Dear Becky and Danielle,
You have never known me without Type 1 diabetes because I was diagnosed before you were born and certainly before you married my sons. You may have seen me test my blood sugar and push buttons on my pump to take an insulin dose. You have never seen me incapacitated or ill as a result of diabetes and it is possible that you come away from my story without understanding how serious and deadly Type 1 diabetes can be. Very naively I never worried that your husbands/my sons would get Type 1 and so far they haven’t. I pray that your children/my grandchildren never get diabetes, but if they do, you will manage and they will be fine.
Today I have information that I want you to share with you. Last weekend, two young children died because of Type 1 Diabetes. These were not children without access to medical care. They could have been your child or your neighbor’s child. One of these children was incorrectly diagnosed by her doctor. A simple blood test with a $1 test strip or a urine dipstick test could have diagnosed Type 1 diabetes in 5 seconds and saved her life. The second child was diagnosed correctly in the emergency room. Despite state-of-the-art medical care, he died a few days later.
Five-year old Kycie became ill one Sunday in late January, 2015. Initially her parents thought she had the flu and a Wednesday visit to the child’s doctor resulted in antibiotics for strep throat. She went to the doctor again on Friday and to the ER that afternoon. A series of seizures resulted in extensive brain damage. Tens of thousands of people followed Kycie’s story on Facebook as she and her family battled for 6 months to save her life. On Saturday, July 11, Kycie passed away at home in the arms of her parents.
A shorter story, but just as heartbreaking, is that of David Michael Brown who died in a pediatric ICU at age four last Sunday, July 12. David became ill midweek with what appeared to be the flu. When his symptoms became more severe, his parents took him to the ER where he was correctly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Intensive medical care could not save his life and within a few days, David lost his battle with diabetic ketoacidosis as a result of multiple organ failure.
I urge you to learn the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes as shown in the poster below and explore the Test One Drop website. I also suggest that you like the Test One Drop Facebook page. The mission of this organization is to
“bring awareness to the general public and the medical community of the similarities between the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and common illnesses such as influenza, strep, and viral infections with the purpose of stopping delayed and misdiagnosed T1D which can lead to life-threatening DKA, permanent handicap, or death. Additionally, we are seeking a change in the Standard of Care Practices to require medical personnel to screen blood or urine samples for glucose levels before diagnosing sick patients with a common illness that might be masking or mimicking Type 1 Diabetes.”
My wonderful daughters-in-law — although your children are at a somewhat higher risk of getting Type 1 diabetes because of my diabetes, most diagnoses are of children and adults with no family history. The causes of the autoimmune beta cell destruction resulting in Type 1 diabetes are not known. For unknown reasons the incidence of Type 1 is increasing worldwide. Although this post highlights the stories of two children, please remember that Type 1 diabetes can strike at any age from infants to senior citizens and these symptoms should not be ignored in adults.
Share this message with your friends, family, and acquaintances. Educate your schools and daycare. Print out the free poster from the Test One Drop website and ask your pediatrician whether they test the blood sugar of children at well-child visits and whenever they have flu-like symptoms.
Although there is nothing easy about living with Type 1 diabetes, I am one of many people who illustrates that you can have a wonderful life with and despite diabetes. You, my sons, and your children are proof of that.
Throughout my 38 years of Type 1, I have seen incredible improvements in insulin and technology that make living with this condition more manageable. Two things have not changed. Type 1 diabetes is a death sentence if it is not diagnosed. And even with proper medical care, Type 1 diabetes is a serious and life-threatening illness.
With love as always,
Laddie, your Mother-in-law
Please note that this blogpost was edited in November 2015 to reflect a correction in David Michael Brown’s story. My understanding from Facebook stories in July was that an incorrect diagnosis had led to a delay in care for David. That was not the case and he was diagnosed correctly. But even with appropriate and intensive medical care, David lost his life as a result of Type 1 diabetes.
I have also updated the Test One Drop mission statement and displayed the current version of the free downloadable poster.