Sunday, February 25, 2007


It snowed a lot over the last 24 hours. We have at least a foot. The hours of shoveling were good for my blood sugars, but my arms are so sore now.

Dixie loves the snow. She spent a lot of time outside in the yard jumping like a bunny through the snow piles. She would romp around, then stop and munch on the snow. I think she eats the snow to cool herself down. While I was shoveling in the back yard, Dixie alerted me. She started barking at me and then came over and chewed on my glove. I went inside and tested. Blood sugar was 47. Good thing she alerted because I wasn't even feeling any symptoms. I had two cups of Gatorade and went back outside. Good dog.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Crayons, chalk, and lots of kids

I’m a Special Ed. Teacher. It is a big part of what defines me. Most of the time, I love it. (or at least, like it) I love to watch kids learn and grow. Working in an elementary school means that some of the kids that I work, I will work with for seven years. I watch them start as tiny five year olds, and see them leave as preteens. I share, with parents, the excitement, tears, and dreams they have for their child. I’ve been teaching long enough now, that I have students who I worked with as six year olds that are now adults. Actually, one of my special kids called me yesterday. He’s 21 years old, works in a construction job, and lives on his own. He wants to work with me again to “…improve his reading so that he can go to college.” I’m touched. I told him that teachers don’t have favorites, but that he was one of mine. He said that he always knew that. That's what teaching is all about.

A feel good story always seems to end with something hard. Here’s my hard. Here’s a statement from my school district administrators.
“…it is anticipated that the projected revenues will fall approximately $3.069 million short of the cost of projected expenditures.”

What, you ask, does that mean? It means that my district will need to find a way to cut three million dollars from the budget. As teachers, we were asked to send our ideas to the school board of where to cut this money. For the first time in my life, I was speechless. What more can possibly be cut? My classroom is always cold. I wear layers to school all fall and winter because the temperature in my workspace is freezing. Hell, a couple times this year I’ve worn mittens in my class. I don’t think we can cut heating costs. I buy all the paper, pencils, dry erase markers, chalk, notebooks, markers, crayons, snacks, stickers, etc… myself. I can’t suggest cutting the instructional supply budget. Seriously…have you been in a classroom lately?! The fifth grade classes in my school have 34 kids in each of them. Does anyone realize how crazy that is for ONE adult to handle? 34 kids!! And of those kids, there are: a couple with serious mental illnesses, several who are struggling to read, a couple with autism, two that don’t really speak or understand English, and more who are tired, hungry, and not interested in school. If I happen to stop in a regular ed class and a teacher asks me to stay with the kids so that she can use the restroom, I panic. Our kindergarten classes have 22 kids in them. Again, can you imagine being left alone with that many five and six year olds—and on top of being left with them, can you imagine trying to teach them to read, write, calculate, and get along with each other?! So as teachers, WE PRAY that the class sizes don’t get any bigger. Heck, we don't even want them to stay the same. We'd like them smaller please. As a special ed teacher, I can’t even imagine having more kids to case manage in seven different grades. I don’t know how we’ll possibly provide adequate service to kids that need a lot of special attention when our paraprofessional staff gets cut again.

Like other teachers, I wonder when education will not have to be about “getting by.” It’s a scary time.

“Do you think that Dixie senses the physiological changes due to hypos, or the behavioral changes? After all, I think that each of us has our own "unique" behaviors when low, but the biochemistry would be the same.”
I don’t know if we’ll ever know how Dixie (or other dogs like her) senses hypoglycemia. She has known even if we’re in different rooms. That makes it seem like it isn’t her sensing behavioral changes. I don’t think that we’ll ever really understand the sensory perception that canines possess. I would assume that some of how Dixie knows is scent, because I know of other people who have trained dogs for diabetes alerting and have used scent training techniques. The dog trainers that I worked with said that a big part of it is the bond that humans have to their dog. It’s a deep connection that helps the dog know. What I do know is that knowing what is happening inside me is Dixie’s gift and her talent.

