Wednesday, April 9, 2014

1 Year of Type 1 Diabetes :: Part 2 :: Looking Back at the Weeks Before the Diagnosis

Aaron is our oldest child.  He is independent, inquisitive, creative in a blocks and Lego engineering sort of way, and helpful around the house - he can wield a vacuum like nobody's business.  He likes big work machines, yard work, big pancake breakfasts, football, Legos, and math lessons.  Aaron was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a year ago.  It was Monday, April 8, 2013.  

Aaron and I have been working together on a few posts to share his story with you.  

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(read Part 1 here)

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Part 2
The Month Before the Diagnosis
(Realizing "Something Is Wrong")

Last winter/spring, Aaron was 6.  It's hard to remember exactly, but it was probably some time in early March when we started to identify "strange" habits in Aaron.  But whatever the "strange" things were, they never seemed very serious and we kept saying we would just keep an eye on him.  Well, you know what they say about hindsight...  It's easy to look back now and clearly "see" the diabetes diagnosis a mile away, but last winter we didn't even know what the signs and symptoms of diabetes were.  By the time Aaron received his diagnosis, he was in the thick of the signs and symptoms, and all those "strange" things that we had been "keeping an eye on" fell into place and made some sense. 

The first eyebrow raiser I can remember was Aaron's extreme thirst.  He was thirsty all the time.  He was constantly jumping up to "get a drink," which was really an extended draft at the sink - no cup, just gulping water from the faucet.  And then he'd be back there within the half hour.  That was at home.  Aaron also told me that he would ask to refill his water bottle three or four times each morning at the study center he attends (which is two mornings a week).  After a couple weeks of this I wasn't starting to get worried, I was starting to get angry.  I was upset that he was disrupting class at the study center for water and I was irritated when he would interrupt whatever was going on in our household, especially school lessons, for the same.  I started to feel like this might be a discipline issue and I know that a couple times I forbade him from going to get a drink because I thought he was just getting a little too annoying with this whole water thing.  Aaron was turning into the homeschool version of the kid in the classroom who's always hopping out of his seat for the toilet, for water, for the pencil sharpener, to pick up his ruler,look out the window, etc...

Then he started having trouble retaining all this water.  Well, no wonder, I thought, of course he has to go to the bathroom all. day. long.  He started making way-too-frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the day and night.  There were nights when Aaron was waking up every hour to use the toilet.  Even still, he would also wet the bed almost every night.  Aaron was very frustrated and confused by this since he'd never had a problem with bed wetting before.  He would apologize every time it happened, and although my heart went out to him, it was also trying my patience.  During the day I'd wonder why he couldn't control himself better and I'd encourage him to "hold it."  And at night, Russ and I were both losing sleep because one of us was changing his sheets and pajamas every night.

A few times I Googled "excessive thirst" and "Diabetes" would come up.  I still didn't think too much of it.  I mean, he's not sick.  He's just drinking water and using the toilet.  Everyone does that.  Right?   My good friend is a nurse, and  I remember when I mentioned his increased thirst and urination she said, "Well, diabetes is the first thing you think of."  So, at that point, the word diabetes was on my radar, but I knew nothing about it.  And I really didn't want to call the pediatrician and be that paranoid mom who called because her son drinks a lot of water.  (I could just picture all the nurses laughing in the background at that one.)

So we waited.  And we kept "keeping an eye on him."

One day I noticed brush burn-like scrapes on the insides of Aaron's wrists.  He had gotten them riding a scooter at an indoor gym, two weeks earlier.  Why weren't they healed yet?  Again, my first thought wasn't diabetes.  It was maybe Aaron keeps picking at them and so they won't heal.  He assured me he wasn't, and so I kept an eye on it.

Aaron's behavior and level of activity seemed to mellow out during this time.  Lethargic might be the word.  Typically a very active and energetic child, Aaron was more and more content to sit around doing puzzles, playing with the Rubik's cube, and looking at books.  I didn't think it was strange; it was a welcome change from his usual go go go energy which can get a little trying during the long winter months inside.  

Then we started to notice how much Aaron ate.  It was a lot.  Helping after helping after helping, especially at dinnertime.  We usually portion control the kids' breakfasts and lunches, but they can eat as much as they want at dinner.  And he did.  In the beginning it was sort of humorous, or at least one of those things you notice and say, "Wow!  You can really pack it in!  You sure are one growing boy!"  But after a while we could see that he wasn't growing.  Aaron actually appeared to be losing weight. 

I can't forget the day I saw it clearly.  The day I realized something is definitely wrong.  The day I said, "We are done keeping an eye on him.  We are going to the doctor."  It was the Sunday after Easter and we had decided it would be a fun treat to take everyone to the indoor pool to celebrate the end of "Spring Break."

Aaron stood before me in just his swim trunks.  I was shocked.  I felt an uneasy anxiety in my chest as I stared at him.  His skin was chalky and gray.  His arms and legs and waist were uncommonly thin.  His eyes were sunken and his cheeks hollow.  At the pool, Aaron got out of the water after 10 minutes.  My loves-to-swim son was too tired to stay in.  He sat on a deck chair practically begging to leave.  Oh my God.  How could I have let it get to this point?  I wanted to get him to the doctor immediately.  Monday morning seemed so far away, but we would have to wait until the next day to take him to the pediatrician. 

That night I Googled it all, and it came up again.  Diabetes.  I still had no idea what that meant. 

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a photo of Aaron taken about 1 week before his diagnosis

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Know the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes...
and don't hesitate to call your pediatrician if you recognize them in your child.

Common symptoms of diabetes: 

Urinating often 
Feeling very thirsty 
Feeling very hungry, even though you are eating 
Extreme fatigue 
Blurry vision 
Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal 
Weight loss,  even though you are eating more (type 1) 

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Please check back throughout the week for Parts 3, 4, and 5 of this series.


  1. This is an awesome series. You are doing a great service writing this!

  2. It's so true that hindsight business. I feel the same way about David's HD. But Aaron is thriving now and hopefully his story will be able to help others.

  3. Wow. I can imagine that it is both difficult and a relief to be writing this series. I know that Aaron's story is sure to be a blessing for others!

  4. Thanks for writing this series. Several of my best friends from childhood were diagnosed with diabetes way back when and it's so good for people to know the signs but also to know that the diagnosis, while it requires a tremendous amount of effort, doesn't mean that a person with it won't have a wonderful and full life. I'm praying that there will be a cure found not only during Aaron ' s lifetime, but in his adolescence. :)


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