It was the fifth night in a row that Parker had wet his bed. He was six years old and well beyond the bed wetting years. The first night, mom, Jen, and dad, RJ, woke up with Parker, changed his sheets and put him back to bed with a warning that he can’t drink so much so late. The days had been hot and Parker, who, as a rambunctious 1st grader and already a fan of the big swig, had recently reached even higher levels of water intake. But he needed to cut off the water drinking a little earlier in the evening, they told him, because they didn’t want any more accidents.
By that fifth night of having to change sheets, however, Jen’s patience was wavering. Why is he drinking so much doggone water? she wondered.
The next day, it was Jen’s turn to volunteer in Parker’s classroom. In the 90 minutes that she was there, Parker filled his water bottle up three times and asked to go to the bathroom four times.
That afternoon, they attended an after school kid’s Bible club and during the worship songs, Parker stayed curled up on Jen’s lap, pressed against her pregnant belly. Even Parker’s three-year-old sister, Madison, was having more fun than he was. He was lethargic, had consumed all Jen’s water and was searching her purse for something to eat.
When RJ arrived home that night, Jen felt the first waves of fear come over her. “Something’s not right,” she told him. RJ didn’t think much about it, it was only water, after all. But as he stayed up late to finish some work, Parker woke up and came down to get water four times and then wet his bed again.
After changing his sheets and putting Parker to bed once more, RJ climbed into bed next to Jen with an iPad in hand. He entered, “excessive bedwetting” in the Google search bar.
“No way,” he said as he looked at a diagnosis that seemed to fit Parker. RJ turned white.
“No way,” he said as he looked at a diagnosis that seemed to fit Parker. “Dead in Bed Syndrome,” was the post. It read:
Excessive water drinking is a sign of type 1 diabetes. When glucose becomes hyper-concentrated in the bloodstream, usually about 200mg/dL, the kidney loses the ability to pull glucose from water. Pressure builds between a liquid with a high concentration of solutes and a liquid with a low concentration. Eventually, it gets so high that water can no longer be absorbed back into the bloodstream, and is in fact being absorbed OUT of the bloodstream. The body becomes desperate for water. A coma can occur in 24-48 hours. If untreated, death will follow.
RJ turned white.
On the way to the doctor, Jen began the process of putting a positive spin on their appointment. Let’s just get this over with and rule out diabetes, she told herself.
A prick to Parker’s finger bubbled up the deep red blood that would tell his fate. “We’re looking for a reading of about 120,” the doctor said as she put the blood into the machine. RJ, Parker, Jen, and the doctor stood by waiting for it to present their future. Finally it was there—698.
Their eyes widened. “So—what does this number mean?” Jen asked the doctor.
“Mr. and Mrs. Poston,” she said as she turned to look them in the eyes. “We’re in trouble. Parker has type 1 diabetes. We have to admit him to Children’s Hospital immediately.”
RJ turned his body away and stood toward the window. A small, moan came from deep inside that he tried to push down. It didn’t work. He erupted into his hands that he pushed against his face. Jen stepped between Parker and RJ to keep him from seeing his dad’s emotional response. She tried to put on a calm expression.
Over the next five days, the Postons would learn that it wasn’t merely Parker’s eating that was about to change, but every moment of their lives.
“Can’t someone just tell me what he will now have to eat and let us go home?” she asked the doctor.
In the face of what was about to happen, Jen’s question was a revealing look into her lack of understanding. For over the next five days, the Postons would learn that it wasn’t merely Parker’s eating that was about to change, but every moment of their lives.
It was like stuffing a college degree into the space of a week. The hospital put the Postons through an exhaustive and exhausting battery of classes and tests, talks with psychologists, endocrinologists, experts, administrators, and coaches. They learned everything from counting carbs to measuring insulin with the precision required to keep their son alive. There was little-to-no sleep, which made administering insulin into the screaming and horrified Parker even more unbearable. The only moment of downtime for Jen was used to collapse in the hallway and burst into tears. It lasted for about four minutes.
Before leaving, they had to pay a bill of $2,000 and take one more written test covering all the information they had received and couldn’t leave until they passed. Even though they had just been educated and were highly intelligent people, they walked through their front door feeling profoundly unprepared to step into the role of pancreas for their son. In addition to the astronomical medical bills they were about to incur, they were going to be responsible for every piece of food Parker consumed and properly dosing him with meds—and doing it with perfect timing. Jen knew what was about to happen over the next days and weeks of her life: she was about to go into a frantic, sleepless pursuit of organizing everything they had from bins to labels and binders, purchasing a mini frig, a sick bin, emergency kits in each car, charts on the refrigerator, charts upstairs, special school supplies, organizing school conferences, trips to the nutritionist for three-hour meetings—all while having to chase Parker to poke and prod him every hour and half—and he had already shown that he would fight the needle with every inch of his being.
RJ asked her what she needed to begin the process. “I just need to go to church tomorrow and sit there and cry,” she said.
Arriving at Rock Church, she walked down the hall to deliver Parker and a list of directions to Amy Nantkes, the Rock Kids Director. Jen’s eyes were weary and Amy noticed immediately. When Amy stood before her, the dam broke. Jen sobbed and collapsed in Amy’s arms, who began to cry as well.
