Holiday Gifts from the Heart

| Dec 1, 1998

Tis the season for gift giving. Every year, the kid in me loves to exchange Christmas "wish lists" with my husband, Danny. Year after year, his wish remains that I continue to take good care of my diabetes and stay healthy until he can figure out a way to find the cure. I am always moved by his kindness, partnership and generosity of spirit. This year, I wondered how other families with diabetes feel about holiday gifts. I thought you might enjoy hearing some responses to my question.

Some kids run out and buy ties for their dads, but not 8-year-old Russell Saks. Russell's father, Brad, has type 1 diabetes, and is an account manager for Insulin Infusion Specialties. According to the third grader, the best Chanukah present for his dad "is to become a scientist so I can find a cure for diabetes, then my dad won't have it anymore. Last year Mom bought a clock that had an alarm that could go off in the night if Dad's blood sugar got low. That was from me, my sister, Amanda, and my Mom. He liked it."

Russell knows how the insulin pump works, and watches carefully when Brad changes sites. He's waiting for the day when he's allowed to do a site change for his father.

Ruby Hill's husband, Stanley, executive director of District Council 37, New York's municipal labor union, has type 2 diabetes.

"First of all, I wish for him not to have diabetes, and as we always exchange presents," says Ruby, "I know what I'd like from him. Since he was diagnosed 10 years ago, he thinks he's Superman. He's always proving he can do anything, and do it better than everyone else, despite his diabetes. Well, I wish he'd slow down, and enjoy life more, the way he did before diabetes. I'd like that relaxed, fun-loving Stanley in a plain old box, with no fancy Christmas or Kwanzaa wrapping."

Deirdre, a high school Spanish teacher at an all-boys Jesuit prep school, reflects on her wish for her husband, Steve Donahue, an attorney and athlete, who has type 1 diabetes.

"If Christmas wishes could come true, my wish would be to give my perfect eyesight to Steve," says Deirdre. "I know he would want to give me something too. It would make me happy if he could impart to me his sense of patience with the details of life. I marvel at his ease and determination to get things done, and not get bogged down, especially with the many disciplines involved in caring for his diabetes. He amazes me."

Pat Hickey is the mother of five grown children. Raising them was an extraordinary challenge since four out of the five developed type 1 diabetes at ages 6, 9, 11 and 28. Pat remembers nights that she cooked dinner, and one of the brood slipped into a hypoglycemic reaction. One of the other kids had to treat the low blood sugar so she could continue getting dinner ready before another one slipped into a reaction. Another time she became alarmed when two of her daughters had eye problems. She called the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and was told that an opthamologist's referral was required in order to be seen at the clinic. Frightened and frustrated, this mother packed her girls and her strength in the old family car and headed up to Boston, determined to get help for their eyes. She got that help, and today, the children are grown and have their own lives and families. Pat's wish for them is so simple and so profound.

"A cure," says Pat. "That's everything. Until then, if each of my children takes care as best they can, that peace of mind would be a great gift."

This one comes from Nadia Al-Samarrie-King, whose husband, Scott, we all know as editor of DIABETES HEALTH.

"Scott and I met and fell in love on the run. We ran three miles together every day in the Berkeley hills, and learned about partnership, friendship and competition. Then came marriage, kids, work and business. Running became less a priority. I would love my Christmas present from Scott to be a commitment to daily exercise."

"And what do I give the guy who has everything?" Nadia continues. " I can only think of being there with love and support, and continuing to be a proactive partner in his noble views and mission as a role model for people with diabetes."

Folklore tells of a poor Mexican girl who had no offering for the baby Jesus, and resorted to gathering roadside weeds. The bouquet of branches suddenly burst into brilliant red poinsettia blossoms. Natasha and Ovidio Laria would like to present their daughter, Laura, with a profusion of poinsettias, each flower lining the pathway towards a cure for their beloved daughter. They would also like to see Laura, who is a graphic designer, full-time student and active diabetes education volunteer, calm down and take things more slowly.

Seventy million poinsettia plants are grown each year in this country. I'd like to dedicate one to each of the 14 million people living with diabetes, with wishes of good health and hope for a cure.

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Heart Care & Heart Disease, Insulin, Insulin Pumps, Personal Stories, Type 1 Issues, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues

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