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A mother’s view on Type I Diabetes (juvenile onset)

Updated on October 13, 2014

I will never forget that day. My daughter, Katie then 11, was complaining of some burning when she went to the bathroom, so I thought “Great, a urinary tract infection.” I took her to school and called the doctor to see if they could squeeze her in for an exam. They said they’d get her in right away and could I be there at 10:00, her pediatrician is absolutely wonderful, by the way. So, after only an hour of school, which made my daughter very happy, we headed to the doctor. The doctor’s office was a 45 minute drive so we had time to talk. There was a restaurant down the street from the office that Katie had been wanting to try, so I gave in and told her we would stop for lunch on our way home. She was so excited, you’d think I had just bought her a puppy.

Since we had been squeezed into the schedule, we were seeing the physician’s assistant whom we had never met before, but she was a lovely young woman. The nurse took Katie’s vital signs and went over her medications, as usual at every visit. Then came the urine sample, got that done with no problem. After a few minutes, the nurse returned examining a report from the sample. She was new and didn’t know us very well, so her next question took me off guard and then made me panic inside. “Is your daughter diabetic?”

At first I was a little annoyed at the question, you should never come at someone with something like that. She should have looked in her records and found the information she needed, not ask such a crazy question. Then it took about 3 seconds for it to hit me, WHY is she asking me this?!? She excused herself from the room and came back with the doctor. I know the doctor had been busy with another patient and was obviously pulled out of that exam to come see us, this made my heart drop even more. This was serious.

My girl was sitting beside me undoubtedly thinking of the wonderful lunch she was about to have, thankfully oblivious to what was about to happen. “The glucose in her urine is high.” She turned to Katie and said, “I’d like to use a small needle to poke your finger and take a look at your blood, if that’s ok.” Katie looked at me, scared and confused, she’d never had to do that at the doctor’s before. The doctor looked at me, saw the tears welling in my eyes and put her hand on my knee. I told Katie, “it’s ok Baby, just a tiny poke and done. I’ll hold your hand.” Being brave, as she is, she let the test be done.

476. The number I’ll never forget, on the day I’ll never forget. The doctor looked at me again and knew I knew. I am a nurse after all. So, how could I miss the signs?!? My mind was racing as I thought of at least half a dozen symptoms that she had which I had explained away over the past several months.


“Katie, you have something called type 1 diabetes. It’s something we can control, but it’s going to take a lot of education and a lifestyle change for you and your family. I also need you to go to the hospital and spend a couple of days.” Katie may not have understood exactly what was going on, but she knew you only went to the hospital when you were really sick. Being a nurse, I always took care of everything at home. Katie had never been to an emergency room or a hospital before. I had held it together until now, but when she looked at me with fear in her eyes and said, “Mommy?” I couldn’t hold it back anymore. Tears came and I never thought they would stop.

I quickly reassured her that she wasn’t sick. She had something going on inside her body that the doctors had to check out and get under control, but that she was fine and she would always be fine. The doctor talked to her a little bit about what was going on and then turned to me and whispered, “I know why you’re so upset. You’re not thinking about today or tomorrow. You’re thinking about the future and the complications she could face, but we’re going to get this under control.” She handed me a box of tissues and as I hugged Katie tight, she called the Children’s Hospital and made arrangements for admission.

Katie, still not quite understanding what was happening came to a realization, “We’re not going to lunch, are we?” I promised her we would get her something to eat, but it wouldn’t be at the restaurant because we had to get to the hospital. The doctor said to let her eat whatever she wanted on the road, because it wasn’t going to make much of a difference at this point and they would get her blood sugar under control as soon as we got there. She gladly picked McDonalds and we were on our way. The hospital was 2 hours away and I was a mess, so I called my boyfriend from the car and tried to explain without breaking down again. We picked him up from home and he drove us to the hospital.

3 days in the pediatric ICU, that’s what they said was going to happen. When we got there, they took us directly to Katie’s room and got to work. IV, insulin drip, doctors, nurses, dieticians, social workers. Wow, it was going to be a whirlwind of activity and people. My Katie, mind you, is TERRIFIED of shots!


That was a hurdle we would soon have to overcome. The finger pokes were tough at first, mainly because of the lasting soreness, but easily managed. Because of the insulin drip, there were no shots until the next morning. First insulin shot: it took me, a nurse and my boyfriend to hold this frail little girl down. She had turned into a wild thing and we needed to come to an understanding.

