In December 2011 when L was 4, she had a really bad dose of hand, foot and mouth disease (Cocksackie virus). While nobody really knows what causes Type 1, there’s a fair amount of literature suggesting that viruses (among them Cocksackie) can be the environmental trigger that triggers the immune system to attack itself, and so start the autoimmune process of pancreatic beta cells being killed.
L’ s virus was a typical preschool childhood illness, and A had it the week before. Both girls were miserable with blisters in their mouths and very high fevers. It was sometime in January, about 6 weeks later on holiday, that I noticed L was desperate for food all the time. I assumed she was catching up after the virus. She was so thirsty she would take a cup and fill it up herself on a stool in the bathroom, as I couldn’t do it often enough to quench her thirst. She wet the bed one night, which was unheard of for her, but the volume of liquid she was passing in and out was just too much for her.
She also started to fall asleep during the day, particularly after a big meal, and to drop weight quite quickly. This is a girl who had quit her daytime naps, with the determination of a terrorist, aged 2. I was in denial for a couple of week, putting her symptoms down to a growth spurt, but eventually took her to the doctor at the end of January. He ordered a fasting morning IV blood test, which came back within range (as she’d been fasting all night). However, he failed to recognise the red flags next to her urine results, which showed positive for glucose and ketones.
With my work background as a medical editor I knew what this meant, unless her kidneys were freaking out. Unfortunately our doctor was happy for her to go another 2 weeks before seeing our Paediatrician. I jumped on the phone that afternoon, relayed her results, and had her in the next day. After the Paediatrician’s review, I suggested we go downstairs to the Pathology lab to prick her finger and confirm his suspicions once and for all. Her blood sugar was 18.0. He sent us straight to hospital, but I fed her lunch on the way as she was starving.
L then started dropping off in the back immediately after eating, and I couldn’t get her to wake up and talk to me, suddenly very panicked now I knew she had diabetes. I carried her through emergency still unable to wake her, and when they triaged her the BGL reading was HI (above 30 mmol/L). Thankfully she wasn’t ketoacidotic… but I am forever grateful I pushed as hard as I did after the GP, or I don’t like to think where she’d have been even a day later.
I tell this story because I know some healthcare professionals are unaware of the symptoms of type 1 (like mine, who said it was very unlikely and was therefore dismissive) , and often miss or delay the diagnosis of type 2. Permanent damage or death has occurred from these medical slips. The more people in the community that know and ask for treatment, the less this can happen. Trust your gut. I’m forever grateful I trusted mine, and don’t always make friends at the doctor’s now. I’ve turned into the tiger mother my daugher needs.