My pregnancy with Ella was completely normal, as was the birth. Even after an autopsy, no one could tell us what went wrong. I fell pregnant with Evie three months after losing Ella, while still in the midst of the grieving process. I was weepy and tearful throughout the pregnancy and absolutely terriﬁed of losing another child. She was born a week before her big sister’s birthday and we were over the moon that she was just perfect. I watched my baby like a hawk. I was constantly hypervigilant, but she was extremely healthy, happy, active and seamlessly reached all her milestones – our Little Miss Sunshine. A couple of weeks before she turned 18 months, I noticed an increase in both the amount she was drinking and her wet nappies. We ensured that Evie ate balanced, nutritious meals and she always had a good appetite. However, she suddenly became extremely fussy and went off her food. She also became very clingy. Sleep was a big issue too as she became irritable and restless at times and would often be up until 1am, so I was exhausted too. I was also very worried. As I’m a reflexologist by profession, alarm bells started ringing. I remember telling my husband that I suspected she had diabetes, but I was hoping I was over thinking things since there’s no family history of the disease. After a weekend of Evie being miserable, tired and lethargic, I took her to my GP who treated her for constipation, which was also a problem. Over the next few days, she went downhill rapidly. She was listless and insisted on being carried around so I went for a second opinion. This time, we came away with antibiotics for a raw septic throat. I’d asked both doctors to check her blood glucose levels, but both decided to treat one symptom at a time. That afternoon, after our second medical consultation, she wouldn’t eat and her breathing pattern changed. As soon as she started vomiting we rushed her to hospital. Her blood glucose was finally checked and when the level came back at 38 instead of the normal 4-6 she was immediately admitted to ICU. Evie was kept sedated as they tried to stabilise her. For the next 48 hours, she was so ill and her blood glucose level was so high that the doctors were concerned about swelling of the brain. The hospital consulted with a well-known paediatric endocrinologist who began treating her. She was given multiple insulin injections and as soon as she was discharged we went straight to his practice for a crash course in diabetes management. We were in total shock. It was extremely traumatic both physically and emotionally. Evie had been completely traumatised in hospital and now had to undergo finger pricks nine to 10 times a day to monitor her glucose level on top of the pain and discomfort of having her insulin pump port changed twice a week. Being so little, she couldn’t understand what was happening to her and it broke my heart that instead of protecting her I was the one who was ‘hurting’ her. However, she got used to it all and it’s become such a normal part of her life that when she plays with her toys she tries to ‘prick’ their fingers too! We are so very proud of our brave little girl who has adapted so well. It’s been an extremely challenging, stressful time and I worry about her 24/7. It’s very difficult to keep her levels constant and she battles to sleep when they’re either too high or too low, which is when I’m up all night making sure she’s OK. It’s not easy having to constantly watch her as she’s still too little to communicate when she’s not feeling well. I find it very frustrating that no matter how carefully I weigh out her carbs to make sure she’s given the right amount of insulin, there are still ups and downs in her levels as so many things affect her blood glucose: what she eats, how she feels emotionally, and how much she’s been running around. It’s also tough having to say no to her about things other parents take for granted – not only do we have to carefully monitor outings to family and friends, restaurants, shops or attending birthday parties, but we also have to count carbs and control the portions of everything she eats. However, I know that as she gets older and starts to understand, it will get easier. Despite all of this, I’m so very grateful that diabetes can be effectively treated and managed and that we live in an era when new technology is being constantly developed that will make life easier for her. I’m also filled with gratitude towards the incredible team of specialists who work with her. Having them at our side has made a huge difference to Evie’s diabetes journey.
YOUR CHILD AND DIABETES
Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood and the number of children developing Type 1 diabetes is growing rapidly, according to Annie Deijs, a diabetes educator in Johannesburg. The biggest increase appears to be in the three- to six-yearold age group, the reasons for which are unknown.
Symptoms occur suddenly and include excessive thirst, frequent urination (often bedwetting), weight loss, tiredness and blurred vision.
Treatment includes administering insulin by means of multiple daily injections or an insulin pump, a minimum of four glucose checks daily and a healthy meal plan. Annie says diabetes should become an accepted part of your child’s life and need to be educated about the condition, which will empower the whole family to effectively manage it without negatively impacting your lifestyle. “We encourage parents to start teaching their child about administering insulin and healthy eating habits from an early age. Although we need a minimum of four tests per day, especially in much younger patients, we always stress that taking your insulin is much more important than testing. However, we do need the blood glucose tests to ensure that dosages are correct and that the insulin is actually still doing what it’s supposed to be doing. It’s also important to be able to adjust times of testing and injections to suit both home and school routines and to teach flexibility in should not be allowed to treatment with regards rule it. This means that both you and your child to birthday parties and special occasions.”