Type 1

In January 2012, my ten year old son was finally diagnosed, severely dehydrated and in life-threatening diabetic keto-acidosis (DKA), after being misdiagnosed at least three times by our previous GP before we moved.

Her diagnosis: having a neurotic mother who was imagining symptoms of diabetes.

It is true that, at the time, there had been no sign of sugar in his urine, so it was easy for her to dismiss. I have since learned, however, that a blood test can detect pancreatic antibodies years before the full-blown diabetes manifests.

Usually, Type 1 comes on very quickly, after a virus (which triggers the pre-existing condition to switch on) but we believe he manifested with a slow onset form of Type 1 known as LADA which usually occurs in adults but can also more rarely occur in children, and that is why it was missed.

I have also learned to trust my instincts!

The day he was finally diagnosed, we were warned he might not survive the first night.

Thank God he made it through, and we had a week in hospital followed by 18 months of gruelling injections and since then, pumping with the Omnipod patch pump system.

Pumping has been life-changing. It’s an ongoing balancing act which involves multiple daily blood tests and a lot of missed sleep, but it has made life for my son feel normal, and worth living.

Diabetes is a horrible, terrible disease and sufferers don’t deserve the stigma on top of everything else.

Type 1 is an auto-immune disorder where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

It is NOT related to diet or lifestyle.

It can NOT be caused by eating sugar.

It can NOT be cured by changing diet or lifestyle.

It IS related to genetics, and environmental triggers are suspected but not proven.

Children with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent.

No amount of diet or exercise can alter that.

Children with type 1 can eat whatever they like, provided that any carbohydrates are counted and dosed with the appropriate amount of insulin.

Of course we aim to provide a good diet with a view to healthy eating.

The key is balance.

Very low carbohydrate diets don’t help because the liver automatically converts protein and fat into glucose which still requires insulin.

We wait and pray for a cure.

Type 1 is on the rise, and not catching it in time can be deadly.

Please be on the lookout for the following ‘T’ signs:

– Thirst
– Tiredness
– Thin (losing weight)
– Toilet (needing to go more often, or being wet at night after being dry)

We only had one of these ‘T’ symptoms (toilet) and an additional one which is often overlooked:

– Tummy-ache

We don’t know why Type 1 diabetes can cause tummy-ache, but he had had it every day after eating for as long as he could remember, and it completely disappeared the first time he was given insulin.

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