September 17, 1996
It’s been 20 years and I still remember every detail of the day I was diagnosed. I don’t think I will ever forget. It’s the day that changed my life. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on September 17, 1996 and I was 10 years old.
My 5th grade year just started. I don’t remember all of my symptoms, but I do remember knowing something was happening to me. Almost every day after school, I would come home and take a nap. That was very unusual for me. I was constantly tired, especially in school. It was hard to concentrate and focus on my work. I felt hungry all the time, even after eating. I began noticing that I was losing weight. One thing I will never forget is trying on a pair of old jeans that I thought were too small. I tried them on and they were BIG. I remember being happy about that at the time. When I went outside to play, I would have to take breaks to run inside to drink water. I would drink massive amounts of water at a time and still be thirsty! Because of all the water I was drinking, I was peeing at least 3 times an hour. This went on for weeks.
I lived with my mother, step-father and younger brother. My step-father, Bob, noticed all of my symptoms and knew something wasn’t right. My mom insisted that I was fine and would explain things away, like I was drinking a lot of water because it was hot outside; I was losing weight because I wasn’t eating as much; I was sleeping a lot because I had to get up early for school.
No parent wants to believe there is something wrong with their child. There was. Bob insisted that my mom make me an appointment to see my pediatrician. Bob’s best friend’s wife has Type 1 Diabetes. He recognized all my symptoms and had a bad feeling that’s what I had. To this day, I am still grateful that he saw what was happening and pushed my mom to take me to the doctor. I was very lucky that I was diagnosed relatively early and I was not in DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) at diagnosis. My situation could have been a lot worse.
One day after school, my mom took me to the doctor. To me, it seemed like a normal checkup. Since I was young, I didn’t know any better. The only thing I knew was that I had been feeling terrible. I remember giving a urine sample and waiting in the exam room. The doctor came in the room and told my mom that she had to take me to the hospital immediately. I saw the color drain from my mom’s face.
Not long after, we met my step-father and brother at the hospital. From this point on, I remember almost everything. When we got to the hospital, I remember going up an elevator so I could get blood taken. I remember being scared, but after it was over the woman who took my blood gave me a sticker that said “I’m special”. I kept that sticker for years after that! It’s funny the stuff you remember!
We all sat in the waiting room and it seemed like we were waiting forever. Eventually, the doctor came out and wanted to talk to my parents. I could see my parents from where I was sitting, but I couldn’t hear anything that was being said. My mom walked out of the room with tears in her eyes. She grabbed my hand and we headed to another area of the hospital. At this point, I was scared to death. No one had told me anything yet and when I asked my mom what was wrong she just said, “Everything will be okay”.
I was taken to another room to get an IV started. I remember crying and being terrified. After that I was admitted to the hospital and taken to my room. I sat down in the bed and my mom sat down next to me in a chair and just cried. A nurse came in to test my blood sugar and it was in the 400s. I don’t remember the exact number but a normal blood sugar reading is between 70-120.
I will never forget the nurse telling my parents that if they would have waited another week to bring me in, I would have likely been in a coma. At the time, I had no clue what was happening to me and I had no clue how much my diagnosis would change my life. That night when I asked my mom a second time what was wrong, she said “Honey, you have Type 1 Diabetes.”
I was in the hospital for a week after that. During that time, my doctor came in to explain to me what Type 1 Diabetes was and how my life was going to change. I was told I would have to take insulin shots every day for the rest of my life. As a 10 year old child, that was terrifying to hear. We all had to learn how to measure food portions, follow a food chart and give insulin injections. My parents practiced giving injections on a towel and an orange before practicing on me! I had to check my blood sugar 6-8 times per day and keep a journal of my blood sugar readings. The whole experience was scary and overwhelming. I don’t know how my parents kept it together!
Throughout the years, I have realized what a strong person I am and that I can get through anything. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs over the last 20 years since my diagnosis, but I have never let Type 1 Diabetes stand in my way. It is a hard life to live, but I’m living it! When it seems impossible to fight anymore, I look back on that scared little girl I was on the day of my diagnosis, and realize I have come too far to give up now.