We took the boy in after some days of insatiable thirst and frequent urination. We called in a favor or two to have him seen first thing in the morning on September 22nd. Before that first finger poke, before his first urine specimen, the doctor told us that sometimes kids just go through strange stages. We were in total agreement. That’s actually why we thought we were there: a strange stage. Something explainable or not, but we believed we would be leaving with a clean bill of health. We were just there to rule out anything abnormal and get some peace of mind.
The urinalysis was completely foreign. He could not understand why anyone would go to the bathroom in a cup. The finger poke was not painful, but strange. He didn’t like it, and he didn’t want to do it again. He was fasting, irritable, and very hungry. We waited for the doctor to come in, give us the all clear, and we chatted about what breakfast we were going to go get once we left the doctor’s office.
The breakfast never came. Instead, a non-diagnosis, in the form of, “his blood glucose level is high; there is glucose in the urine; when it’s like that, we send children to Dell for 24-48 hours to get it stabilized,” came. We waited for the doctor to call the emergency room at Dell Children’s Medical Center, got our instructions, and went home to consolidate vehicles, pack a few bags, and head to Austin. We were told we still shouldn’t give him much to eat because they would need another blood glucose reading once we got there–the doctor suggested a few crackers and maybe some juice.
We did our best to fend off the hunger monster while we drove. We played games, chatted, but mostly our boy was hungry. We didn’t have a way to explain what was happening. He didn’t feel bad, but we were telling him he needed to see a doctor, the doctors would make him better. It wasn’t something his then-four year-old brain could really comprehend. To top it all off, we had no idea what to expect, other than “24-48 hours in the hospital,” so we really couldn’t help him in that regard, either. It’s a pretty helpless feeling.
As we got checked in at the hospital, the first doctor to come in spoke as though we had a confirmed diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. So, that settled it. He tried his best to explain the way the next few days would go down, but without any labs or results, there wasn’t much to go on. They brought in some toys, a book, and we watched a little TV while we waited. What seemed like an eternity later, we got some answers. Our son, who was playing and laughing in his hospital bed was in DKA, Diabetic ketoacidosis, and he would need to be on an insulin drip to begin to get his blood glucose levels back down to normal. Doctors would come in, look at him, look at the chart, and then look back at him in disbelief. No one could believe that he didn’t feel worse than he did. And through it all, his only complaint was that he was hungry. We kept making false promises that “as soon as…” we would get him a snack. Different doctors and nurses had different timelines for when his next meal would be, but he was unwavering. He was hungry.
They needed to put a line in for blood work and, eventually, the drip he would have while in the PICU, and let me just say, if we never have to experience that again, it’ll be too soon. I have never felt so helpless, so heartbroken for my boy. My mama heart wanted nothing more to protect him, and even though I knew it was for his own good, it was so hard. He just couldn’t comprehend how he went from Lego building to hospitalized in such a short time. As far as he was concerned, nothing was wrong–except the fact that no one would feed him.
The nurses wheeled us down to the PICU and a new team took over his care. We would set up camp there for a night while the drip worked on that blood glucose level. We still had very little understanding of what was going on, what anything meant, what the repercussions of this diagnosis were at this point. The lack of information made the diagnosis even more scary. It was one of those times Google was the last place I wanted to be. I didn’t want horror stories. I didn’t want the scary side. I wanted facts. I wanted information. I wanted practical steps to everyday life.
And the next day, that’s just what we got. They moved us into a regular room, we met with the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), she gave us insight and information into our daily life and what it might look like. The best news? It looked a lot like it looked before, just with a few pricks and pokes. The boy finally got to eat–he still compares every omelet he ever eats to “the one in the hospital.” We are convinced he was so hungry that he now thinks it’s the best thing he has ever eaten.
That second day was filled with so much relief. The more information we got, the better we felt. We were calculating his carbs, checking blood glucose levels, and getting an approximation of what things would look like. We spent one more night and had one more “class” with the CDE before being discharged.
All I could think was how similar it was to getting ready to leave the hospital with a newborn baby. You have some information, you are as prepared as you are ever going to be, but you are going to walk out those hospital doors, and your life will never be the same again. We were almost five years to the day from that first trip out a set of hospital doors, and we had done fairly well with that so far, so we took a step of faith and believed this would be no different. Sure enough, before we left, the boy shared that he would like to come back and help other children who had just found out they had Type One Diabetes. Be still, my mama heart.