My healthy diabetic child
The lessons I learnt when my daughter was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic.
Nothing could have prepared me for the day that Emma, then 10, was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. I was so overwhelmed and frightened and never thought I would cope.

Emma is my healthy child. She loves salads and fruit and occasionally enjoys sweets, but not that often. In fact, we still have Easter eggs in the cupboard at Christmas time. My journey of emotional turmoil started in July 2009.

Emma’s appetite has never been great, but I noticed she was drinking a lot. I would send her to school with lunches that were the envy of her class mates only to find it ALL still in her lunchbox when she returned home. The only thing she finished was her drinks. Although the amount she was drinking did not alert me, I noticed she was going to the toilet a lot, especially at night.

The family had just returned from holiday in Zanzibar, where Emma had spent many hours in the hotel pool. On our return, she presented with a strep throat and appeared very lethargic.

I took her to my GP on the Wednesday for her strep throat and antibiotics were prescribed. By the Saturday morning, there was not much change in Emma’s health, so I returned to the GP to check out either a UTI (bladder infection). The doctor on call took a urine sample to check Emma’s ketones and when I saw his face after viewing the urine strip, I just knew we were in trouble! The doctor called his colleague who then took her sugars, which revealed a horrifying result – 14, when normal is between four and 5.5.

I now truly understand the word “denial”. I kept asking the doctor if it could be the medication. Maybe the reading was wrong or the machine was faulty? He was however quite firm and told me he would call Dr David Segal, a paediatric endocrinologist.

After what felt like an eternity, we found ourselves at the medical centre to hear our fate from Dr Segal. Tests confirmed that Emma was a type 1 diabetic who would be dependent on insulin for the rest of her life. I remember sitting there stunned, just trying to stop my bottom lip from shaking. I could not fall apart in front of the doctor, let alone my little girl who, at this stage, was beside herself.

On the bright side of things, my child’s disease is at least a manageable one. If well controlled, she can still live a normal, healthy life.

So what are the lessons that I have learnt in being a care-giver to my child with diabetes?
First, take nothing for granted. Be constantly vigilant and focus simply and carefully on doing the next right thing.

Second, don’t let yourself become preoccupied with the horrible things that could happen, forgetting all the good things that still remain in the present and the future for both you and your child.

Lastly, as courageously as you can, embrace the fact that knowledge is power. You need to know as much as possible about what you have to do or can most usefully do. You also need a full understanding of what you need to rightly fear, as well as what you may reasonably hope for. This helps prevent prejudice and gives confidence to family and friends and most importantly of all, to the diabetic.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes, but even adults develop it these days. It is however, the most common form of diabetes in children, with 90-95% of diabetics aged under 16 having this type of insulin-dependent diabetes. It is an auto-immune disease – the body attacks the pancreas, damaging it to the point that it produces very little or no insulin. Insulin is the hormone which helps move sugar from the blood and into the cells, which use it for energy.

Without insulin, blood sugar levels rise, while cells are starved for energy. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent and must inject insulin several times a day. Information supplied by Accu-check

Read more about the signs of diabetes.
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