What Mel Did
What Mel Did - Hart warming up before a run

On diabetes and finding love in a homeless place

Hart was 12 when his school came down with a virus which felled the students like a raging forest fire. On average, it took the children about a week to recover sufficiently to return to school. Hart seemed harder hit by the virus and after a week didn’t feel able to return. He described his continuing symptoms on that Monday morning as “still not feeling quite right, mum.”

Being an aware and able mother, I sat Harty down and asked him if there were problems at school. Did he not want to return because he was being bullied or teased? All the while, scenarios of how we would cope with a school-refuser running though my head.

A saner mother might have gone down the medical route first given the school had been hit by a serious virus, but working mothers everywhere will know the pressure of trying to return to the status quo of an efficient home, school and work-life routine. This no-win pressure can sometimes addle the brain.

“Okay, Hart, let’s get you back to the doctor, but whatever you’re going to school tomorrow.”

Words which would come back to haunt me and which my grown children today still routinely roll out at dinner parties to illustrate the gem I was as a parent.

The doctor also didn’t “like the look” of Harty, but thought it was just taking him a little longer than his peers to recover. But as we were going through the door at the end of the appointment, the doctor called us back to do a quick urine test before leaving. An afterthought of no real consequence.

That test changed Harty’s life.

The sugar reading in his urine was “off the charts.”

Harty was now a young person living with Type 1 Diabetes.

That day, which ended in the early hours of the morning, was a blur of an emergency ambulance, paramedics, white coats, tests, more tests and questions, questions, questions – one of which may have been “What sort of idiot mother are you?”

The silly thing is Type 1 diabetes is something we always expected might happen in our family.

The children’s late father and grandfather were both men who had lived with Type 1 diabetes so we were always vigilant in watching for the signs of diabetes in the children.

Although there was that classic incident when we did a routine blood sugar finger prick test on Morgan. The readings were as alarming as the rate Bronnie drove us to the emergency room. The results at the hospital continued to be a cause for concern, until that is the high sugar count was traced back to the marmalade residue coating Morgan’s finger. Understandable in hindsight, since Morgan was in a self-appointed phase of believing she was Paddington Bear – a belief which has continued into her adulthood. Don’t.

So although expected for many years, when all the signs had been served to me on a diagnostic platter, I completely missed them. Yes, missed the:

  • lethargy
  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • weight loss
  • mood swings*

*Being said, all our children at some point showed the signs of contracting diabetes, until we made the connection between their mood swings and being normal pain-in-the-proverbial pubescent people. So for that last one I wish to be forgiven. Thank you.

And although expected for many years, Harty and I sat together in that doctor’s waiting room, both our faces wet with streaming tears.

I’m not sure why I was crying, since I knew Type 1 diabetes was more than manageable and that Harty could, did and continues to live a full and colourful life. Okay, maybe some little fear that he would be able to do “less” than his peers, being ever cautious not to let his blood sugars run too high or too low – and all the complications in between. My tears also, I guess, was for the loss of some part of his childhood innocence, where he would need to grow up that day to manage his diabetes.

That growth took place in the early hours of that morning when yet another white coat visited with more questions. Questions which I had hitherto answered on behalf of Harty. Except this time, Hart spoke first, stepped up and gave the doctor all the information being asked for without reference to me.

A proud and pivotal moment.

It will be another proud moment on Sunday when Hart – without reference to my thoughts on the matter – steps up again to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon in aid of ‘The Connection’ at St Martin-in-the-Field.

In his words:

“A charity which does amazing work focused on providing immediate, and long-term, support for homeless people in London. They work with minority groups within the homeless population, including women, young people, elderly homeless people, refugees as well as those suffering with mental illness. A report by the Albert Kennedy Trust in 2015 revealed that LGBTQ+ people made up almost a quarter of the young homeless population, with 69 per cent citing rejection and expulsion by their parents as the reason for their homelessness. The work that is done at The Connection is undertaken with a holistic approach; aiming to help people cope with the physical and psychological crisis of being homeless, while getting to the root cause of why someone ended up on the streets. They help people discover their skills and talents as a form of empowerment to help them rebuild their lives.” 

Hart’s Royal Parks Half Marathon Donation Page

On Sunday 14 October then, I will be the woman in Hyde Park with tears running down her face again, but this time watching her young person with diabetes run to help others – something we never imagined the future to hold when Hart and I sat in that doctor’s waiting room eight years’ ago crying our eyes out.

Go Harty!

What Mel Did - Hart in red baseball cap