one else is better suited for it. You become unflappable in the face of situations that once made you tremble with fear. It’s a kind of toughness I really never wanted to achieve. But, over the course of the last 4 years, we slowly got our groove back. We decided, if we could get through a life-altering diagnosis, why not put another iron in the fire. So yes, we decided it's time to have another baby."
"Welcoming our baby this year has been so much easier than I ever imagined it could be. [While I get up with Della throughout the nights,] Jordan has taken care of the majority of Gracie’s Type 1 Diabetes care. He has really made this transition to two children a breeze. He gets up with every alert overnight – he gives her juice for lows and stays up until she’s safe. He does finger pokes when blood sugar readings aren’t reliable, or when devices malfunction. He puts in long hours for no pay and he never complains."
Mrs. Danielle, tell me a little bit about your routine with Gracie. What is it like keeping up with a 5 year old with T1D at school and during extracurricular activities?
"There are so many factors that play into how I react to her blood sugar readings and they are NEVER the same from one day to the next. When we are in school she reacts differently to the insulin and carbs vs when she is home. The excitement at school and extra activities all can affect her blood glucose differently, daily. We try to do device changes (glucose monitor and insulin pump) at home but that doesn’t always work out. Devices expire at a specific time and need replaced in order to keep getting accurate readings and dose insulin. Sometimes however we have to do them at school. One time, we “snuck” into the directors office at her daycare and I told her we were being the rebels of the school which helped to lighten the mood as we were getting ready to do a device change."
"Every child deserves to have extracurricular activities with other kids and to simply have fun! Exercise is great for bringing your blood sugar down... but sometimes it can come down WAY too fast. [We] always keep juice on hand and are willing to run wild to make sure her devices are close enough to her phones to keep accurate readings of her levels. [We want her to have fun with out a worry in the world, even if we look a bit goofy running around the gym with her...] Sometimes, things can change in a heartbeat. We may predict that she will not need insulin during the activity, but then again T1D makes its own rules. One time her pod ripped off, which was enough to simply frighten her and want to go home."
Gracie is a warrior and her feelings of fear and anticipation are valid after experiencing the traumas that come with T1D. Replacing her devices can be intimidating! For the most part however,
"...she does pod changes like a pro. She is very involved in the process; wanting to choose her pod sticker, wiping off the insulin vial, even using a needle and syringe to fill up her pods with insulin. One day when it was time to change a pod, I muttered about how I wished we didn’t have to. Gracie looked me in the face and bravely said “it’s ok mom, it keeps me healthy!” Dang, talk about COURAGE. She has lived over 1,460 days with this disease. And every single one of those days, Gracie has taught us a lesson in courage, bravery, and compassion, mixed in with a little bit of silliness, for good measure."
Mrs. Danielle, is it easy to just shut T1D off when you are done for the day?
"It is almost impossible for me to shut my T1D brain off when I am at home. There have been times when my daughter asks for a snack, and instinctively I get up and grab my phone to dose her with insulin… Then I step back and realize that my daughter has a functioning pancreas, something I will never take that for granted. Even off the clock, I find myself checking Gracies numbers. For what reason? I'm not totally sure, just when you think you have the tiniest idea of what is going on with her body and her sugars… something changes. Yes, I can go home at the end of the day after “working” with Gracie and put my phone down... but Jaime and Jordan simply cannot. They don’t get a day off EVER. They can't just call any ol' babysitter for date night. They have to make sure that whoever comes to watch Gracie knows how to dose her correctly, what signs and symptoms to look for, and how to treat her if she would have an episode of hypo or hyperglycemia."
"The amount of love and trust the Plunkett's have for me as a nurse and a human being is beyond humbling. They trust me EVERYDAY with Gracie and never once made me feel like I was incompetent to be her nurse. They constantly educate me, teach me new things with devices, and value my opinion. Communication between myself and her parents is CRUCIAL, so that Gracie can thrive. We comfort each other when days and weeks are rough with levels and we can't figure out why. Extreme highs and lows can make Gracie feel sick and that’s all in my hands during school hours, but even at a distance they step in, reassure me and help give guidance. In return, they also asked me for my opinion on what I think could be going on and its hearting to know that they trust and value me and my judgement."
I am constantly amazed at the love and compassion mom, dad and her nurse have for Gracie. Everyday they work hard to give her the most "normal" life of a 5 year old. And let's be real, 5 year old's don't always stick to the "script" they are living and learning everyday. Some days Gracie may or may not like a certain food, some days she may ask for a treat then decide she doesn't want it. How her village responds to that in crucial and inspiring. Remaining as flexible as possible within the parameters needed to maintain healthy glucose levels. I was her nanny pre T1D, and so grateful to still be apart of her life post T1D and to witness what it truly takes to make things work. There are many things people take for granted in this life, and something as simple as play time, school lunch and a quick snack are just a few things the Plunkett's never will. Gracie is currently involved in soccer, basketball and gymnastics. She also loves to swim and ride her bike. As she continues to grow up, so will we. How we respond to sickness, sleepovers, puberty, making friends, bring a nurse to school, new cravings, new activities, field trips and much more is so important. Gracie deserves to thrive and enjoy life to the fullest like every other kid out there. Her village will continue to do whatever it takes to roll with the flow and live their best lives.