Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thankful She Was Diagnosed

I'm occasionally reminded of how thankful I am that when she was 13 months old, my child was diagnosed with diabetes. 

She'd been fussy since Friday, wanting to be in our laps or close to us.  She wasn't sleeping well.  Saturday evening, she cried a lot.  Saturday night, she threw up.  By Sunday morning, she was lethargic, and seemed dehydrated.  The pediatrician told us to go to the local emergency room.

What seemed like gallons of blood were taken from her screaming little body.  It felt like hours before a vein was found for the IV.  Neurological tests were done.  Urine was taken.  We were then taken in a room by the e.r. doctor and told that our daughter was 'extremely ill,' and that he did not have a diagnosis.  He requested permission to perform a spinal tap to look for meningitis and possible other causes.  We agreed.  What choice did we have?  A couple of hours after our arrival, lab results arrived showing a high blood sugar (in the 800 range if memory serves) in addition to other chemical imbalances.  The hospital team continued to search for a diagnosis, unable to comprehend that a baby could have diabetes. Four hours after our arrival, we were in a helicopter on our way to the regional children's hospital.  That is where insulin was first administered, mostly I believe to this day, because the medevac team insisted upon orders to do so before they transported her.  Upon our arrival at the children's hospital, treatment for diabetic ketoacidosis was intense and thankfully successful.

Ten years later, I still hear stories like mine. A previously healthy child is brought to the pediatrician or the emergency room with symptoms which include lethargy, thirst, weight loss, stomach discomfort, headache, and exhaustion. A wide range of diagnoses are handed out, and too few of them are diabetes. Some of these kids are properly diagnosed in a day, a week, or longer. Some are not.

What if emergency room and doctor's office protocol for a child exhibiting 'flu-like symptoms' included a blood sugar check with a glucometer as part of the initial set of vital signs?

What if medical personnel were systematically educated on the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes onset in children?  What if they knew it was entirely possible and increasingly likely for babies to develop diabetes?

What if posters or flyers or e-mail blasts about the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes were regularly provided to medical offices for staff and patient education?

Tom Karlya of Diabetes Dad is currently collecting stories about kids who were lucky enough to be diagnosed when things could have turned out even worse.  These will be carried to Washington in hopes that some funding can be earmarked for an awareness campaign about Type 1 signs and symptoms. Nobody deserves to have diabetes, but every kid deserves to have diabetes if the alternative is death. 

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