Why I’m Thankful…A Personal Story about Diabetes

Jen-hospital2

Kiss and Thrill is actively involved in trying to raise money for diabetes this month — so pardon us rerunning a post from last November.  Lena Diaz’s story of her daughter’s struggle with diabetes touched all of our hearts and is one of many reasons we’re participating in the Brenda Novak Auction for the Cure of Diabetes.  We have put together a nifty Kiss and Thrill Gift Basket, Carey Baldwin has donated her Vail, Colorado condo and a copy of her book, and of course there are tons of other wonderful things on the Brenda Novak Auction Homepage.  Please take a look around and you’ll be surprised at the inexpensive goodies up for auction.  And thank you for helping cure diabetes!

Now here is Lena Diaz’s post:

When I think about what I’m thankful for, I can’t ignore the fact that November is Diabetes Awareness month. Eleven years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with this terrible disease, and for that–I am thankful. Not because she has diabetes of course, but because she’s a survivor. Like most people, I wasn’t aware of the symptoms of diabetes, and because of that, I very nearly lost my daughter.

By sharing this personal story about my daughter’s diagnosis, my hope is that people who think they know about diabetes – but have never personally experienced its impact in their lives – will take a moment to read this. You never know. What you learn might save a life.

Most people are familiar with Type II diabetes, which is typically caused, or at least exacerbated, by an unhealthy lifestyle (over-eating, over-weight). People with Type II can lose weight and exercise, and often (but not always) symptoms of the disease will dramatically improve or disappear altogether.

I’m going to tell you about the other type of diabetes, Type 1, which my daughter Jennifer has. The picture above shows her in the hospital a couple of days after she was diagnosed.

Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, because it usually strikes children. In this disease, the islet cells in your pancreas stop producing insulin. Most people who get this disease are NOT overweight. And losing weight or eating differently won’t make it go away or make it better. Your body doesn’t produce insulin. Period. And if you don’t have insulin every day, you die. Period.

Most people think they know the symptoms of diabetes. Thirsty all the time. Check. Frequent urination. Check. But there are many other symptoms you may not be aware of. I used to be one of those people who didn’t know the other symptoms, and because of that, I almost lost my daughter. Let’s step back in time to when my daughter, Jennifer, was seven.

Jennifer was thin. Always. No matter what she ate, she didn’t gain much weight (Symptom #1). From the time she could hold a sippy cup, she liked to drink a lot. So, for her, drinking a lot (and therefore going to the bathroom a lot) was normal. (Symptom #2)

Jennifer was relatively healthy, just like any other child her age. But shortly after she started school, she would complain about tummy aches. (Symptom #3) She only complained occasionally. It wasn’t chronic. Kids get tummy aches. A lot. So I really didn’t think that was a problem. I gave her medicine for her tummy, and she always felt better the next day.

I took her for a haircut one day. The hair dresser called me over. I thought she was going to ask me something about the hair cut, but instead she showed me several long strands of my daughter’s hair. The hair dresser told me my daughter’s hair came out too easily (Symptom #4). I have to tell you, I blew that off. I thought that lady was being silly.

A few weeks later, my daughter wasn’t acting like herself. She sat around a lot instead of playing. Her cheeks were also bright red. My husband took her to the pediatrician. I asked my husband to be sure to let the doctor know that the hair dresser said my daughter’s hair was falling out too easily. Because by this time I was thinking the same thing, but I didn’t have a clue what that could mean. Our pediatrician ignored the hair symptom, much like I initially had. And he diagnosed my daughter with Fifth’s Disease, which basically means a red rash and that she is tired a lot and doesn’t feel well. The cure was to give her time to get better. (Being diagnosed with an illness OTHER than diabetes is Symptom #5).

The following weekend, my daughter woke up in the middle of the night. She said her tummy hurt. And she was breathing very fast. (Symptom #6) She threw up and then seemed to feel better. No fever. So I put her to bed with me and she went to sleep.

