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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh My ACHIN' Pancreas Brain!


Some of you may know that my youngest daughter is a type 1 diabetic. She was diagnosed 08/09/10 at age six. She is insulin dependent, relying on insulin injections for the past sixteen months, and recently moving on to an insulin pump.

I'm going to take this opportunity to explain a little bit about type 1 diabetes, in an effort to let you understand the real meaning in this piece.

Type 1 diabetes is unlike the diabetes you hear about in the media. This is likely not the diabetes that your middle aged neighbour got last month.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease. It is unpreventable. It is incurable. It is for life. It IS potentially life threatening. The consequences of mismanagement are ongoing and unnerving.

It is theorized that a child that spontaneously develops type 1 diabetes, with no family history, likely experienced a significant virus sometime in the six weeks prior to diagnosis. Rowan was diagnosed with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease July 4th. I remember her covered in tiny blisters, so unbelievably uncomfortable. Me never knowing that her pancreas was a ticking time bomb.

It is theorized that while her immune system was attacking this virus, it became confused. For whatever reason it attacked and destroyed the insulin producing cells of her pancreas.

She did not get this from eating too many cupcakes. I did not pour sugar down her throat as an infant (and I say that with a smile on my face, just for your reference). She was not lazy and sedentary. She was, and is, an active, fun loving child. Well.... she was. Until she began exhibiting symptoms.

Doesn't this sound like a great time for me to touch on some of those symptoms? Look at it this way, I had no idea what was wrong with Rowan when she first started getting sick. Maybe if I had known the clues, had some inkling as to what I was staring in the face, I could have gotten her help sooner. Had I known something was so excruciatingly wrong.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes:

Increased and unquenchable thirst
increased urination
lethargy
paleness
purple circles under the eyes
extreme weight loss
increased appetite
headaches
tingling in the limbs
fruity smelling breath
seizures
coma

This piece came about, because in the course of managing my daughter's disease, much of my life, my knowledge, has been put to the side.

Bizarre knowledge that I never thought I would know now fills my mind: that 1 unit of fast acting insulin will cover 30 grams of carbohydrates. That one unit of fast acting insulin will lower her blood glucose levels by 6 mmol/L. That 1 cup of blueberries equals 15 carbohydrates. That ten french fries at McDonalds equals 15 carbohydrates. That the two pieces bread for her school lunches are approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates. That lollipop she wants so badly: 8 grams of carbohydrates.

Yet I can't recite my telephone number without having to turn to my ten year old daughter for validation.

The brain in this piece has been replaced by a pancreas. That is much of what I am.... an artificial pancreas for my child. That hovering that I try so hard not to do with her, her lifeline. The winds of change blow fast and furious with type 1 diabetes.... hence the weather vein.

Ten percent of all diabetics are type 1. But of that ten percent of diabetics, 90% are children. Canada has the 6th highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world. The greatest increase has been in children ages 4-9. Preschooler's account for 5% of all type 1 diabetics.

Knowledge is power. It is my hope that by sharing my knowledge, I can help you recognize a child needing medical help. Hope I can spare you being told "I'm glad you brought her in when you did, another four hours and you likely would have lost her".

My daughter will not outgrow this disease. She will not mysteriously heal herself. A pancreas transplant is not an option. An insulin pump is not a cure (did you know that the insertion sites of an insulin pump must be changed every three days? Two guesses who does that. Yup!)

My beautiful daughter is too young to manage this disease on her own. She's learning. In age appropriate steps. She has the rest of her life to learn how to manage this disease. For now, it is me. Hoping to lessen her burden, and she strengthens her wings in her pursuit and desire to learn to fly for herself.

I have heard of 70 year old women, with an adult diabetic child, and those women can hear in their son's voices if they have low blood sugars. That will be me and my girl. Our journey together, til death do us part.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on. Diabetes is one of my more passionate subject. Especially type 1!

"OH MY ACHIN' PANCREAS BRAIN!!"

3 comments:

Kate said...

I completely know what you are talking about. My 8 year old daughter has struggled for over 4 years with an undiagnosed issue. I can tell just by looking at her eyes that an "episode" is imminent. I am a walking encyclopedia of Leah and I bore people to tears with the info! Moms rock! :)

I am Psychiatry said...

Should there be another persuasive post you can share next time, I’ll be surely waiting for it. Hot Washed Pet Flakes

roth phallyka said...

I’ll be surely waiting for it.


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