A CDN mom's advice for sending your young adult with T1D to college

Contributor
Karlyn Gale, CDN mom

Editor's note: Karlyn and Courtney are a mom and daughter combo who together, helped Courtney thrive during her four years on campus. Check out Karlyn's first blog for us about communication with your student while they're away.

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I’m Not Sending Her To College!
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I never thought I’d be able to send Courtney off to college. She was diagnosed at the end of her sophomore year of high school and my husband and I were a huge part of her diabetes management. It was new, it was overwhelming, it was scary. “Just let her go to college and deal with her diabetes…it’s her disease, she can handle it!” is what I heard a parent say at one of our first diabetes-related events we went to. I remember feeling shocked, frustrated, angry, scared and so many other feelings that I actually thought “NO WAY am I sending her off to college!”. Once I calmed down, my husband and I chatted and decided that we wanted Courtney to have the same college experience as everyone else, no matter what it took, so off to college she went.

We were fortunate that Courtney’s top pick was only forty-five minutes away from home. So we started all the shopping for her dorm, ordering diabetes supplies, meeting with Courtney’s endocrinologist and nurse, making a binder with all of her diabetes info in it, and meeting with health services on campus. I thought I was in good shape but the whole week before she was ready to move out, I found myself crying every time I walked by our front room with all of her stuff packed. I was crying because she was our baby, crying because we had become so close due to her diabetes diagnosis, and crying because I was so scared about all of the “what ifs.”

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Move-In Day
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Then the day came….we got up early and were in line at campus by 7:45 am to move her in. I was good. I knew we could do this! We unpacked and decorated, put the glucagon above her door, put her diabetes binder on her desk, met her roommate and family, added a few finishing touches to her room and it looked amazing. I got her roommate's cell phone number, we started to say goodbye and gave her hugs and I just didn’t want to let go, but I did. My husband and I walked slowly down the hallway with my head hanging and tears rolling down my face. I started panicking as we were about to leave her building so I stopped and asked at the front desk where I could find the Residence Life Director and he, fortunately, was right there! I introduced myself and told him about our situation and inquired about who we could call if we needed someone to check on her. He explained that they had EMT’s on campus 24/7 and that we would have to call the Department of Public Safety (DPS) who would send an EMT or Police Officer to go check on her. So we got in the car and I immediately looked up the phone number for DPS and shared it with my husband and Courtney so we all had it in our phones.

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My Best Advice for Parents
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College is a huge transition for everyone; add type 1 diabetes into the mix and it can be very overwhelming. I was ready and willing to do whatever I needed to take the diabetes management pressure off Courtney anytime I could, as I wanted her to have the best college experience possible. Although our plan worked very well for us, we know that it may not work for everyone. 

My advice: Take everyone’s advice and then do what’s right for you, your child and your family. Everyone’s situation is different and there is no right or wrong way to send your kid off to college with type 1 diabetes.

Here are my suggestions and what worked for us:

  • Come up with a communication plan with your child

  • Don’t be afraid to tell your child how you’re feeling

  • Get as many phone numbers as you can

  • Make sure they always wear a Medical ID

  • Have them join or start a CDN Chapter on campus

  • Make sure you tell them to HAVE FUN!

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I will leave you with one last piece of advice,  definitely join the Parents of the College Diabetes Network Facebook page. It’s a place where you can ask questions, get support and know that you’re not alone.

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Karlyn Gale
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Karlyn’s daughter, Courtney, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May 2013, just two years before she headed off to college. Since then, Karlyn and her husband Ben and her two kids Brandon and Courtney have become advocates for type 1 diabetes and have volunteered at many type 1 diabetes events over the years. She strongly believes in doing your type 1 diabetes research and making the best decisions that work for you and your family. Karlyn teaches in an elementary school and in her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing, going to the beach, and spending time with her family and friends.