The next morning she was feeling better, but not great. Her tummy didn’t hurt anymore, and she wasn’t throwing up, but she sat around not doing much. And when I looked at her, I could tell there was something wrong, but wasn’t sure what. I can only describe it as saying she didn’t look like Jennifer. Something about her face was ‘off’ but I couldn’t figure out what it was. (Symptom #7 – sunken-in eyes)

That was in September, on a holiday weekend. I was definitely planning to take her back to her doctor after the holiday. But I was so worried about her, that I went ahead and took her to the emergency room. Honestly, I felt silly doing it. She had no fever. Her doctor had already diagnosed her a few days earlier with Fifth’s Disease, which could theoretically explain her not feeling well. But my gut told me to go, so I went.

On the way to the hospital. She complained about being thirsty and I bought her a Gator-ade to drink. She drank a LARGE bottle on the way to the E.R. – all of it. It did nothing to quench her thirst. Her tongue was dry like sandpaper (Symptom #8).

When the nurse triaged my daughter, I told the nurse my daughter didn’t feel well, had just been diagnosed with Fifth’s, and that she drank a bottle of Gator-ade on the way to the hospital and her tongue was dry. I also mentioned her face just didn’t look right to me but I didn’t know why. I hadn’t even finished telling her all of that when the nurse reached for a glucose monitor and checked my daughter’s blood sugar level. That nurse knew with just one look that my daughter was severely dehydrated – which explains the thirst and the sunken-in eyes that made her look ‘off’.

Her sugar level was too high to register on the meter.

My daughter was immediately taken to the Intensive Care Unit. Her blood was drawn and sent to the hospital lab to get an accurate blood sugar level reading, and she was put on an insulin drip. A normal sugar level is around 100. If your sugar gets around 250 or higher, it’s considered really bad and dangerous. My daughter’s sugar was over 1000. Her doctor later told me he had never heard of anyone having sugar that high who survived.

My daughter spent four days in the ICU. I almost lost her. The doctor later told me that when sugar levels get that high, people typically have seizures and die. He also told me that if I had waited until after the weekend, my daughter would have died. He estimated she was literally within an hour or two of seizing and dying.

Think about that for a minute.

How many of you would have taken your child to the emergency room when they had no fever and just seemed ‘off’ and just weren’t very active? Especially since the pediatrician had diagnosed her with a condition just a few days earlier that explained her symptoms? I don’t know for sure why I went to the E.R. that day. My gut just told me something was wrong, so I went. And I thank God that I did.

I’m not saying to assume diabetes every time your child has a tummy ache. I’m saying to trust your gut and be your child’s advocate.

MOST Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed with a different illness shortly before being diagnosed with diabetes. Why? Because Type 1 is an auto-immune disease. Every time a person with Type 1 gets sick — whether it’s a cold or something else — their body attacks the Islet cells in their pancreas, killing more of them. One day, one of those “attacks” kills enough cells so that the diabetic goes into ketoacidosis, which is what happened to my daughter. Her blood was literally turning to acid and killing her.

So what about all of those symptoms I mentioned? Here’s a quick run-down of each symptom, and what it really meant, even though I didn’t know it Jen nowat the time.

  • Can’t gain weight – Your body needs insulin in order to absorb nutrition, so without insulin your body eats all the fat to survive.
  • Thirsty – If your sugar is too high your blood is getting acidic, so your body’s natural reaction is to crave water to dilute the acid.
  • Frequent urination – Drink more, pee more (smile)
  • Hair Falling out – Malnutrition! The body can’t absorb nutrients.
  • Sunken-in Eyes – Dehydration because the body can’t absorb water anymore (acidic blood).
  • Tummy ache – Malnutrition
  • Throwing up – Potassium and electrolytes in the blood are all ‘off’ which throws the entire body out of whack and makes you sick
  • Rapid Breathing – Respiratory distress. This is one of the last systems, along with throwing up. It happens right before the body shuts down. Next symptom – seizure and death.

Okay, enough of the doom and gloom. I’m happy to report that my daughter recovered and is now living a rich fulfilling life in spite of the incredible challenges of living with this horrible disease. (The picture above is a current picture of Jennifer.)

Hopefully by sharing my daughter’s story, I have educated some people about symptoms you may have otherwise overlooked. And if that saves a life, well then, that’s a wonderful thing.