The photo is of Dixie pushing the mounted life alert switch in my house. (I have it so that if I am unresponsive, Dixie has a way to alert someone. She can push the button and if I don't respond, life alert will send help.) She's not had to use it (knock on wood), but we practice so that if we need it, she'll remember how to do it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Decorated Boxes and Valentine candy

I got my lab work back from my endocrinology appointment. I am disappointed. I was hoping for an A1c less than 6, or at 6.0. No such number came back on the slip. Dam. I was really thinking I could have pulled it off. After reading other blogs where folks are reporting A1cs in the 5s, I am feeling even more inadequate. I need to write the number here so that I can start moving on. It was 6.4. I know, it's o.k. My endo wrote “excellent” on the lab slip that was mailed to my house, but I know that she only wrote that because she doesn’t want to see my A1c under 6, because of my hypoglycemia unawareness, and her worry of the frequent lows I would have to get a number like that. Can you tell that I’m obsessing about this?!

My averages for the last several weeks have been around 125. I guess the times that I’m not testing, (another reason why some sort of CBGM might be handy) I must be higher. I’ve also been struggling with figuring out my basal rates overnight. I usually wake up with a blood sugar of around 70. The last week or so I’ve been waking up at 135ish. I’m always a little nervous about turning up my basal rates overnight, but I think I have to do it. I hate waking up over 100. It isn’t a pleasant feeling way to start the day. It would probably help if I changed my pump sites more frequently too, but I can’t go there…

I talked to my endo about getting a CBGM. She wasn’t too thrilled about the idea. She is concerned about having another site to damage tissue. She also thinks that because I have Dixie, I have a system in place to alert me when I am low.

On a happy note...I love Valentine’s Day in elementary school. The kids are so excited to pass out their Valentine cards, putting each one carefully in a decorated box. There's almost as much candy around today as on Halloween. I don't really like candy. It's not a vice for me. Dixie has made quite the haul! She has more than I do. To top it, she got a new squeaky toy from one of the first grade teachers. It’s great. It looks like a green shark, with a rope going through one side and out the other. It’s a combination of her favorites—rope and a squeaker.



Has Dixie ever alerted another diabetic due to low blood sugar?
Yes. I actually work with another Type 1. Dixie will alert her if she’s low. Sometimes we have to quiz each other…is she pawing because I’m low, or you’re low?!
One time I had a work crew doing some landscaping in my backyard. I was standing on the deck talking to a woman who was planting sod. Dixie kept pawing at her. After watching her, I asked the woman if she had diabetes. She said “..yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” She had apparently skipped breakfast that morning and was feeling low. I went inside and got her a juice box so that Dixie would leave her alone.

The photo above is of Ella, my rat terrier. She is on the teeter-totter at agility class!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I made it through my appointment with my endocrinologist. All went well. (last week’s blood sugar average was 119!) The only snag was that it took two pokes to get blood drawn. Yuck, that creeps me out. That is a great time to have a big, black dog. I focused my nervous energy on petting Dixie, and she helped calm me.

The weather in MN is brutally cold right now. I was hoping that school would be cancelled Monday or Tuesday, but no luck. A friend of mine lives in Michigan, and she has had school cancelled the last two days because of the cold. The weather was colder here. Go figure.

It’s a hard time of year. Cold, dark, short days. I feel constantly exhausted, and overwhelmed most of the time. The end of the quarter was two weeks ago, and with that means quarterly progress reports for all of the kids that I work with. That’s basically a story about the progress that each kid has made for the last couple of months. It’s overwhelming to do them, but feels so great to get them done and out to parents. School is very busy right now too, with many assessments to do and kids to deal with that don’t have recess because of the cold weather. Thank goodness that there are only a couple of more weeks until spring break.

Winter gets long, doesn't it?

*5th grade students in my writing class answered this question today. "Would you eat a bowl of live crickets for $50,000?" One boy wrote "...yes, but the bowel shood be rely small!" (the bowl should be really small :-)


Last school year, one of my students was in my classroom with me. Dixie kept alerting me and alerting me. I kept testing, each time being in the zone. After several minutes, the student fell to the floor and had the first seizure that he has ever had. Dixie lay on the floor next to him, with her face next to his. When he “woke” up, I walked him to the nurse to rest. Dixie hopped up on the cot, on top of the student, and refused to leave until his mom arrived. Then she hopped off on her own. This particular student LOVES Dixie and was thrilled that she sat on him. I was lucky enough to have my digital camera with me and got a great picture of the two of them. Dixie really is “the dog of all dogs.” What an amazing soul she has become.