Type 1 Diabetes Awareness

Mistaken for a Virus, What Parents MUST Know!

By Debbie George August 6, 2021

Often times I hear my teenagers complain about aches and pains, much like we all do at times. Most of the time I attribute it to growing pains or whatever bug seems to be going around, that was before COVID of course.  But what if it wasn’t something as simple as that?  What if there was actually something happening inside your child’s body that you were not aware of or even heard of for that matter?  This was exactly what happened to my son in 2004, when he was just 2-years-old.

My son Dylan had the flu, or at least that’s what I thought.  He had been sick for a few days feeling weak, constantly drinking fluids and he would pee through his diapers which I thought was odd.   When I first took him to the doctor, I was told it was just a cold.  A few days went by and Dylan continued to grow weaker.  I took him back to the doctor but this time to Urgent Care.  Describing the symptoms my son was having of excessive thirst, peeing through his diapers (frequent urination) and weakness, the doctor looked him over and said he now has an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics.  The very next day, my 2-year-old son came down the stairs and collapsed! I knew something was very wrong with my child and this wasn’t just a cold.  I took him to Urgent Care once again and the doctor asked me if any lab work had been run? I told her no.  She ran labs stat!  What two previous doctors’ thought was a simple cold virus was something much more life-threatening… Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a chronic, life-threatening autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas produces little to no insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.  People with Type 1 Diabetes are insulin dependent for life and must inject insulin through multiple daily injections or an insulin pump.  ANYONE can be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes from infancy to adulthood, not just children.  Type 1 Diabetes has nothing to do with diet or being sedentary, it is not preventable, not reversible, children do not outgrow it and there is currently no cure, however we are hopeful for cure research being done.

My precious 2-year-old son ended up with collapsed veins due to dehydration, a blood glucose level of 538, he was in Diabetic ketoacidosis which is life-threatening, and spent 4 days in the ICU.  I will NEVER forget the nurse telling me “It’s a good thing you got him in, he may not have survived the night.” I was devastated to say the least.

Parental Awareness is key in identifying the onset symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes.  Undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis better known as DKA.  DKA is a serious and sometimes fatal complication of high blood sugar and must be treated immediately.  Sadly, we have seen too many children and adults pass away from being undiagnosed.

Often times Type 1 Diabetes is mistaken for a virus or flu because the symptoms to the onset of Type 1 Diabetes look very similar which can make it difficult to properly diagnose on the initial doctor visit.  T1D can also be mistaken for strep throat, a urinary tract infection or a growth spurt just to name a few.  If your child is exhibiting excessive thirst and frequent urination which can also be noticed through heavy diapers or bedwetting in older children, ask your doctor to do a simple fingerstick blood test to check for elevated blood glucose levels and rule out Type 1 Diabetes.  

Knowing that children pass away from undiagnosed T1D, and that there really is no awareness,  I formed a nonprofit called EASE T1D which stands for Education, Awareness, Support, Empowerment on Type 1 Diabetes, to raise awareness and educate the public on the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes in an effort to save lives.  I wish I knew then what I know now, it would have saved my child from needless pain and suffering and myself the feeling of despair and helplessness.  I’m thankful every day that my son survived and had no life-altering complications.  He is now 19 years old, a sophomore in college and a Type 1 Diabetes advocate; we could not be prouder!

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