About Diana Belchase

I am an author, who won the Golden Heart for my suspense novel Spy in the Mirror and was a Golden Heart finalist, once again, for my second novel, Spy in the Harem. I am also a triple Daphne Du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense Finalist for three other books. Please follow me at my website: DianaBelchase.com, or friend/follow me on facebook and twitter. I blog on KissandThrill.com. See you there!

Posted on May 24, 2013, in about us, Announcements, Lena Diaz and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Hi Lena,

    I am so sorry about your daughter’s Type I diabetes.

    My father was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1933, when he was 4 years old, by a doctor on a small town in western part of the state.

    His only symptom was frequent urination. He was a chubby little boy, also unusual. He was sent to The Joslin Clinic in Boston where the diagnosis was confirmed.

    Unfortunately, in those days, they placed the kids, in the then New England Deaconess Hospital which specialized in diabetes, with adults. So, he saw some of the consequences of the disease.

    Daddy’s biggest fears were dying in the hospital, losing a limb aor blindness. When he passed away, in 1984, none of his fears had ocurred. He was very vigilant about about infections, when he developed neuropathy in his legs much later in life, he had his toe nails cut by a podiatrist, etc.

    Daddy had a number of other illnesses and died in his sleep from his second haeart attack. Big smoker most of his life.

    Even when in the 1970′ and 1980’s, they had not made the advance in diabetes back then. He tested his urine with strips that changed color. He was not allowed to participate in sports. He had serious infections as a child besause they were giving all diabetics back the the same amount of insulin!

    He had “Reactions,” which required giving him massive amounts of sugar for us to bring him around, throughout his life.

    He was only hospitalized relatively few times but the first occurred when I was about 4. I worried about him dying when the ambulance came and, it was a fear until he passed away.

    My mother’s father, and later my mother, had Type 11 diabetes. When i was little, I thought that all men took insulin and had a glass of orange juice every morning!

    Daddy later was involved physical activities as knowledge evolved.

    I regret that your daughter is living with this very controllable diseases in a time when there is great hope of curing Type 1.

    Unfortunately, both my grandfather and mother were thin as I am and there is a tendency for Type 11 to be passed down as we age. As a matter of fact, I had another A1C or A11C test yesterday, which amazingly can measure your blood sugar level for the last three months! I have had some symptoms which have been of concern. I will find out Tuesday but I am very scared since I do not have any immediate family and live alone. Please send a few prayers, if you believe and have the chance.

    God bless you and yor family. I am so sorry that this disease has become part of your life.

    Marijane Diodati

  2. Lena: Thanks for sharing your story again. I’m so glad your daughter is doing well, and hoping we can find a cure soon.

  3. Lena thanks for this great post. I know there will soon be a cure for your daughter.

    Hugs.

  4. Diana, thank you for the reminder about Brenda Novak’s auction. I know a little about Type 1 Diabetes as a friend has it, and at least three of my friends children have recently been diagnosed, but I’d never heard their diagnosis stories. I know how scary it’s been for them (and continues to be at times). Thank God you listened to your instincts!!!

    • So glad you will be participating in the auction, Jenna. I was glad to repost Lena’s story about her daughter. Lena’s story really touched my heart. And you’re right, thank goodness she listened to her instincts!

  5. Gwen and Diana,

    Thank you so much for the prayers and Positive thoughts! It is so kind of you.

    Marijane Diodati
    mjdiodati@yahoo.com

    • When you’re our reader, Marijane, you are part of our family. Please keep us posted. Send us your good news next week through our contact link, or you can post it right here with the comments on this post. I know many of our readers will be praying for you as well.

      • Diana,

        Thank you for requesting that I let you know my results. It shows what a special site that this is. I am so glad that Lena and you ran this story, primarily because how important it is that people be cognizant of the condition. They no longer call it Juvenille Diabetes, but rather Type 1, because anyone under the of 40, can be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes! Seriously, I was told that I was in the clear after that age.

        So, watch as you and you kids age. I know someone who was diagnosed as Type 1 when she was in her late twenties.

        Thank you you Sarah for your blessings.

        I am very grateful for how diligently Brenda has worked on finding a cure for diabetes for her son as well as all those effected, including Lena’s daughter, Jennifer.

