Friday, January 17, 2014

Before the Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis

Before the Diagnosis


Our son, Isaac, has always been a very active boy. He loves mighty machines, trains, planes, dirt, and bugs like most other boys his age. In the past, we've had issues with him biting others, which I've heard is something many children go through. Like many behavior issues that are encountered in kids, they seem to occur because kids want to be understood. When they aren't understood, they try their hardest to find a way to show their unhappiness, or a way to get attention so their needs can be met. "Relieve my pain," "understand what I want" seems to be what they're trying to say. I could put some of the behaviors that Isaac began to exhibit before his type 1 diabetes diagnosis in the "relieve my pain" category. Different behaviors that we had not previously encountered, and ones that we thought were gone for good, began to appear and reappear.

During the weeks leading up to his diagnosis, Isaac began wetting the bed practically every night of the week; he had nighttime potty trained himself months before, so to have it reoccur had us wondering what we were doing wrong. So, because we thought it was something we were doing wrong, we began cutting back his water intake before bedtime. Unbeknownst to us, Isaac's body was trying 24/7 to get rid of the excess sugars that were beginning to overtake his blood. Excess urination is also the body's way of getting rid of toxic ketones, which can build up when the body tries to utilize fat, instead of carbohydrates, for energy. Thankfully, Isaac didn't develop ketoacidosis, which is a common occurrence in the days leading up to diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Ketoacidosis is an emergency, and some of the symptoms that usually progress rapidly over a 24-hour period can include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), which can cause headaches or coma, among other symptoms.

Another behavior that appeared in the weeks leading up to Isaac's diagnosis was his extreme thirst. Looking back, I see now that it was almost like an obsession for water. His daycare teacher brought this behavior to our attention, and as we watched him run around the room, going to the drinking fountain, then returning to the drinking fountain moments later, we realized there was a possibility that something could be wrong. After all, it was fall, and fall is not particularly warm in Idaho. Yes, you can still be thirsty during the cold season, and we thought we were doing alright at keeping him hydrated, but we still wondered why, within a ten minute period, he visited the drinking fountain more than 10 times! A few nights before I called to set up a doctor's appointment, I walked into his bedroom and did a double take! Lined up on his dresser were 12 (yes, I counted) cups of water! He hadn't spilled a drop, and had included a straw in each cup!

A third behavior that we noticed, which may or may not have been linked to his type 1 diabetes, was weird misbehavior. Oh, ya, I'm aware that 4-year-olds know how to misbehave, but we didn't think pooping and peeing outside were things that 4-year-olds would do, especially after his peers stopped thinking he was funny. But, as I said, we're still not certain if these were even behaviors linked to his type 1 diabetes. We do know, though, that his constant hunger can be easily linked to his type 1 diabetes. His body was practically starving, since his cells couldn't use the glucose that was taunting them! Without insulin, which acts as a key to unlock the door into the body's cells, the cells can't get their best source of energy, so the body resorts to breaking down fat for energy, and toxic ketones, as previously mentioned, are produced.

In the weeks leading up to his type 1 diabetes diagnosis, Isaac slowly began to lose weight. I hate to say this, but we had been feeding him donuts for months, sometimes 3 or more times per week, in hopes that he'd gain weight, instead I gained about 30 pounds, haha. Granted this was before we began eating healthier, and before I became a Beachbody coach and lost those 30 pounds. Now we rarely have donuts, although, I'll admit, we still love eating them! Ok, I need to stop talking about donuts and go back to talking about Isaac! Isaac had always been shorter and smaller than most of his same-age peers, so we had hoped to pack a few pounds onto him. A few months before, we had even bought a new car seat, because we were hoping he'd reach the 30-pound requirement for the seat. But, as I said, he actually lost weight before his diagnosis.

Before Isaac was diagnosed, & before we knew what it was doing to his insulin-deprived body

Before Isaac was diagnosed, we knew next to nothing about type 1 diabetes, or about diabetes in general. I'd been tested for gestational diabetes while pregnant with Isaac, but I was only borderline, as many women are during pregnancy. I never had to test my blood sugar or have insulin injections. Also, we knew of no one in either of our family (my husband's nor mine) who had diabetes, at least not type 1. It wasn't until after his diagnosis that we found out that type 1 diabetes is not necessarily heritable. However, the autoimmune gene that causes diabetes can be inherited. There are tests that can be done to see the likelihood of other members of the family developing type 1 diabetes, and one of Isaac's friends has undergone that test. His friend's sister has type 1 diabetes, and he tested positive for a few of the markers, but has not developed type 1 diabetes yet. Also, the chances of having another child with type 1 diabetes increases with successive births, and it's not uncommon to have 2 children with type 1 diabetes.

Prior to diagnosis, we didn't know the signs to look for, but once we got the clue, we began doing research. Don't ignore certain behaviors that your child exhibits. These could potentially be symptoms, and left untreated they can progress to something serious. No, I'm not suggesting that you become a paranoid, overprotective parent, you simply should be observant, as I hope that you already are! Remember these symptoms: extreme thirst, frequent urination, irritability, and weight loss.

I would love to hear from you about your experiences!

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