I recently learned of a family that nearly lost their daughter. She had been wetting her bed, drinking lots of water, eating everything in sight, arguing, talking back and sleeping way more than usual. The parents noticed all these things but didn’t put them together as a whole. They addressed each issue separately - while they disciplined the poor behavior and restricted water before bed. They chalked most things up as ‘summer boredom’. When their daughter started throwing up they thought she had a summer flu and took her to the doctor. The doctor sent them to the hospital and said “It isn’t the flu”.
If you are reading this you are likely already familiar with Type 1 diabetes. You recognize all the symptoms. You knew right away the dear child didn’t have behavior problems, wasn’t bored and didn’t have the flu. The thing is - many parents don’t know the symptoms. I didn’t know the symptoms. When Sugarboy was diagnosed his blood sugar was nearly 1000. He was in DKA. I could have lost him if I hadn’t noticed the weight loss and followed my gut despite my husbands insistence that I was paranoid. (Don’t judge him – Ive always been a bit worrisome)
Six months before Sugarboys diagnosis I had started a new part-time job as a pre-school teacher for mothers-day-out at a church. I had applied for a number of positions at various churches and was offered a number of jobs. The job I took was not my first choice. It offered less money than the others, and offered the opposite days that I wanted to work. Yet something urged me to take the position. Honestly my heart and head where arguing with each other. My head said no my heart said yes. I followed my heart. Two months after starting the new job a 3-year-old girl in another class was diagnosed with diabetes. I didn’t know her or her family but signed up to make a meal for them. I made meatloaf, mashed potatoes, broccoli and sent a loaf of french bread. When the mother of the child came to pick up her daughter from school I gave her the meal and said, “I wanted to include brownies but didn’t think that would be right.” The mom smiled and thanked me and went on her way. I rarely saw the mom although the child hung out in my classroom with my co-teacher often. I never thought to ask how a child so small could have diabetes. I never thought to ask about the symptoms.
Three months later I started noticing little things with my boy (2 years old at the time). He was drinking more, asking for milk or water vs juice, sleeping longer and harder than before, wetting through his diaper at night and during the day, he was cranky and whiny. His teachers noticed it too – said he was falling asleep during story time. I asked them to please allow him to have his zippy cup of water since he was so thirsty. A couple of weeks past and he became more thirsty, more tired and more cranky. I was cursing the terrible twos. His teachers and my co-teacher became more concerned but no one mentioned diabetes (not blaming them – they didn’t know either).
Sugarboy’s whole diagnosis story is here but this isn’t about his diagnosis. This is about how knowing the symptoms of diabetes saves lives. It is why if I get an opportunity to share what onset of Type 1 diabetes looks like – I do. It is why I strongly believe doctors should have posters in their exam rooms that outline the symptoms. It is why I believe doctors should test urine for sugar at well checks. It is why I volunteer for the JDRF Kids Walk to Cure diabetes because I get to talk about the symptoms with entire schools.
Not every parent of a child with diabetes wants to talk about diagnosis, diets, fears, struggles, symptoms, etc. The day I handed the meal to the mother of this child I wish I had asked questions. Maybe she would have felt uncomfortable talking about it. Maybe it would have been too soon after diagnosis for her to talk. Or maybe she would have liked to share her story and I would have caught Sugarboy’s diagnosis earlier.
What I wish most is that I had made the brownies.