If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you already know that we have twelve children. What you may not realize, however, is that three of our children have Type 1 diabetes. Since November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and because early warning signs are often easy to miss, I thought now would be a good time to share our story.
Our first son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes shortly before his second birthday. He had been sick for nearly a month, but since he was just a baby and we had no family history of diabetes, it was weeks before anybody bothered to check his blood sugar.
By the time the diagnosis was made, he was so weak and dehydrated that it took a week at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to get him stabilized.
We are fortunate he even survived.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. One study suggests that nearly a third of people who’ve died from diabetic ketoacidosis (a condition brought on by severe insulin deficiency) didn’t even know they had diabetes until it was too late.
So it’s important to know the telltale signs of diabetes. These include constant thirst, excessive hunger, frequent urination, and sudden weight loss.
Sometimes the signs are easy to spot, as was the case with our firstborn.
Before he got sick, he’d ask for a sip of water before bed and would wake up with a slightly wet diaper the next morning. Once his insulin-producing cells shut down, he’d drink six full cups of water at a time and still beg for more.
Not only would his diaper be drenched in the morning, but his pajamas, sheets, and mattress pads would be soaked as well.
Even lining his crib with bath towels and switching the sopping diapers out for dry ones several times a night didn’t help. Our baby still woke up looking like he’d gone for a swim with his clothes on. It was obvious something was seriously wrong.
When another of our sons was diagnosed with Type 1 two decades later, the warning signs were subtler. He was thirteen, so the fact he was eating more seemed normal. Have you ever met a teenage boy who wasn’t hungry all the time?
He spent lots of time playing outdoors in the heat of summer, so it seemed reasonable for him to be drinking more, too.
We mistook his weight loss for a sudden growth spurt. We thought he was just looking thinner because he was getting taller.
And since most teenagers don’t notify their parents every time they need to use the restroom, we didn’t realize there was a problem in that department until we were stuck in the car with him for an extended road trip and he requested bathroom breaks every 20 minutes. After eight hours of that, we used brother’s glucometer to check his blood sugar and confirmed our suspicions.
The third of our diabetic children was diagnosed at age six. We caught it early, after he asked to get a drink from the water fountain during church one Sunday and panicked when his dad told him to wait until the service was over. The look of desperation in his eyes after a second, similar request prompted us to check his blood sugar, which revealed that he, too, has Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body attacks and kills off the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. This is different than the much more prevalent Type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas still makes insulin, but the cells are resistant to it. While Type 2 can often be managed with diet and exercise, there is no known cure for Type 1 diabetes — it is a relentless disease.
Those afflicted with it never get any time off. They must monitor their blood sugar and receive insulin injections several times a day, every day, for as long as they live. But with good management and a strong support system, they can still live a full, happy, healthy life.
If you or somebody you know exhibits any of these warning signs of diabetes, please ask your doctor to be tested immediately. One tiny finger stick is all it takes to know for sure. But do it without delay. Undiagnosed diabetes can be deadly:
If the finger-prick test is positive, I would also recommend you get involved with a local support group. For those living in East Texas, there is no better place to start than Tyler Type One Foundation, “a local support group established to reach out to newly diagnosed children and families with practical help, education, and friendship.”
You can also find more posts and printables related to diabetes on this website. Just click on the following links to download:
- Secondary Symptoms of Diabetes — It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with these lesser known symptoms, as well.
- Diabetes Logs – One of the logs we’ve used in the past for keeping track of blood sugars.
- Big Diabetes Chart — This is the chart we are currently using. I post a new one on the refrigerator every week and file the completed charts in a 3-ring binder.
- Diabetes Management Log (Black & White)
- Diabetes Management Log (Color) — I print these double-sided and staple them together to make a little booklet, but the chart can also be posted on the refrigerator for a visible reminder to check glucose before eating.
- Diabetes Monitoring Log (Plain) — This is an old chart we used when our firstborn was diagnosed nearly 27 years ago
- “I Give My Own Shots Now” Chart — We used this chart to bribe our six-year-old into giving his own shots. We awarded points each time he gave an injection himself and took away points every time he lost his kit. Once he earned 100 points, he won a prize. It worked like magic.