“Parker has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” Jen whispered; she could hardly speak. “You can’t let him eat anything in the room and he’ll want to have the juice you pass around but you’ll have to say no and you’ll have to really watch him because…”
With an assuring sense of peace, Amy looked at her, held her shoulders and smiled. “We got this,” she said simply, as if it was a done deal. Jen looked at Amy through blurry eyes.
“We got this,” Amy said again.
Suddenly, Jen believed. She was filled with peace that a bit of God was standing before her in the form of Amy, an angel if there ever was one. She was free to enter the presence of God and let Him comfort her crushed soul—without having to worry about Parker. And so she did. She was her most tired, her most frightened, the most emptied out in her entire life. But there, on her knees as the music played, she reclaimed her total dependence on God. “I can’t do this without You,” she said as tears fell to the ground.
The next seven months were not filled with the fatigue that she had expected, but much more.
The next seven months were not filled with the fatigue that she had expected, but much more. The waking up through the night was more terror-filled than she could have imagined. Not only did Parker go into hysterics, but with all the noise, Madison would too. And when RJ and Jen’s third child, Mackenzie, was born, she would, as well. And so, with alarms going off two to three times a night to wake up RJ and Jen, Parker struggling and screaming, Madison waking up to try to come to the aid of her brother, the baby crying and needing to be nursed, the Postons were able to claim just two hours of awful sleep each night.
Jen wondered how she was going to make it. She realized that she never had a thought—any thought that wasn’t bombarded by the task of keeping Parker alive. The list of things to do, buy, clean, prepare, wash, study, and research during the day kept her moving at a near-frantic pace at all times.
Jen constantly found herself writing down what worked, what didn’t, what to watch out for, and how not to repeat scenes like the one that saw Parker on the ground shaking violently and needing a raise to his blood sugar (remedied by Jen grabbing a handful of frosting off a cupcake and shoving it in Parker’s mouth). It was just one of many close calls.
One day, Mackenzie, now seven months old, was particularly clingy and whiny. To date, she had always been the easiest of babies. Yet, for an entire day, nothing could console her. That’s weird, Jen thought.
The next day was more of the same. She called and made an appointment with the doctor. Both Parker and Madison were present as the doctor examined Mackenzie. That’s when Jen decided to expose a suspicion she was carrying.
“Doctor,” Jen asked with a lump in her throat. “If I were to want to test Madison for diabetes, I’d be looking for a number of 120, right?”
“Yes, but why would you do that? There are no signs, are there?” the doctor asked.
“Well, over the last two days she has been drinking lots of water, only at night, however.”
“That’s no reason for alarm.”
“Well last night I went into her room and she was asleep with a water bottle in her mouth. And when I went to try to pull it out, it was clenched between her teeth.”
Madison was tested immediately. Her count was 467. The Postons now have two children with type 1 diabetes. Mackenzie stopped whining in the doctor’s office and never whined again. Rock Kids continues to be a bright spot in the Poston’s life. Jen’s note-taking has become a Facebook page that exists to help other families who have diabetic children. You can find it on Facebook: Finding Hope and Grace with 2 T1D Kids.
NOTE: The Postons were asked this question: “Where are you with God now?”
I cannot put my feet on the ground each morning without asking God for grace and strength. Since Parker's diagnosis, I’m in prayer more—just quick prayers in the heightened moments of blood sugar checks and then simple praises of thanks for his protection. In the car, there is the chaos of having to constantly pull over for blood checks or insulin doses or having to shove juice and candy in their little mouths. So as I drive, I pray little prayers for my children nearly without end. Whenever I nurse Mackenzie, I beg Him that if He is going to allow her to get diabetes, it happens while she's little. I search endlessly for answers on how He thinks we're strong enough for this task. I used to be a person who was easily moved to tears. Now I just feel numb. I hardly shed a tear. Are they buried? Is it God protecting me? I'm in perpetual fight or flight mode. I also must seek God as the foundation in our marriage, because there is little time spent together and we are constantly exhausted. Without God daily, we can’t do it. There is no other way to explain my strength or how I have gotten through this many days. I am determined to serve God through this—so my kids can learn what is important in this life. But how do I glorify Him through this horrid disease that simply works to drain me?
I will admit that I do struggle. I worry. I'm anxious and not sure what ‘sleep’ is anymore. I set my alarms even when travelling to the other side of the world. I feel that the kids are protected but I won’t let go of the steering wheel. I'm relying daily, hourly on the Lord, and am incredibly thankful for all the equipment and support. We are blessed that we do have God, that we can pray to Him, go to Him, suffer for Him. Selfishly, I pray the same prayer over them nightly: for their safety and protection. Truthfully, I know it could be worse. Every time we go to Children’s Hospital, I’m reminded it could be something far more devastating. I watched my own parents lose my brother at a young age and it ripped us up for years. And so, I truly appreciate every breath. I don’t have much control in this. But I know God does. And I know that in heaven, we will enter His rest.