I explained the importance of the shot, she didn’t care. I explained how much better she would feel once we got everything under control, no dice. Then I told her, that I would hold her down 4 times a day to give her the shot, if I had to, because I wasn’t going to let her be sick. Her lunch shot was just as bad and dinner was nothing new. Good news was, we could go home after dinner. When the pediatric endocrinologist came to see us and found out I was a nurse he said there was no need to stay so long because the length of stay was primarily for education. This made my girl very happy. So we headed home.

My boyfriend had gone to the pharmacy and picked up all of her supplies and medications so we were ready to start this new chapter in our lives. There was 1 more shot of insulin that day, at bedtime, and it was slightly better. I was hopeful. That first night at home, I didn’t sleep. I checked on her often and checked her blood sugar so we knew how she trended in the night. She was so tired, she didn’t even wake up.

Up early to get breakfast. I did let her take the week off school, to adjust, but I was afraid of her dropping low so there was no sleeping late. We checked her blood sugar, counted carbs and calculated insulin. I got out the insulin bottle and syringe, he hadn’t ordered us the pens yet, and something miraculous happened. My daughter, the one who turned into a wild thing the morning before, looked at me and said, “Can I try it?” WHAT?!? I looked at her, astonished, and said, “Sure”. I showed her the process and she drew up her insulin, correctly, the very first time AND GAVE HER OWN SHOT! Who was this kid? Less than 24 hours ago, she was screaming and kicking. I was so proud of her I cried. This time she really didn’t understand, didn’t she do something good? Then I told her how brave she was and how proud I was to be her mom. I knew from that moment on that we were gonna be ok.

It’s been almost a year now, since that horrible day in November. Katie has thrived, she’s healthy and awaiting her insulin pump. Don’t get me wrong, she has her bad days. “I hate my diabetes” is a quote I have grown accustomed to hearing, but it passes with as much stealth as it comes. I still worry about the future, about complications, when she’s sick, when her blood sugar drops, but deep down, I know she’s smart and brave and can handle anything life throws at her.

Insulin Pump
Insulin Pump | Source

See how easy denial can be, and me, a nurse? I should have known better. That’s how I felt anyway, but honestly there is absolutely no one in our family with diabetes, type 1 or 2, so it NEVER crossed my mind. I’m thankful that she wasn’t in the hospital being diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis. We caught it before that, which can be tough to do. All because she said it burned when she peed. Thank God for “small” favors.

The signs and symptoms Katie was experiencing and how I explained them away.

  1. Increased thirst::she had just started taking Claritin for allergies, so I chalked that up to dry mouth as a side effect of the medication.
  2. Increased urinary frequency and getting up to the bathroom during the night, which she had never done before. This was a child who never even had a wet diaper in the morning when she was a baby::well of course she would being peeing more, because she’s drinking all of that water for the dry mouth.
  3. Loss of appetite::Katie has always had trouble with her appetite, especially being on medication for ADHD.
  4. Weight loss::her appetite was down, she was eating less, and so a little bit of weight loss would be normal. (I didn’t realize how bad she looked until I looked back at pictures after she got better.)
  5. Irritability::She was starting puberty, need I say more?!?
  6. Fatigue::Well, she wasn’t eating a lot and going through hormonal changes, which would make any young lady tired, right?


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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      my mom had diabetes when she was young, her family are diabetics too.

    • Ann Poplar profile image

      Ann Poplar 3 years ago from Small Town, USA

      Thank you so much Barbara Kay. Best of luck to you and your family as well. Sounds like they were struck hard with diabetes. Best wishes and Merry Christmas!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 3 years ago from USA

      Diabetes is a hard thing to deal with. Both of my kids got it in their 20's and are both insulin dependent. They are now calling them type 1.5, because they got it as adults even though young. My sister is the same way.

      I am diabetic too even though I've been underweight most of my adult life. I didn't become diabetic until my late 50's. The problem is that my grandmother had it, my dad had it and my sister has it. Now my mother has it too. How could I beat a family history like that!

      I wish your daughter a happy, healthy life and only the best. I'm sure she will do fine. This is a great hub for anyone that has a child that is diabetic, but not diagnosed yet. It is interesting to read.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience. I'm sure it will be incredibly useful and comforting to others going through the same scary experience. It is amazing how children adapt. Your daughter sounds like a terrific kid. :)