14 November marks World Diabetes Day, but how many of us know how to spot the signs of this potentially life threatening condition? Fortunately, one lovely Mam contacted us here at #MamCymruHQ this week to ask if we could help raise awareness of the condition, by sharing her experience of raising a child with diabetes. Please read on and share in order to ensure that all parents know how to spot the signs.
14 November is designated World Diabetes Day. It’s a day to draw attention to the critical concerns surrounding diabetes. Anyone can develop diabetes. You never think it’ll happen to you. We never thought it would happen to us – but it did. My child was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just over a year ago, changing his and our lives permanently. He is one of 29,000 other Type 1 diabetic children in the UK. Incidence is increasing – in particularly in children under five, with a five per cent increase each year in this age group over the last 20 years.
So today, I’m sharing my experience as a mum who luckily spotted the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in her child, so that other mums, dads and carers can do too.
There are different types of diabetes and its important to understand the difference between them. I can only speak of our experience of Type 1 diabetes, but websites such as JDRF and Diabetes UK Cymru can give more information.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. For reasons not yet fully understood, the immune system – which is meant to protect the body from viruses and bacteria – attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Insulin is crucial to life. When we eat, insulin moves the energy from food, called glucose, from our blood into the cells of our body. When the pancreas fails to produce insulin, glucose levels in the blood can’t be sustained at healthy levels – they become too high or too low. Untreated high levels of glucose in the blood can damage nerves, blood vessels and the organs they supply. Untreated low levels of glucose in the blood can result in seizures, loss of consciousness or worse.
This is what happened to my son last year. His body no longer produces insulin. His body cannot control its own blood sugar levels. As yet, there’s no cure for this, no way of reversing it. As a Type 1 diabetic he needs to inject insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels to survive.
The symptoms that lead to my son’s diagnosis
Call it luck, fate or sheer coincidence – I’d read a few articles about diabetes several years ago. This knowledge suddenly came back to me and meant we were one of the lucky ones who spotted his symptoms before it was too late.
It was the final week of term, and like all children, he was utterly shattered. Pale, tired, short tempered and reluctant to do much. We put it down to needing the half term break and assumed that there might be a cold or virus brewing. By the end of the week he was making frequent trips to the toilet and drinking water constantly. He become paler and more listless and described his tongue as feeling fuzzy. The poor chap continued going to school and even managed to eat cake on the last day of term. I came home that day from 24 hours away with work and suddenly saw him in a different light – he’d lost an awful lot of weight and I was shocked when I picked him up to feel his ribs and bones. It suddenly clicked, and I remembered the symptoms for diabetes. Within an hour of my husband taking him into the doctor’s surgery he was in hospital having received his diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes and on insulin treatment.
I hate thinking of what our story could have been if we hadn’t visited the doctor that Friday afternoon. Normal blood sugar levels are between 4 – 7. His was in the high 40s at diagnosis. A further weekend of untreated rising glucose levels would have become dangerous and life threatening. Many are diagnosed after being rushed to hospital in this state (DKA).
- Going to the toilet more
- Being extremely thirsty
- Weight loss
- Fruity smelling breath
- Change in vision
- An increase in appetite
We’re only 12 months in of a lifetime with Type 1 Diabetes. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, treatment regime and logistics….and it’s just the beginning. This journey is not mine to share with you, it’s his and in his own time. What I can say is that our family is immensely grateful for the support we receive from family, friends, his school, social club staff & volunteers and the incredibly NHS team around him. They keep him safe, strong and able to live life to the max. More than anything, we’re incredibly proud of our son’s bravery, resilience, maturity and good humour. He is an inspiration to us daily.
I hope you never see these symptoms in your child, but hope this article helps if you ever do.
Mam Cymru would like to thank this Mam, who wishes to remain anonymous, for sharing this personal journey and these important facts about diabetes with our readers. Please share this article in order to educate other parents and carers about this potentially serious condition.
*If you have a story to share please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru