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My Daughter Has Type I Diabetes

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One mom shares her emotional journey.


Christina Coleman: Last week, my daughter, Brynn, was diagnosed with diabetes. I had almost missed the warning signs ... and want to share my experience with other moms so they don't do the same.

Several "things" had been going on with Brynn for the past 3-4 weeks, all of which seemed essentially unrelated:

(1) She was always complaining about being tired. Our response to this was to keep trying to get her to bed early.

(2) She was eating a lot at meals, but she was looking really skinny. We thought she was having a growth spurt, which might also explain the fatigue. We figured her little body was just burning through the calories so fast and hard that she was exhausted.

(3) She was thirsty a lot and drank a lot, and then she was having to pee a lot (from what we could see). We told her to quit drinking so much and she wouldn't have to pee so much.

(4) She seemed to have started sleepwalking, where she would get up about an hour or so after she went to bed and have to go to the bathroom, but she'd be disoriented and stumbling around, and sometimes would have trouble finding the bathroom and had a few accidents. We kept making her pee before she went to bed (we did anyway), but we figured this was caused by the fact that we'd just moved back into our newly remodeled house, since the parental websites indicated sleep disorders were often triggered by big changes. Once, though, about 1.5 weeks ago, she got up twice in one night, the second time only half an hour after the first, and I was in her room both times, I heard how much she peed both times, and I thought, how is it possible that her little body made so much pee in half an hour when she didn't drink anything?

Last weekend, we went to the 1st birthday party for my cousin's daughter, and Brynn was lethargic, and didn't want to run around and play with the other kids. It was really hot outside, so I figured maybe that was it. Or maybe she was just being grouchy.

She also looked stick-thin in her little bikini. I began to think that maybe she had a thyroid condition, which I was diagnosed with around the age of 19-20. I had been told that it was very hereditary, especially from mothers to daughters, and I'd been very fatigued as a result. We were planning on taking Brynn in to see the doctor the following week if we could get an appointment.

The very next day, with some of our other cousins, we dragged 8 kids between us to a perfect day at the beach. We had decided to go to Zuma instead of Santa Monica, and the traffic was horrific, so we spent a long time in the car. Brynn had to pee so bad she was crying, and we had to walk up to the bathroom while my husband, Bryce, was in the parking line. I actually chastised her for not peeing before we left the house.

That day, for the first time ever, I was able to see just how frequently she was going to the bathroom, because she had to ask me to either take her or watch her walk over to the bathroom. Normally she is at school, and even when we're home, she doesn't tell us every time she has to pee, so we didn't know. But we did on Sunday. She was going like every half hour. When we were leaving, we made her pee before we left, but half an hour later on the PCH, stuck in traffic, she was crying she had to go so bad, and when we pulled over and I took her to the side of the road, another torrent of pee.

When we got home, I did a search on the Internet for "frequent urination" and "fatigue" and what popped up was hyperglycemia. When I looked through the other symptoms -- big appetite, losing weight, among others -- I knew that's what she had, but I did not know for sure what that meant.

The very next morning, Monday, Bryce took her to the doctor, who confirmed my suspicions and charted her glucose at 477 (normal is about 75-120). She had also lost an alarming 10 lbs. since her checkup at the end of April, nearly 20% of her overall body weight.

Bryce was told to take her to the ER immediately, which we did, and we didn't leave until Thursday. Brynn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (the genetic kind, not type 2, which is caused by lifestyle factors, obesity, and/or age) and spent the first 24 hours in intensive care because she had been running hyperglycemic for long enough that she had ketones built up in her body (which I understand are essentially poisons) and, in the words of the ER doctor, "I'm not going to lie to you, she is a very sick girl."


The first few days were horrible and tough, and Bryce and I were beating ourselves up for not realizing sooner, and for actually chastising her for things that were the result of her poor little body failing her (I'm still having trouble with that last part). There is zero history of type 1 diabetes on either side of our families, so to say we were caught off guard is a gross understatement. Bryce and I alternated being wrecks, but we supported each other and kept a brave face in front of Brynn at all times. Those were the days the prayers and thoughts of friends and family helped the most, because I have never been so scared in my life or felt like a worse parent.

The good news is, with the IV and insulin drip, Brynn regained her strength and flushed out the ketones faster than expected, and only had to spend 24 hours in the ICU before she was able to be transferred to the regular pediatric ward. Every day, she had more and more energy, and we had our old Brynn back. It had come on so gradually, we had almost forgotten how vibrant and silly she used to be.

And Brave. It has been less than a week since this nightmare started for us, and Brynn is already pricking her own finger and testing her own glucose; she doesn't cry or even flinch anymore when she has to take her insulin, and she doesn't complain about anything. She said the other day, "I wish I didn't have diabetes," and I told her that if I could take it away and have diabetes instead of her, I would, but I can't. Later she said she's glad she has diabetes because now she gets treats all the time, and we had to snap her back to reality on that one too, and tell her that no, she doesn't get treats all the time. Sorry, missy! (We did find out though that we DO get to jump the lines at Disneyland and Magic Mountain, etc., from now on, as will those who are in our group, so she'll be the most popular kid in school once word gets out on that one!)

I wanted to share my experience with other moms in case your kids ever have the same symptoms. If any of you have kids with diabetes, I'd love to hear your experiences or advice. Please share them by commenting below.

next: What I Did on Summer Vacation
28 comments so far | Post a comment now
JUDY September 14, 2009, 2:32 PM

My daughter is 15, was diagnoses last fall. She’s a great kid, good student and athlete….but she’s terrible about testing. Her last a1c was 10. I’ve trusted her to do what’s is right, but she’s saying she’s tested but later when I look at her pump data…it’s obvious she’s not testing like she should. I know I’ve got to come down on her about it, and help her do better, it’s going to be so hard, we have such a great mother/daughter relationship. It’s just her and I, her brothers are grown up and daddy passed away when she was eight. Any suggestions? I’m taking her phone away tonight, until I see consistent 4 tests a day and boluses for meals. Hopefully this will jump start her to better testing and control. JMR

jaime September 14, 2009, 11:10 PM

My 11 year old son was diagnosed with type I on July 27. His blood sugar was 978 at the emergency room. We had found out 7 weeks prior that his tyhroid was not functions and we had seen an endocronologist 7 days before he went to ER and the lab test from 7 weeks before were normal. I also felt horrible because I let him stay in bed all weekend thinking he should see his regular doctor. I thought it was his thyroid or something. The endo had even warned about type II but because of some skin signs but never mention symptoms to watch for with type I. Tonight was hard and he had a total meltdown about being woken up and checked. He was screaming and i said he if he did not do it he would have to go back to the hospital. We actually had to get dressed, get in the car and start driving there before i convinced him it would be easier to just take his blood and shot. I hate to see him suffer and it is so hard. he will be 12 in two weeks and that is so hard anyway. He hates diabetes and i dont blame him. I try to be positive but I know that cant really help all that much. I am so sad! Tonight i am not as strong as i usually am. Tonight was really hard.

Tiffany February 22, 2010, 1:17 PM

Dear, dont blame yourself for not noticing these symptoms. I should know, my mom did it with me when i was 11 and it went on for over a month and she was an EMT. Now, i am 16 and know i am diabetic. dont blame yourself and keep her on track!! my mom decided to let me try on my own when i was in high school and ended up very sick and not testing my sugar, so please, watch her meter and check it very often so she does not end up in DKA. (diabetic ketoacidosis) I would just thought i would tell a mom before it starts, i regret doing it and wish it never happened. so please, treat her like a normal kid, check her meter everyday and just let her have fun and be a normal child, everyone has imperfections it is just one of ours [=
God bless you, your daughter and the rest of your family.

Erika March 3, 2010, 7:14 PM

Prayers for you and your family. My youngest son, 10 months old, was just diagnosed, following DKA. His blood sugar was 753 and he was slipping in/out of a coma. I had 3 ER visits and a doctor’s visit within 2 1/2 weeks and NOBODY caught it until he almost died. After 4 days in PICU and a day on the other unit, we were sent home to “play with” the insulin b/c everyone is so unsure how to treat a baby. We are trying to figure this whole thing out. He is so brave and sweet.. He is my HERO!

Laura Fitzgerald June 15, 2010, 7:13 PM

ahh. hindsight. too easy to beat yourself up over that one. We too. No time for pity. Too much lack of sleep and fear. Horrible horrible disease. Yes, my daughter has it but it affects us all, all the time. Forever unfair. But we fight, that’s all we have.

Dawn January 15, 2011, 9:09 PM

I’m so glad Brynn is doing well. Not so much with my 10 year old Skylar. I took her to the doc. when I noticed she was losing weight, was tired all the time, but most of all had severe headaches. I had asked if diabetes could be the reason, but she said prob. not she she LOST 10 pounds in 2 MONTHS, but did not gain weight, which would be an indication of diabets. She gave me a script for a blood test and a CT scan and sent me on our way. We saw the doc on a mon. and scheduled tests on fri. On wed was her gradmas birthday and Skylar’s aunt said she shows all the signs of having diabetes.(Her aunt’s father had Type 2, but bff has Type 1) She wanted to test Sky with her dad’s meter, but I said no. Let’s wait till friday, for her testing appts.(knowing how afraid Sky was about needles.) Well, Kimmy (her aunt) sent me to get the kids food and tested her without my knowledge. She was at 420. When I came back, they urged me to take her to the emergency room. She was at 570 within 30 minutes. Long story short (yea right) She was hospitalized, was told she is Type 1 diabetic. The docs told me within 2 weeks, I would see the old Sky back, full of energy happy and back to normal. She still is alway tired, and eveyday has severe headaches. I swear, she seems worse. Does anyone have an answer, because her doctors sure do not. She has had blood test, CT scans and and MRI that have been fine. HELP!!

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Kristen June 7, 2011, 7:15 AM

Good Luck Brynn and Christina!!! I am not a mother but I have seen my brother diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It is a life-long journey. He was diagnosed at 12 year old after we were on a family vacation that highlighted the symptoms you mentioned. He is now 23 and doing great. However, he will always have to be on insluin (not being on insulin is not an option for a Type 1 diabetic) and be vigilant about his blood sugar readings and what he eats. Type 1 diabetes is a hard disease to find good information on and only recently have they discovered possible causes but scientists still certain about much. None of these causes are thought to be genetics (which is a component in Type 2). I urge you, if you are able, to get involved with other parents who have type 1 children. I know that was God’s saving grace for my mother. She was involved for many years with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)group in our home town. She now is part of a group working on fundraising for a researcher who has CURED, yes I said cured, type 1 diabetes in lab animals and is currently in human trials through the FDA. I wish you the best of luck.

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