Imagine the scene, 7.30pm on a typical week night, Mum and Dad both home, four boys in various stages of readiness for bed and the family Doctor phones. You have taken your nine year old son to see him this afternoon, because he had lost weight. What you thought was a growth spurt ended in him being a bit taller, but considerably thinner than usual. Your world is turned upside down.
The Pathologist had called the Doctor at home with the blood test results and says that he has never seen a blood sugar level so high before. Your son’s level is 54 (European) and that the Doctor would be ringing Accident and Emergency and tell them that you are on your way. So you go from doing the dishes to melt down. Quickly throw some clothes into a bag and phone the neighbours to see if they can look after the other 3 boys and then you drive 20 minutes to the hospital.
It is extremely difficult to describe the multitude of emotions that you feel in this time. You have been crying because of the unknown and your son is crying because you are obviously upset about it and the other children are too scared to know what is going on and there was no time to explain. We arrived at the hospital and it was amazing how quickly we were seen, no chance to sit and catch our breath, straight into a room, with blood tests and drips. Your son has Type 1 Diabetes. What a life shattering statement.
Our son was put into ICU for the night on a rapid infuser, so that they could administer enough insulin to bring his Blood Sugar down to a safer level, he had a drip attached to combat the dehydration and was constantly monitored. The staff at the hospital were professional, competent and very caring and need to be commended for their hard work. Our son was moved from ICU late the next day to the Children’s ward, where he remained for another 2 days, whilst we learnt about insulin injections and diet. We had fantastic support from the Diabetes team at the Hospital and were given lots of support and information. But there is so much to learn and just when you think you have a handle on it, something changes. Such is the unpredictable nature of Type 1 Diabetes.
Unfortunately I did not pick up the symptoms of my son’s Type 1 Diabetes, partly because all of his symptoms were easily explained by other things, but mainly from my lack of knowledge. I thought that Diabetes is a disease that is directly attributed to lack of exercise and being overweight. How could a healthy child who eats a well balanced diet have diabetes?
It was mid December 2007 and the weather was hot here, so I did not think too much about my son drinking lots of water and he was having a growth spurt, that’s why he was eating like there was no tomorrow and kids do that, eat heaps, shoot up and then their appetite returns to normal. He did seem to be a bit tired, but it was almost the end of the school year and they can be a bit worn out towards by then. Oh well it is almost Christmas and the holidays will be good for us all to have a rest from the routine and unwind after a busy year. Christmas and New Year come and go and he really does not look like that he is going to stop with the ferocious eating, yet he seems to be losing weight and lots of it. I decide, perhaps I had better take him to the Doctors, but will have to wait a few more days, because the three big boys are going to stay with Nan for a few days, so they return on Wednesday and Thursday 10th of January 2008 we visit the GP. That is the beginning of our story and from this point onwards our son’s life will never be the same. Daily injections of insulin, constant monitoring of his Blood Sugar levels and careful preparation of his food follows.
We returned from Hospital still shell shocked from the experience and worried about the ramifications of this diagnosis. We had many conversations with family and friends, explaining that Type 1 Diabetes is an auto immune disease that has nothing to do with what you eat. It is simply a virus that attacks the pancreas and causes it to stop producing insulin. You would think that this would be one hell of a virus, but in fact it can be the common cold that brings Type 1 Diabetes on and now that I think back, my son had one weekend early December, where he had a high temperature and laid on the couch for the weekend. You know, one of those kid things, he was fine by Monday and went back to school, with seemly no ill effects. Now we know that, that was most likely the beginning of him joining the Type 1 Diabetes family.
Things have settled down for us now and we are left with the routine of life for a Type 1 Diabetic, constant blood sugar monitoring and regular meal times and the never-ending task of choosing the appropriate low sugar, low fat foods with the right amount of carbohydrates. My son has taken to the injections with valour and is giving himself his own injections 2 or 3 times a day and seems resigned to the fact that this how it is going to be for the rest of his life. I am worried about the higher than normal risk for the other children of also developing Type 1 Diabetes, but on the other hand am thankful that it is only Diabetes, because I know that with care my son can go on to live a long and healthy life.