“Everyone here is a big liar.” The woman put her hand on my arm and looked into my eyes.
It wasn’t what I expected after my talk on finding the funny in diabetes management.
“You just lied,” she insisted. “You said diabetes can’t stop you, but it can. If my son had been here, he would’ve gotten up and walked out.”
I don’t remember saying that (it’s not part of my talks) but this woman had clearly heard something that stuck with her.
“Okay,” I said. “Tell me your story.”
She did. And we have to help.
Her son is 17 and all he ever wanted, from the age of two, was to serve our country in the military. But when he was 16 and went to the recruiting office to get the information, they told him no. No type 1 diabetes allowed. Sorry, son, there’s the door.
He stopped caring. About life, about diabetes. He stopped checking blood sugar regularly, stopped taking insulin when he should. Last year, after the suicide of a friend, he tried to take his own life as well.
I met this woman for all of ten minutes. My first reaction (which I did not share) was pretty judgmental. It seems like the recruiting officers were the first ones to tell this boy he couldn’t serve. How could a parent let their child hold onto that dream for so long knowing he couldn’t ever do it? Did they not know? What does the dad, a Marine himself, have to say?
I’m glad I didn’t ask those questions. It doesn’t really matter how they arrived at this sad and dangerous time. I couldn’t change that. But maybe I could change what came next. I said, “Is there a chance we could redirect that passion? Find him something related to the military to care about?”
What would you do if this was your son? I used to be on the Board of my local USO. I’m calling them and some other folks I know in military support groups. I feel compelled to help. This is not my son’s dream, but it breaks my heart to think of anyone, adult or child, with diabetes giving up.
I’m realistic. Some dreams aren’t going to happen. But this kid has a spark. If it doesn’t catch onto something good, he’s going to flame out. Diabetes is tough enough. He shouldn’t have to give up on every part of his dream because of it.