When I Stumbled, I Discovered My StrengthA Youth in Care Reflects on Her Diabetes Journey
by Annahi, age 14
My name is Jennifer, but I like to be called Annahi. I am 14 years old and I am diabetic and happy and proud to be. My life has been a struggle, but it has been the best it can be.
I don’t regret the choices I made because that’s what made me stronger and what made me the person I am today. Yes, I’ve had ups and downs like any other teen, but at the end I know how to smile and move on.
My favorite colors are turquoise, lime green, and peach. I am a teenager gone wild, and a kind and friendly person. I like to make new friends and socialize, but I also like to spend time with my family.
Being diabetic doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the world or go out and have fun. Yes, I stay strong and fight it and deal with it every day. I’m thankful for my struggles because without them I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.
What follows is an excerpt from a paper I wrote called “One Battle, a Million Struggles.”
It Hasn’t Been Easy
I was diagnosed with diabetes eight years ago [at age 6]. It has not been easy.
Sometimes my blood sugar was good. Other days it would skyrocket, which means it was extremely high, like in a dangerous zone. Then I just couldn’t deal with it anymore, so I started to eat anything I wanted.
I wasn’t supposed to do that, but I did. I couldn’t eat candy or any type of sweets, but I would anyway. Then it got to where I was getting tired of living the diabetic life, tired of taking medication every single day, so I would skip my doses. Other times I would just forget to take them.
This made me feel so, so sick.
The Emergency Room
I ended up in the hospital—in the emergency room—with DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). [Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma or even death.] It was horrible, but since I’d made the wrong choice I had to deal with it.
[The people in the hospital] helped me feel better so I would soon be able to go home, but not for long. I would be back and forth, going to the emergency room about every other month.
I never really thought what could happen because of all of this.
Two in the Hospital
My mom was expecting a baby. Close to her due date I ended up in the hospital again. While I was there my mom was admitted to labor and delivery. A few days later I was ready to go home but my mom wasn’t.
This was when the doctors decided to report our medical issues to DSS (the department of social services).
DSS Gets Involved
That evening a well-dressed lady walked in with a big thick folder in her hand. We talked awhile, then she asked me if I knew anyone I would be willing to stay with while my mom was in the hospital.
The only person that came to my head was a lady who went to my church. I gave her Ms. Julia’s information. The next day I got out of the hospital and went to Ms. Julia’s house.
I felt pretty good being there—she was a really nice lady and pretty cool.
Later a social worker arrived saying I would be put into foster care. I didn’t really know what she meant. I just knew I would be staying with Ms. Julia longer.
Why Am I in Foster Care?
One day I decided to ask the social worker why they had put me into foster care. She told me that it was because I was having too many difficulties at home controlling my diabetes. Then I asked her when I could go home.
She said, “I don’t want to upset you, but I honestly don’t know. It might be a long time before you can go back.”
My face dropped and she kept talking.
I told her, “STOP, that’s enough! I don’t want to know any more!”
From her shadow I saw her pulling her hair back, then take her hand and slowly reach out for mine. Meanwhile I was trying to hold my tears from falling. I pulled my hand away from hers as if I’m telling her, “Don’t touch me!”
She gently put her hand on my chin, trying to lift up my head. I lifted it up and looked away from her.
In a soft voice she said, “Don’t think I’m the bad guy here or that I took you away from your family because I don’t want you to be with them. If I took you away, it was because I want to help you and your family do what is right for you. We want you to be healthy and to grow up and be someone in life.”
In my head all she was saying was entering one ear and exiting through the other. I was ready for her to go.
When she left, Ms. Julia came in the room. She looked at me as if she was going to drop some tears, too. I immediately looked away and started to cry.
She started out by saying, “I’m sorry, I know how you feel.”
“Ugh, it’s OK,” I replied.
But then I said, “It’s all my fault.”
She said, “Jenni, no! Don’t say that. You just didn’t think of the consequences of your actions.
“Look,” she said, “I know it’s hard and you sure didn’t expect all this to happen, but all I can really say is you need to try to be strong for your mom and your sisters.”
I said, ”OK, I’m going to try.”
Months passed by and I started to get used to this whole different life. My mom started to take classes at the community college so she had to find a baby-sitter for my sister. She asked Ms. Julia and she agreed.
So I got to see my baby sister when she was there, but not as often as I wanted it to be. But other than my yearning for my family, so far things were really good.
I wasn’t having so much trouble with my diabetes.
One day Annahi returns home from school to learn that her baby sister died in her sleep while in Ms. Julia’s care. After the funeral Annahi is placed with Mary, a different foster parent. Eventually Annahi reunifies with her family, but once again her diabetes goes out of control. DSS places her back with Mary.
[At Mary’s house] I was happy and at the same time sad—another whole different life again! But deep down I knew it was for the best. It would be hard, but my life would be better.
So far I am doing great. Yes, Mary can be hard on me, but I’ve learned it’s always for a good reason. She’s really a caring and loving person to me.
I know she doesn’t know this because I hardly say this or anything, but I love her! She’s my hero, the one who came into my life when I least expected it. The one that God put in my way for a reason.
Thank You, God, for my life and all You’ve done in it. I know we are all different and my story has a purpose that can impact the lives of others forever.