        Since I carry one of the bad genes for Type I, you receive one from each parent, and Daddy only had bad ones to give, I have participated in studies at the Joslin trying to find something in common with all of all in my position. I don’t remember what they were called technically, but I could no longer participate after I turned 40.

        Thank you for your concern and blessings. Have a happy and blessed weekend.

        Marijane Diodati
        mjdiodati@yahoo.com

  6. So glad you’ve run this again, Diana and Lena. I hope EVERYONE has a chance to go to Brenda Novak’s ‘Auction Anything’ site and look at the wonderful items being donated for such a worthy cause.

    Bless you, Marijane, for sharing your story too, and welcome to Kiss and Thrill.

    Hope y’all have a terrific Memorial Day weekend. Rest, Relax and READ (preferably a romantic suspense! Keep us in business.) 🙂

  7. I love this post too and am so happy Diana and Lena ran it again. I hope everyone has a safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend.

  8. As always, the Kiss and Thrill group impresses me! Thanks for reminding all of us about the Brenda Novak auction and telling the moving story of a child’s battle with Type 1 diabetes. Brenda is special to me because she wrote a testimonial for my suspense novel, SWOON, so generously reviewed by Kiss and Thrill’s Sarah Andre. Brenda is prolific as a writer and as a giver…I am astounded by her energy and positive outlook.

    I have several items on my auction watch list and I just upped the bid on the Kiss and Thrill basket! Rolynn

  9. Marijane, thank you for sharing your dad’s story. I am so grateful that we have advanced so far in the treatment of diabetes since then. Hugs and prayers to you on your test results.

  10. Diana thank you for today’s post. A great idea to add the current Brenda Novak auction links and repost to raise awareness and hopefully money to find a cure. I hope everyone who reads this today will hop over to the auction site. There are so many wonderful items posted and you can support an awesome charity.

  11. Lena, thanks for sharing this with us readers! I’m thankful for Brenda’s work and for all those who are working for a cure.

  12. Lena,

    I wanted to tell Daddy’s story to show how little they knew back then. Occasionally, I find articles about new research and the hope that it brings for a cure. I will forward them to you in the future.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Type 1 diabetes will be cured in Jennifer’s lifetime. One of the reasons that Diabetes research has moved faster than a lot of other illnesses is that the researchers had secured a large number of stem cells before it became a political issue. Other illness researchers are not blessed to have such a number of stem cells.

    Lena, thank you your hugs and prayers. Unfortunately, given the plethora of reasons for Type 11, a cure for Type 11 anytime soon is not expected.

    I am so glad that you trusted your gut and will have a wonderful weekend with your family and, because of your actions, Jennifer will be there too!

    Jennifer is very fortunate to have you as her mother, just as Brenda’s son is.

    God Bless,

    Marijane Diodati
    mjdiodati @yahoo.com

    • Marijane, I’m thinking of you and sending prayers for a good result on your test. I know you are paying close attention to your body and doing all you can to stay healthy.

      Diana, thanks for reposting this informative message from Lena, and Lena, thank you for sharing your personal story with us. Jennifer is a beautiful girl with a beautiful mom.

      Thanks to Brenda Novak for working so hard year after year to help find a cure for this disease which affects so many. Now let’s all go buy some neat stuff at the auction!

  13. Carey,

    Thank you for your prayers. Yes, knowing the potential risk given the ” tendancy” for Type 11 diabetes in families, I have taken care of myself. Excercise, staying slender, checking in with my doctor for regular blood sugar tests. Those tests have, so far, been okay but the A1C test is where the rubber meets the word. It doesn’t get more accurate.

    I agree with everything you have to say about Lena and Brenda.

    Now, we need a new RS from you!

    Marijane Diodati
    mjdiodati@yahoo.com

  14. Thank you all for your prayers and your positive thoughts.

    GOOD NEWS, no Type II diabetes at this time.

    In the meantime, I will do whatever I can to eradicate diabetes, sooner rather than later.

    Lena, on behalf of all of us who have diabetes in our families and/or at risk for the disease, thank you for sharing your daughter’s story. It is bound to help the cause.

    Marijane Diodati

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