While most of you will be wondering if I have gone completely mad with that last description of myself, anyone with experience of caring for someone living with Type 1 diabetes will appreciate exactly where I am coming from.
It was one year ago this month when our life as we knew it changed forever. After a typical doctor’s appointment with my eldest son ended with a rushed admission to North Tyneside General hospital, I knew there was going to be nothing typical about our lives anymore.
Ewan, who had just turned eight, had been showing symptoms of Type 1 diabetes for no longer than a week but having had no experience of the condition I did not recognise any of them. I put his bed-wetting and insatiable thirst down to a possible water infection or nerves about moving into a new class at school, but when a water infection test came back clear and the bed-wetting and thirst continued, I got a second opinion. Ewan’s blood sugar reading was 37; as a lament I had no idea what this meant. Within an hour, it all became distressingly clear – we were rushed through the children’s assessment unit at the hospital, Ewan was given an injection of insulin and we were given the news that he had Type 1 diabetes and would be insulin dependant for the rest of his life!
Our learning curve since then has been steep to say the least and a year down the line we are still learning every day. Type 1 diabetes is such a complex condition. The pancreas in my little man’s body no longer works and so it is up to me to act as an artificial version of this vital organ and mimic its performance with calculated measurements of insulin, regular checks of his blood sugar levels and a carefully balanced diet. It has taken time to become comfortable with treating his diabetes but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely confident about getting it right.
The control of Ewan’s diabetes is going very well but it has ignited a concern about my naivety in the days leading up to his diagnosis – if my motherly instincts had not kicked in and told me something wasn’t right, the outcome could have been fatal.
So, I am on a mission to create better awareness of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in children. Over recent years advertisements for recognising the symptoms of strokes and meningitis have saved countless lives and Type 1 diabetes needs the same kind of attention to save unnecessary serious illness and potential death at the pre-diagnosis stage.
As I found out, your GP can rule-out or confirm diabetes with a very simple urine dip-test so please take note of these really obvious symptoms and do not dismiss any suspicions you may have:
- Going to the toilet all the time to pass urine
- Feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight (and you don’t know why)
- Regular episodes of thrush, or genital itching
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of cuts and grazes
As was the case with Ewan, Type 1 diabetes symptoms tend to present themselves very quickly, usually over a few weeks, but as soon as a diagnosis is confirmed and you start taking insulin they go away and with a little (or a lot) of help and support you will soon get the diabetes under control.
Do not leave anything to chance; early diagnosis is essential to ensure the condition does not escalate untreated. I have found the Diabetes UK website an invaluable source of information and they offer great advice; if you are in any way concerned log-on and check them out: www.diabetes.org.uk.
I need to sign off now to test Ewan’s blood and ensure his evening insulin is administered correctly…. the exciting life of a real-life artificial pancreas!
by Jenny Foster © 2011