“So, how did you know she had diabetes?”
Inevitably, if enough information about my family is exchanged in an introduction, a new friend will come up with that question. I don’t ever want to give a pat answer. I judge the amount of time left for my response and decide which road I’ll take…
#1 answer…(not much time)…She was very, very ill with flu symptoms and ended up in the hospital. We are fortunate that it was diagnosed.
#2 answer…(unlimited time & attention)…It was December 2003—all the usual hustle and bustle for the holidays. We would be hosting Dan's side of the family. I convinced him that we would need to paint nearly the entire interior of our home, add a patio cover and heat outside. So, the race was on! We would be using every waking moment (+ a few moments when we should have been asleep!) Juggling 3 young kids in and around all the commotion was a difficult task.
Although, we were exhausted by the time our family Christmas gathering date arrived, it was a great time. However, I remember the morning of…Claire seemed like she was under the weather…you know…kind of cranky, small appetite. I thought…maybe she’s coming down with a bug…but…the show must go on! She was asking for a drink of milk quite often, lifting her sipper cup up to the fridge with a “mmmm” as she would. I thought not much about it at the time. At least she’s getting some calories in her, I thought.
After our festive evening, things wound down. As we tucked the kids in for the night, we noticed Claire’s face flushed with fever and sure enough it registered on the thermometer as low-grade. She was asking for more to drink. So, a cup of juice then off to bed. It would make sense to keep liquids in her…she had a fever.
The fever went on for a couple days, so off to the doctor we went. After a short exam--flu. You know the routine...rest and lots of fluids.
Several more days went by...still feverish, drinking furiously, and now there were middle-of-the-night diaper changes. There was noticeable weight loss. That was probably one of the first nerve pings I got. This is more than a flu bug. Off to the doctor, again. Quick check...ears, nose, throat. I got a "look" from the doc--"Lady, the flu is going around." I shrank, scooped up my baby and went back home.
A couple more days of the same. But now, there was vomitting (one of the great tests of motherhood, in my book). But this was not your normal "vomit several times and then get better." She would vomit and then not for a whole day, but then do it again. It just didn't make sense. Another call to the doctor. "Rest and plenty of fluids."
Somewhere between doctor visits, Christmas day came and went. Daddy and Claire stayed home. And I remember calling home to see how she was doing and Daddy said she had seemed really hungry and ate a bunch of scrambled eggs and seemed better and happy! (In hind sight, we know why...)
Four days after Christmas found me visiting at my sister's house. I got a call from home. Claire had woken up from her nap, vomitted, looked glassy-eyed and Dan was concerned. Some kind of nerve sensation hit me like lightning and I raced home. It was the weekend, so I grabbed the diaper bag and Claire and headed off to Urgent Care.
When the "on-call" doc saw us, she checked her out and mentioned something about not having the right equipment in the office to check for this or that or "diabetes"...Our instructions were to take her to the Emergency Room across the street if she seemed any worse later that night.
Around 11 pm, I peeked in to check on the kids. Both boys were sound asleep. When I entered Claire's room, her eyes were open, but glazed over. Her breathing was so shallow and rapid, almost as a dog panting. It was as if God simply took over my actions and made me pick her up, get the diaper bag and head to the E.R.. With juice in sipper, we arrived about 11:30 pm. It was packed! They checked her vitals and then, we waited. She had her blankey. We waited. She drank more juice. We waited. I changed her diaper several times. We waited. Out of drink...nearly out of diapers. I wanted so badly to go home. We almost did. I sincerely believe God took over and made me stay. Thank you!
By 4:30 am, we were finally called back. I explained things as best as I could to each nurse and attendant that came by our little curtained off spot. I mentioned to the main nurse that the urgent care doctor had mentioned something about "diabetes" in a list of other issues. It was not even 5 minutes later that he came back, opened her diaper (which was on the verge of rupture!), held some kind of strip down into the moisture and said some number under his breath, something in the 500's. From that moment on...it seemed as if I was physicall moved, shoved out of the way while 8-10 people converged onto Claire's bed...doing what?...I did not even know. I just knew this was serious stuff and I lost it!
I called Dan. "We're being admitted. I think she may have diabetes," I said. I cried it. I didn't even know why I was crying. I knew nothing of this disease...except maybe the sensationalism of it in the movies...losing limbs...going blind...my baby!
Suffice it to say, we were admitted to the hospital and up in a room on the Intensive Care Pediactric floor by 6:00 am. My little girl and me. It was a whirlwind of education. I.V. hook-up. Finger pokes. Toe pokes. Blood drawn. Crying. Screaming. Doctor enters our room. He was a kind, older man. He explained to me that Claire seems to have type 1 diabetes and that she will need to begin with insulin in her I.V. as soon as possible. Insulin? All I ever had heard about insulin was that once a person starts on it, that's it...a lifetime. No, I didn't want that. I need to talk with someone. Someone who knows about this but who loves us. The doctor was so kind, but so stearn. He took me by the shoulders. "If we do not start her on insulin, she will die." I nearly collapsed. I sank down into the chair next to the metal, cold-looking hospital crib. I stared at Claire's innocent little face. She was finally sleeping. I nodded my head slowly and signed all the papers the nurse was holding. She scurried out of the room and was back in seconds. She fiddled with the I.V., said "there, she'll start feeling a lot better now." She turned to face me and gave me a long hug. "I'm so glad you brought her into the E.R.. You did good, mom."How did we know she had diabetes? We didn't. God did.