How Robin #redefinedcourage

Never Give Up

I was young married mother of 2 delightful boys, taking a couple of years away from my career as a research biologist at UNC when our lives turned upside down in 1991. My 17 month old son, Kevin, was feeling ill before a scheduled vacation so I took him to his pediatrician for a checkup, thinking he may have a urinary tract infection. My husband, an environmental chemist, was not available at the time, as he was running a field study, so I dropped my older son off with a neighbor and took Kevin to the doctor by myself. Within minutes of examining Kevin, and taking a short blood test, the doctor told me I needed to take Kevin immediately to the hospital.
Kevin was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 17 months. At first my husband and I felt like we could handle this situation fine. I was comfortable with all the shots and the tests, and Kevin, being a bright and independent toddler, learned the routine quickly. But within a couple of months I knew something was wrong. Juggling food, activity and the “proper” amount of insulin was challenging. Kevin kept “crashing” with severe low blood glucose. He began having hypoglycemic seizures. And the doctors and diabetes educators at our hospital wanted Kevin’s blood sugars to remain low/normal and simply said “That’s the way it’s going to be”.

Six months later my husband and I fired our son’s diabetes team and took him to a different clinic further away. Kevin’s new endocrinologist was aghast at trying to keep a toddler’s blood glucose so low, and told us that for the safety of our son, we needed to keep his blood sugars at a higher level to avoid brain injury.  

We didn’t realize the extent of Kevin’s brain injury until he started school. Although he was mainstreamed into our local public elementary school from the first day he struggled. Finally his wonderful second grade teacher figured out that most of Kevin’s issues were around memory. He had huge difficulty with his short term memory, and would cry in frustration when asked to remember anything. He couldn’t even remember basic activities he loved. Kevin’s ability to remember any activity- even fun ones-just didn’t exist.
These elementary days had their challenges, but Kevin continued to be a loving, bright, and active child. He encouraged other children at the school who also had diabetes and learned how to take care of his own injections and frequent blood tests. But those school days didn’t last forever, and when Kevin entered middle school, the ground dropped out underneath us.

Kevin lasted 4 days in middle school. He was confused by the class changes and got lost and frustrated. At home he was sobbing all night long. The school administration didn’t care about his medical challenges and simply told us to “fix it”. So we took Kevin to a well respected psychiatrist and the nightmare began.  

A series of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications over the next 7 years changed the course of Kevin’s life. His anxiety soared and he became suicidal at age 11 after being prescribed Paxil. We pulled Kevin out of public school and began to homeschool him. I was working in medical research, so headed to the lab at 4 am worked until lunchtime when I came home to relieve my husband, who then headed off to work a full day until late in the evening. My son’s health declined significantly as side-effects of the medications took their toll. But I didn’t give up.

My own health was compromised significantly by the emotional and physical stress, and I was struggling to maintain my responsibilities to work and my family. I left my research career in 2004 and started my own wellness business after being introduced to USANA Health Sciences. Reducing some of the stress and supporting my body with high potency supplements brought my own health back. I finally was able to sleep better and gained energy to continue to care for my son.  

Nutritional supplements helped Kevin somewhat, but true health is more than simply taking medications and supplements. Even though we were doing everything our doctors knew how to help Kevin, by the time Kevin was 18, his liver was severely compromised, he was unable to digest food, and his left brain was shutting down. He developed grand mal seizures.  He was so anxious, he wouldn’t leave his bedroom, and didn’t want me to leave his side. His panic attacks overwhelmed him and he would physically attack me in the midst of a panic, screaming how he didn’t want to be acting that way the entire time.

It was the most challenging time in my life. I experienced a mixture of emotions- disbelief that my son was mentally unstable, absolute fear during his outbursts, heartbreak afterwards. Family and friends stopped contacting us. I felt completely alone- bruised both emotionally and physically. But still, I stayed determined to find out what could possibly help my son heal. I never gave up. We tried to enroll Kevin in a healing facility that specializes in depression and mental instability. They couldn’t handle Kevin’s multiple health issues and sent him back home after less than 24 hours. Doctors didn’t know how to help. Kevin’s life was up to us.

Through USANA Health Sciences, I met practitioners who were incorporating more holistic practices in their treatment of patients. My eyes were opened to the possibilities for healing through a more natural way. Gradually we found ways to help Kevin through dietary changes, targeted supplementation, mold remediation, and meditation. We later added neurofeedback to help in the healing of his brain. I was not going to give up.

Since 2012 Kevin has been an active athlete in Special Olympics. He LOVES basketball and the annual Unified UNC vs Duke game is the highlight of his year. He is on the Special Olympics competitive swim team, and has an awesome butterfly stroke. His general outlook on life is positive and he is looking forward to finding a part-time job where he is valued. We won’t give up.

The steps it takes to keep Kevin healthy and seizure free are challenging, but oh so worth it. Just as it is oh so worth taking care of your own health. I have learned so many valuable lessons in life from being Kevin’s mom.

Even if you take one step toward wellness, it is worth it! If you don’t know where to start, start asking questions. Never give up. Being part of a supportive community is essential. Who I had thought of as my support fell away as years past and Kevin didn’t seem to be getting better. I found a new community in USANA Health Sciences first, and then founded my own local community Living Well Connections.

I founded Living Well Connections in order to bring together people who are interested in improving their overall health and wellness. We come from many different backgrounds, but we have all found power in improving our health through nutrition, movement, mindfulness, environment and stress relief.

At Living Well Connections you will find education on wellness topics, friendships, and support for living a healthy lifestyle. I host local lunch & learns and social events, and provide a private facebook group where we can communicate across the world. I invite you to join us there! You can learn more about Living Well Connections by contacting Robin at www.livingwellconnections.info or joining our private facebook group at https://facebook.com/groups/livingwellconnections

When you are going through a difficult health challenge, take time to breath. Find gratitude in the simple joys that lift you up, and focus on HOPE.  Every step you take toward wellness is worth it. Never give up!