Our diabetes story actually began before our March 18, 2015 admission to the ER/PICU and T1D (Type 1 Diabetes) diagnosis, we just didn’t realize it at the time. For months, Teagan had been drinking A LOT and peeing A LOT. She is a very heavy sleeper so I didn’t worry too much about the fact that she was still wearing GoodNites pull-ups to sleep in even though she was 7. Her lips were very dry and cracking no matter how much lip balm she used. She had lost about 10 pounds over the previous three months but kids go through growth spurts. She had gotten her ears pierced right after Christmas and wore the piercing earrings for 9 weeks with no issue until we changed them out for cheap decorative ones and her earlobe got infected (I’m allergic to nickel earrings so I thought she may be as well). We saw the pediatrician on Friday March 13th who prescribed oral antibiotics (Cephalexin) twice a day for ten days for her infected earlobe. She took the first dose that night. On Saturday, we drove out to Daffodil Hill but she got tired quickly and didn’t want to walk around for very long. When we got home she napped for a couple of hours which was odd because she gave up naps when she was about 2.5.
Sunday we stayed home and she napped some more. Monday she got her medicine and went to school and karate afterwards but was really tired. When we got home I gave her dinner and the antibiotics which she threw up. On Tuesday morning, breakfast and antibiotics came back up again and I kept her home from school and called the pediatrician to see if she was potentially having a reaction to the antibiotics since she hadn’t been on Cephalexin before, only Amoxicillin. The Dr’s office agreed that might be the case and decided I should have her stop taking them and monitor her earlobe and if it got worse by the end of the week they would switch the prescription. She threw up all day Tuesday and drank glass after glass of apple juice and milk. Wednesday morning she woke up around 6:30 still throwing up, saying her tummy hurt and had rapid shallow breathing. I called the pediatricians office as soon as they opened at 8am and they couldn’t see her until 11am so I spoke with the advice nurse who advised I should take her to the ER. I had to help her walk to the car and she was definitely a bit out of it mentally, saying odd things that didn’t make much sense. Mercy Folsom ER is about 8 minutes from my house and when we got there, I got a parking space right near the door since it was a slow Wednesday morning. I had to help her walk in and I sat her down in a chair. The desk had me fill out a half page info sheet and a nurse came over with a wheelchair and got her within the first two minutes and rolled her ten feet across the room to the triage area where they started checking her vitals and asking me questions. Due to her rapid shallow breathing they said things were going to move quickly and not to be alarmed. We were then whisked down the hall into a room where a Dr. started checking her and asking me more questions. They thought she could potentially have a secondary staff infection from her infected earlobe but quickly determined that her blood sugar was over 800 (normal is about 85) and she was in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) and we needed to be transferred via ambulance to a bigger hospital with a PICU (pediatric intensive care unit). Even though our primary pediatrician is affiliated with UC Davis, they were full and had no beds available so we were being sent to Sutter Children’s.
The ER doc consulted with the Sutter doc who advised not to bring Teagan’s blood sugar down too quickly because that could cause additional complications. The ambulance was there within about 20 minutes and a 20 minute ride later we were at Sutter. The entire ride, Teagan kept asking to go to Target for an ICEE but she doesn’t remember any of it. The Sutter team was amazing and while they calmly assessed and treated Teagan they explained things to me and kept reassuring me that she was going to be OK and she could still live a full, active, happy life with diabetes. She spent Wednesday through Friday in the PICU with a constant stream of rotating IVs and then we were moved to the regular Pediatrics wing late Friday. On Saturday, after my pharmacy run to pick up the LONG list of prescriptions that had to be checked off before we could be released, her Endocrinologist told me how sick she had truly been. He said he has been doing this for 20 years and he sees 1-2 new cases per week and she was the worst he had seen in a year. She had fluid on the brain and was close to going into a coma but he saw no reason to burden me with information on what could have been until after the crisis had passed because it wouldn’t have served any useful purpose and they were doing everything that needed to be done. Smart man. As it turns out, Sutter has the best pediatric endocrinology program in Northern California so it was a blessing that UCD was full.
Moral of the story: Please trust your instincts when something is wrong with your kiddo. Know the signs of Type 1 Diabetes. I could explain every one of Teagan’s symptoms as normal kid stuff until you look at them collectively in retrospect. There are numerous cases where Dr’s dismiss it as the flu or a urinary tract infection. Dr’s spend very little time learning about Type 1 diabetes in medical school but it’s on the rise. While just 5% of all diabetics are Type 1, recent numbers indicate there apx. 30,000 new T1D diagnoses per year, or 80 per day, in the US. All it takes is one drop of blood or a ketone urine test which can be done in the Dr’s office or an HbA1C blood test at the lab will tell you the average blood glucose level over the last three months, normal is in the 5-6 range. Teagan’s was 14.7 so her pancreas obviously hadn’t been working properly for awhile though her behavior didn’t reflect how sick she was. She didn’t actually seem sick until those final five days where the antibiotics finally sent her system into a tailspin.