Life with a Type 1 Kid:  The Diagnosis

by Richmond Mom Sue Ayersimage

January 22, 2010 started out quite ordinary. I worked a half-day and picked up my oldest daughter, Rachel, for lunch. It was her treat for making honor roll. We made it home right before the elementary school bus dropped off my 11-year-old Emily. She and I quickly headed to her pediatrician for a routine doctor’s visit…or so we thought.

I suspected a problem when, after Emily’s urine test, the nurse rushed in with a handful of items. Our doctor had been relaxed as he chatted with us, now he quickly became tense. He asked the nurse a question and then explained that they were going to have to take a drop of blood from Emily’s finger. What kid likes hearing that? The nurse drew the blood and waited a few seconds. I could actually see the sigh come out of our doctor as he read the number. It was high: 549.

My daughter has diabetes. He explained to us that we had to check in at MCV right away. “What, like Monday?” I thought. But no, he meant within the hour. Emily’s glucose level was terribly high (normal is 100) and there was no way to tell how close she was to Ketoacidosis – a term that meant nothing to me then but one that is in the back of my mind daily now.

Emily was terribly frightened. We had always thought diabetes was something you “got” from eating unhealthy foods, too much sugar or weighing too much. She exercised, took ballet, and ate a diet that would make Dr. Oz giddy. She was healthy – how could this have happened? We later found out that Emily has Type 1 diabetes which means her pancreas, over time, stops making insulin. Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, is thought to be caused by a virus or perhaps environmental factors. People who have Type 1 diabetes need insulin injections daily to survive.

Emily’s symptoms that prompted us to go for a check-up came on very quickly. She had lost a significant amount of weight (however, around that time she started taking ballet and I attributed her weight loss to dancing and exercising more). But she wasn’t herself either. Normally cheerful and happy, my child became moody and irritable (which I attributed to her turning 12 soon. Comes with the territory, right?)

But then she began exhibiting symptoms that couldn’t be explained. My mom said she was hungry constantly and was eating peanut butter sandwiches after school and hiding Oreos in her coat sleeves and pockets.
Emily also attends LearningRX after school and her trainer said she was having problems focusing. We changed her class time and still the problem continued. Then her 5th grade teacher called and told me Emily was having more trouble than usual focusing in the mornings. I told her that the LearningRX teacher said she couldn’t focus in the afternoons or evenings so when, then, was her best time to focus? The teacher replied “well, she is so distracted. She gets up to drink water constantly.”

And that’s when my heart stopped; because Emily was drinking water all the time at home too. She always did like to drink water and always carried a water bottle but standing in my kitchen that day I realized she was doing it so much more.

It seems odd in retrospect that I didn’t realize all these symptoms equaled diabetes – but I didn’t. We don’t have a family history except for some grandparents who were diagnosed after the age of 70! That’s what I kept telling myself that night as I laid awake wondering what was wrong with Emily.
And on January 22, we left the pediatrician’s office and stopped home to pick up some clothes and necessities. Then we were off to MCV.

Next week: The Hospital

Sue Ayers is a freelance writer and training designer who resides in Richmond, VA


  1. I, too, have an (almost) 12 year old—5th grader—who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this school year.  And, for what it is worth, I chaulked all of the textbook syptoms up to puberty and the start of new activities, too…and I myself have been a Type 1 diabetic for over 30 years!  We never want to see or think that something may be chronicly off with our children and it is easy to say “why didn’t put 2 and 2 together?” but the flip side of that coin is you DID pick up on signs and sought out a check-up and your daughter looks bright and healthy because of that! 
    My son is doing amazingly well, too—just went this week to check out insulin pumps : ) Diabetic care is a different ball game today than when I was diagnosed, and I’m so grateful for all of the R&D that has occurred in my lifetime.  “We’ve come a long way, baby,” and the future looks so promising for our kids!!

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