Our first experience with T1D diagnosis was much like other families. We didn’t have diabetes in our family. We knew nothing about it, except our uneducated impressions that there was a type that affected kids and a type that seemed related to lifestyle choices. We knew insulin was involved, and that the kids’ version involved shots. Pretty sophisticated knowledge, right?
I guess it wasn’t surprising then that we missed the whole list of typical symptoms; increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, increased appetite, and mood swings. Instead we used words like growth spurt, exercise, hormones, and impending teenage angst.
For several months before diagnosis, Anna was losing weight despite eating A LOT. Like two western bacon cheeseburgers at a time, no problem. I waved it off. “Lucky kid, she’s going through a growth spurt and getting skinny. Fast metabolism.” Until the skinny got dramatic. I remember watching a documentary on the holocaust and finding an eerie similarity to just how skinny Anna was becoming.
And the thirst…always drinking water. She carried a water bottle everywhere. When we changed her bedsheets, there were no less than 6 empty water bottles tucked under the pillows and stuffed animals near her head. On any long road trips, she’d pack a bunch of water…and still finish them all before we’d reach our destination.
And the peeing…always needing to stop to pee. This one I really was quite oblivious to. I sleep fairly deeply, so I didn’t hear it at night. But, my husband says he’d hear her getting up two or three times every night to go pee. And then she’d down a glass of water on her way back to bed. We both remember thinking if she were smart, she’d just stop the drinking so that she wouldn’t need to pee as much. A real ah-ha moment for me was when we took a five hour car ride and we had to stop six times for Anna to use the bathroom. That suddenly got me thinking something wasn’t normal.
And the moods…she wasn’t very happy. She was moody. She was kind of blah about life. We just thought it was that teenage moodiness that everyone had warned us about. She was 12 years old and we figured it was about that time to start the teenage power struggles. She also had a dear friend move far away…we thought that had a lot to do with her depressed attitude at the time.
The usual look we saw during the months before diagnosis.
In October 2014, Anna’s pediatrician sent us a note reminding us that it was time for their annual check-up. I remember Jason asking me if we should go. The kids (we also have another daughter named Holly, two years younger than Anna) seemed healthy to me. Jason had some concerns about the emerging symptoms Anna was showing. We decided to blow it off since no vaccinations were due at that time and it’s always so difficult to pull them out of school.
By March 2015, Jason couldn’t sit comfortably with the changes we’d seen now. She’d lost even more weight and the thirst/pee thing was getting ridiculous. So, he scheduled an appointment for the first day of Spring Break. He took the kids in, while I was relaxing at a yoga class.
As a rule, nobody ever interrupts a yoga class. So when the front desk walked in and called my name…I knew something was really not ok and that it had to be related to the pediatrician appointment going on at the same time. I rolled up my mat, took a deep breath, and called Jason.
He remained so calm while telling me “Anna has diabetes. They told us to go to the hospital right away and to expect to stay there for three days. I’m on my way there right now.” I don’t know how he did it. Anna was in the car. Holly was in the car. He had to keep it together so they didn’t freak out. Stud.
I got to my car and headed over to the ER where they were expecting me.
Photo from the first few minutes Anna was at the hospital. Skinny? Oh so skinny. Behind that smile was a whole lot of nerves. What was going on? Why hadn’t we explained anything?