Everyone living with diabetes has their diagnosis story. This is ours. And it’s long.
July 9, 2009 was the last day my kids would go to summer camp that year. My work had cut hours so drastically that there was no need for me to utilize daycare. I would be working from 9am-11am Monday through Thursday and that was it. We made up our own field trip schedule. It was going to be the best summer ever. Every single day was a family field trip and Fridays were big ones. I took the day off to go on C’s last one with camp. They were headed to Hurricane Harbor and I always went along on the bigger trips.
I called a couple of my friends and they met us there. It was over 100 degrees and we loved it since we could just sit in the water all day. C and I bought a big bag of some kind of sour cherry gummy candies and split it. He wanted his own but I promised him we’d buy some at the grocery store, they were just to expensive at an amusement park. We also decided their bottled waters were too expensive and the giant plastic cups you could buy and have an endless refill of soda sounded like junk to me. We grabbed a drink whenever we passed a water fountain. My friend joked with me about how darn skinny C was.
After lunch time C decided he didn’t really feel like going on a bunch of rides and just sat at the table for a while. When he was done resting he kept looking out for water fountains. It didn’t strike me as even a little bit weird being that it was so hot out. Then when it was about the 6th time he had to find a bathroom I said to my friend, “I hope the kid doesn’t have diabetes.”
I’ll never forget that sentence. I wish I had known a little more about diabetes than it makes you have to pee. If I had even a small percentage of the knowledge I have now, we would’ve packed up and headed to the nearest urgent care. But I didn’t. Instead we headed to the office to purchase our season passes assuming we’d be back all summer long.
During the next week, countless times people mentioned how skinny C was. Only problem was he was always skinny. People always mentioned it. I thought maybe they were more aware of his body being that he was in shorts for the summer.
On July 15th, C’s friend was over and the boys were all in the pool. C came inside and fell asleep on the couch. We figured he must’ve been beat. July 16th, same thing happened. That night all I could think about was how unusual it all was. Totally unlike me, I never did any research online about his symptoms. In the morning I decided to take him to the doctor. My mom left me a note that I should take him to get tested for H1N1. I ran out to her car as she was leaving and told her I was going to take him to get tested for diabetes. What? She was totally confused.
I sat there until 8:00 waiting for the office to open so I could make an appointment. They said they no longer had his records so we couldn’t come in that day. I said, he needs to come in or we go to an emergency room. They made an appointment for 9:00am.
When I had woken him up, I thought he was dead. He looked so thin, so pale and his eyes looked so dark I thought I’d been too late. He woke up but he couldn’t speak. His saliva was so thick it was like glue in his mouth. I couldn’t understand a thing he was trying to say. I helped him up and supported him towards the bathroom. While he was in there he started screaming. Everything was so blurry and then he got so light-headed that his vision all went black. He thought he was blind. It was very scary trying to figure out what could be happening.
On our way I told him that I was having him tested for diabetes and promised him that it was not his fault and regardless of what I’d ever told him, it had nothing to do with him making bad choices in his diet. Where was I getting my information? I have no idea. I’m still not even sure I knew what I was telling him because I’d never really heard anything about type 1 diabetes before.
The doctor was running late. I remember this because I sat staring at my son making sure he was still breathing in the waiting room. The only times I knew he was ok was when he was crying. He had hardly been able to walk from the car. I was trying to help him eat a plum. When we finally got in I told the doctor my thoughts and he gave us a cup to pee in. He then told me that he didn’t suspect diabetes but more malnourishment and wanted to know when the last time I fed him was. I remember my heart pounding. I looked at my son who looked like he was on the verge of death and realized they were blaming me. I had never felt so helpless, trying to help my son yet fearing they were going to call the police on me. The doctor stepped out and when he returned told me “You were right.” I didn’t cry, and I didn’t really even feel any emotion. I remember wondering why I didn’t. I think that my brain must have gone into clinical mode. I needed to hear what he was saying and understand it and I didn’t have time for emotions to get in the way of that.
He said he hoped it was a mistake because the amount of sugar in his urine was so high, and needed to follow-up with a blood test. When he returned again he had a stack of papers he’d printed off the internet about “diabetic ketoacidosis.” He told me that C was in critical condition and needed to get to the hospital. He said he didn’t want to wait for an ambulance and I could not make any stops.
We arrived a few minutes later and were taken straight in. No wait at all. We went from parking lot straight to gurney and them telling us that they were going to do a blood draw and start an IV. It was horrifying. Neither of us had any clue why they had to do all of this. Next they brought us to a room and had him give another urine sample. Then they poked his finger and they were gone. I sat on the side of the bed while he just laid there. I told him Grandma and brother were coming and he asked if they could bring our dog. A nurse came in and added insulin to his IV drip. I stared at the label “INSULIN.”
A doctor came in after some time and told me that C would be transferred to another hospital that had a pediatric ICU and we were just waiting on the ambulance. He told me that C did indeed have diabetes and he was in a state of diabetic ketoacidosis. I showed him my stack of papers like I was proving I knew what that meant even though in reality I read the first paragraph and saw the words mortality rates and put it away in my purse deciding not to read it.
He asked if I had any questions and I asked if he was going to be insulin-dependent. The one other part of his diagnosis that I remember so terribly clearly was the doctor’s face. I remember thinking he was going to cry. He told me that most children diagnosed at this age would be. I hoped he’d be the other percentage, but now realize that’s just kids diagnosed with type 2.
C slept for hours. The ambulance came that afternoon and started transferring him to their equipment. They kept telling me that he was out of it. They told me he’d be fine with me following the ambulance and probably wouldn’t even remember I wasn’t there. I thought they were nuts. However, they brought two EMTs, a doctor and two nurses just to transport him so I was pretty sure he was going to be ok. I followed them all the way to Santa Barbara. It took an hour and a half due to traffic and I was scared to death the entire way wondering why they didn’t put on their lights and get there quicker.
As soon as we were in the hospital I realized that they were right, C was out of it. I couldn’t hold a conversation with him anymore. He kept dozing off and later around dinner he started hallucinating. The nurses told me that it was normal for somebody as sick as him and assured me that it wasn’t something that we would normally deal with with diabetes. It happened again later that night.
That night I didn’t sleep. I layed in my chair fixated on the idea that he wouldn’t be able to go to our friend’s newly-opened ice cream shop again. It wasn’t until the next day that somebody brought me the Pink Panther book and assured me that he could have ice cream.
C stayed in that PICU room for three days before they said he was stable enough to move to the regular pediatrics floor. I only left once, to run to Old Navy to buy us some clean clothes and pick up a video game he weasled from me (if I’m going to have to have shots every day, I should at least get that game you don’t want me to have…).
I’ve heard lots from people about whether or not the celebrate or acknowledge their diagnosis date. I will never forget the date I noticed or the date he was diagnosed. I’m thankful that it’s his dia-versary date. The way I look at it, it could’ve been the day I lost my first born. Yes, we will celebrate it.