On my Facebook news feed, there has been a lot of mention of a child who was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Too many children are diagnosed each day but this story is getting greater attention because she was not diagnosed until she was in a coma and now appears to have brain damage.
I can’t give you the details of this particular story. I haven’t followed it. I see the photos. My heart breaks for the family and the young girl but I can’t sit down and read about them. I can’t follow their story. It cuts me to the core because I know that there but for the grace of God go I.
It was almost 15 years ago when my then two-year-old son was behaving strangely. He was clingy and tired. He was constantly soaking his diapers but he also was constantly drinking when he was awake. We couldn’t keep him away from fluids. If we restricted what he drank to try to save his diapers, he marched his little body to the fridge and would guzzle apple juice from the carton.
We had taken him to the emergency room. He had the flu we were told. We waited for him to get better but he didn’t. We made an appointment with our family doctor and our world came crashing down in waves. Our doctor thought he had diabetes. He had ketoacidosis. He needed x-rays. He had to go to another hospital. This was very serious.
I understood x-rays, hospital and serious. My son was laboring to breathe in my arms and his body was cold. It was serious but it couldn’t be that serious could it? He had been healthy all of his short life.
A trip to another hospital led to another wave of terror. Now we were told new things. We heard diabetes again. We heard brain damage, heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and “if he makes it through the next 24 hours.”
That was almost 15 years ago. Someone missed checking his urine or blood during the first visit to the emergency room. It almost cost my son his life.
Today we have insulin pumps. rapid insulin, continuous glucose monitors, and sensor augmented pumps. We have meters that read bg levels in under five seconds but still we have children literally dying because a diagnosis of diabetes was missed. A routine test of urine for sugar or ketones is not done when they are checking for everything else. Doctors assume that its flu season and the child must just have a bug.
Its not their fault. We feel that it is when its our child but they have to know so much and what ails the human body can be such guess work. They could help themselves and our children however if they remember to add that one little screen to routine blood or urine work-ups. A stick in urine will still show the presence of ketones. Asking any parent of a child with diabetes how long it takes. Its a matter of seconds and the urine sticks are cheap.
In 15 years a lot has changed. Our meters no longer take 30-60 seconds to produce a reading. There are other background insulin options besides NPH. Insulin pumps are now so smart that they can talk to continuous glucose monitors. Continuous Glucose monitors are no longer items that are blinded and reserved for only select hospitals.
Type 1 diabetes is finding itself in the mainstream media. Insulin pumps are being shown and discussed in various television shows.
Despite all of these strides ahead, children are still dying. People do not know what to look for. As a parent, I didn’t know what diabetes looked like or even that I should be looking until the signs were literally posted right in front of me.
Healthy children get sick but they don’t need to die. We need to work harder to get the word out there. Families should not suffer this pain. No one should die or suffer the damage of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes in 2015.