A couple of days ago I experienced one of the scariest moments of my life. My three-year old daughter and I were having a girls’ day in town: lunch, shopping and Kiddy Land in one of the department stores in the poshest area of Osaka, Umeda (see photos below). My daughter saw a little pink purse made of fur and had some diamond like things tangling off it and wanted it – after all, she is a girly-girl. I thought the purse would be great for storing all her important diabetes stuff when out and about, so I bought it for her. You see, my daughter has Type1 diabetes. He condition means that we carry with us an arsenal of equipment wherever we go so that we can determine her blood sugar levels several times per day and give her an accurate amount of insulin or alternatively sugar whichever she needs in that moment in time. If you are confused as to what the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is, or are gagging to know why we need to carry an arsenal of equipment with us when out and about, you can find explanations on these in my previous blog post entitled.
Anyway, after having bought the bag, when we went for lunch and I transferred her diabetes kit from her old ugly blue leather wallet into her new pink furry purse. Into the purse went: her insulin pump remote control-blood glucose meter and her ketone tester, along with her finger pricker and two pots of test strips (see photo). So, pretty much of her most valuable possessions. My daughter stroked the bag throughout the lunch, and when we left the restaurant she wanted to carry it. I don’t tend to be a big risk taker and my husband often jokes about my excessive health and safety standards, so I said ‘NO’. But eventually gave in because she had a once in a lifetime tantrum in the foyer of the restaurant on our way out about carrying the new purse. I am not stupid and I understood that letting her carry it was not a good idea, so I promised myself that my eyes would be glued to that bag as if I was a Hugh Grant eyeballing some prostitutes.
We carried on with our girls’ day out and entered Kiddy Land where my daughter played with some toys, built a Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) train track, and watched kids’ films in Japanese. For about half an hour my eyes were on that purse really like it was a prostitute and I was Hugh Grant. We eventually left Kiddy Land. We had walked about 10 minutes on the streets of Umeda when I realized that my daughter was no longer carrying the purse. Do you know that feeling when your legs go all weak and you feel like someone’s just pinned a dozen pegs on the inside of your stomach? That’s how I felt. This was a disaster of monumental proportions. In a state of panic, I emptied the entire content of my handbag on the busy Umeda street. The furry bag wasn’t there. I went through all our shopping bags. It wasn’t in those either. I turned to my daughter. Where did you leave it? In the shop, she cried. Which shop? –The shop, she repeated. I couldn’t of course hold a 3-year-old responsible for losing a bag or being able to tell me where she had left it. It was of course my fault completely. I should have watched the bag. Like it was a prostitute and I was Hugh Grant, right?
Only those of you reading this blog post who have Type 1 diabetic children (or have type 1 themselves) can really understand the state of panic I was in. Losing one’s diabetes kit is worse than losing one’s wallet or handbag, worse than their 18-month old flushing their passport down the toilet 5 minutes before the airport taxi is about to come and pick them up to go to Aruba on holiday, and worse than one walking out of a shop without realizing that their 3-year old had put some items from the shop in the pushchair which they did not pay for on their way out. I would have rather been arrested for shoplifting than lose my daughter’s diabetes equipment! Thinking back now, like what the hell was I thinking!? I would never let my daughter carry my purse, wallet, handbag or passport around a shopping centre, yet I had let her do so with the most important objects of her life. I wouldn’t dream of letting her walk around with her old leather diabetes kit case, but for some reason her carrying her pink furry bag didn’t feel as idiotic when I gave in to her tantrum in the foyer of the restaurant.
The good thing is that we have insurance for losing or breaking her equipment exactly for cock ups like the present one. I believe the insurer provides us with a new pump within 24hours. However, we currently (temporarily) live in Japan, and our daughter’s pump is not licensed over here, which means that we would need to order a replacement from England. God knows how long that would take! The fact that our daughter’s pump monitor also functions as her blood glucose monitor, means that until we (a) find the missing monitor, (b) get a new one from England or (c) are given one in a hospital in Japan, we will not be able to measure her blood sugar levels. And this is bad! – Life-threatening to be more precise. Luckily, we have a continuous glucose monitor – and thank God I had not put that in the furry bag. Having a continuous glucose monitor means that we don’t have to test our daughter’s blood sugars quite as often as many other parents of Type 1 children. However, the continuous glucose monitor needs to be calibrated a minimum of twice a day with a finger prick blood test. In addition, we need to do a finger prick test anytime we suspect her blood sugars are extremely low or high. So there I was on my knees on the busy street of Umeda with the content of my handbag on the ground calculating how long did we have to find her stuff before we would have to go to the hospital.
We picked up my stuff of the pavement, turned around, and traced our original route back to Kiddy Land. I checked every shelf, tabletop, under counter and toy box along the way. Nothing. We couldn’t find the bag. At this point, I am nearly in tears. And so is our daughter because she can see how stressed, worried and upset I am. I go to the till of the concession where our daughter had been playing with the Shinkansen. In English I ask the cashier whether anyone has found a small bag. As I expected, the cashier doesn’t speak English (this is a problem we encounter practically wherever we go in Japan). I repeat my question, pointing at my handbag and signalling with my hands a small bag. The cashier is frustrated and obviously wants me to leave or switch over to Japanese. I won’t budge. Her colleague overhears my plea for the bag and asks ‘When?’ to I reply ‘Half and hour ago.’ She says ‘Pink?’ Me: ‘Yes! Yes!’ The cashiers have a short conversation in Japanese and the first cashier runs somewhere. Five minutes later she runs back with our furry bag. At this point I am in tears. I thank the cashier and want to give her a big hug, but managed to control myself. In Japan physical contact, like hugging, amongst strangers or even acquaintances is not the done thing. The cashier would have probably pulled some swift Aikido move had I tried to place my arms around her. I show the bag to my daughter who is also nearly in tears and repeats: ‘The lady found it! The lady found it!’ I don’t know where we had left it but I assume someone had found it and returned it to a shop assistant. Japan is great in that way – people are generally extremely honest and the chances are that people will not steal left-behind goods. For instance, I have found expensive mobile phones left in busy public toilet cubicles and people using the toilet before me have not taken them (and for the record, neither did I!). Also, bikes are generally not properly locked in Japan, but they do not tend to go missing (see photo). In England, you of course need to chain your bike to the nearest Police officer for it to stay put for the duration of your visit to Tesco Metro to buy your lunch.
In any case, I did learn my lesson. Had this happened to my husband or our au pair, I would have acted like Tony Soprano when he found out that Pussy had betrayed him. So I am kind of glad that it was me, and not my husband or au pair who demonstrated idiotic behavior beyond comprehension, and it is my own irresponsible head that I want to sink to the bottom of the sea and not anyone else’s. But one thing I can promise: From hereafter we will be storing only our daughter’s small hand towel and some other insignificant stuff in the new furry bag and her diabetes stuff is back in its original, ugly, leather case, which is safely stored in my handbag.