"My Son Has what?"
It was the day after Thanksgiving when we noticed that our 22-month-old son, Nicholas was sick. He was throwing up everything that we gave him (including water), excessively thirsty, and very lethargic. He would beg for a bottle, drink it all, and then ask for more. He had also been having over flowing diapers for two weeks prior but I pushed that symptom out of my mind and just bought a different brand of diapers.
We decided to take Nick to the doctor on the following Monday but ended up going to Urgent Care on Saturday and Sunday because we could not get Nick's vomiting under control. We were afraid that he was getting dehydrated. At both visits, we were told that this was a stomach bug and there was nothing that could be done. We just had to ride it out. We had been on the phone with the "Nurse Connection" throughout the weekend and no one picked up on any of these symptoms. They figured that as long as Nick was still having wet diapers, he was fine.
When Nick's condition didn't improve by Thursday (December 3) of the following week, my husband and I were upset. We bathed him that morning and discovered that he had lost a lot of weight. His skin literally hung off of his little body! His eyes were glazed and sunken into his head. Something was terribly wrong! We arranged for an appointment that day and when Nick's condition deteriorated even more, we decided to march in our pediatrician's office and demand that he find out what was wrong with our baby! This was not the stomach flu and we weren't leaving until someone could tell us what was wrong.
Upon seeing our pale and barely responsive child, the staff rushed us into an exam room where Nick's pediatrician took one look at him and ordered blood tests. He also smelled Nick's breath, which we thought, was odd and told us we needed to get Nick to the ER right away. Nick's pediatrician told us that it was urgent that Nick get fluids intravenously and emphasized to us, the importance of driving carefully to Children's Hospital in San Diego, CA.
When we arrived at the Children's Hospital ER, the staff took us right away because Nick's pediatrician had called ahead. Watching a team of nurses hold our baby down to get an IV started was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Apparently Nick still had just enough energy to fight 4 nurses before slipping into unconsciousness.
My husband and I were escorted into a meeting room adjacent to our son's room in the ER where we were told of Nick's condition. We later learned that the family in the room next to Nick's was being told of a much sadder prognosis for their 6 year old little girl: Leukemia.
"Nick has insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and is in what we call DKA." the young intern told us.
As the tears welled up in my eyes, I thought that this must be some mistake. Questions swirled about my head and the only thing I wanted to do was hold my baby. We were devastated. Kids, let alone babies, DON'T get diabetes. Senior citizens and older people get this disease. How am I going to give my baby shots? What did my baby do to deserve this?
It's been a long 9 months since that evening in the emergency room, where diabetes was thrust into our lives and the memory of it all is still vivid, the wounds are still so fresh but things are easier. After spending 2 days in ICU, Nick's blood sugar was brought down to a more "stable" level and we spent another 2 1/2 days learning about diabetes care and management as fast as we could. It was all a blur!
Once Nick came to, it was amazing how much energy he had… he had an entire floor of nurses chasing after him and entertaining him with funny faces and stories! The staff at Children's Hospital helped us see that the child we were taking home with us was still the same child we had brought home from the hospital that very first time, many months ago.
The first few months living with diabetes were full of challenges including a few trips to the ER for hyperglycemia but I can honestly say now that diabetes has now become a full part of our life. Something we wake up to every morning and something we all take to bed with us at night. Nick still fights us on shots but has accepted this part of his life like a true champ. He's our little hero. Nick also pretends to administer insulin to his favorite stuffed animal, Funny Face and has even learned to say, "I have diabetes." He loves climbing and jumping at the park in addition to driving us crazy with all of his toddler antics!
At age 2, this little boy has had to deal with life changes that would push most adults over the edge… in fact there have been many nights where I have had to cry myself to sleep because of this monster we call Diabetes. I pray every night that a cure will be found in Nick's lifetime so that he will be able to know what it feels like to NOT have diabetes.
Nicholas and his mom, Diana Harris-Gennaro, can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
Nicholas in February 1999, two months after diagnosis
Published October 9, 1999
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