A Holiday Blessing
“Your child has diabetes.”
These are words that no parent ever wants to hear. However, it is estimated that more than 15,000 children will face such a diagnosis each year. Diabetes is a life-altering diagnosis for the entire family. It means blood-sugar testing 5-10 times a day, careful carbohydrate counting, insulin injections every time they eat, and constantly checking their health to ensure their disease is being properly managed.
Julie Meyer knows this scenario all too well. The busy mother of six recalls her son’s experience that led to his diagnosis.
“In the weeks leading up to winter break, I noticed my 16-year-old son, Braxton, was just not feeling right—feeling off and very sick,” Julie says. "He was getting more and more sick, so the first day of Christmas Break, we took him to the doctor."
The doctor sent them immediately to the emergency room. The diagnosis? Type 1 diabetes.
“We were shocked. Not knowing any of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, we thought he had the flu," she says.
Diabetes is a silently insidious disease—the symptoms can present so subtly and stealthily that by the time a child receives a diagnosis in the hospital, they could be only moments away from slipping into a diabetic coma or even death.
In hindsight, Julie reflects on some of the warning signs that were present but not really recognized, such as excessive urination, unusual thirst, lethargy. However, these can also just be signs of a normal teenager.
“One thing we did notice was that our son kept complaining that he was using the restroom more than usual," she says. “We do have a family history of kidney issues, so I thought maybe he was having similar issues, but diabetes was not even on my radar.”
To add to the collective stress of the event, their son’s hospitalization and diagnosis occurred just days before Christmas.
“It was such a stressful time for our family, not knowing if we would all be together for Christmas. We have six children, and suddenly our entire world was turned upside down," she says. "As a parent when you’re dealing with such a huge health crisis, priorities shift and we realized that Christmas preparation would be put on hold.”
Which is exactly where St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital Santa’s Toy Box program steps in. Created through the Child Life Department of St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, Santa’s Toy Box is dedicated to serving the needs of sick children and their families. This program relies solely on the generous donations of anonymous donors who drop off toys for some very special patients.
“A representative from St. Luke’s pulled me away privately to invite me to shop at Santa’s Toy Box,” Julie says. “She brought me into this enormous room, and I couldn’t believe the amount of toys and presents they had for me to choose from. They helped me select gifts for each of my children and volunteers wrapped, labeled and delivered the gift to my car. It was a huge comfort to know that our family would have gifts to open Christmas morning.”
This program blesses many families at a time of emotional, and for many, financial crisis, and adds a spark of joy to a holiday season that is, for those spending time with a child in the hospital, far from ideal. “Our story is a happy one,” says Meyer. “Braxton was able to come home late Christmas Eve, and with his little brothers open presents, Christmas morning.”
For more information, and to donate to Santa’s Toy Box, contact the Child Life Department office at 208.381.4758.