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Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Kids: Often Too Little, Too Late

First in a three-part series.

It was about 1 a.m.; just a night when I could not find that nice, warm, comfortable spot to fall asleep. I headed for some graham crackers and milk and a little television to get me a tad wearier.  I flipped the channels and came upon a classic, but a really fine film still, All the President’s Men.  The story of Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), the two reporters from the Washington Post who blew the whistle on the entire Watergate Scandal.  The series of events that led to both a Pulitzer Prize and the disgraceful resignation of a President.

Never understood how this movie, along with Network, Bound for Glory, and Taxi Driver all lost the Oscar that year to Rocky.  All classics nonetheless.

diabetic ketoacidosis in kidsIf you ever get a chance to watch All the President's Men, do so. In addition to being historical and enjoyable, it provides you with many takeaways.  My biggest takeaway was the lesson I learned. When you believe in something, I mean really, really, believe in something with all of you heart and soul to be true—follow it all the way to the end. Imagine that these Washington Post reporters were taking this story and leaving no one unscathed all the way to the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  That’s a huge amount of pressure. That’s surely many, many, people demanding that you had better be right. They knew in their hearts that they were and the rest is, as they say, history.

The passion. The drive. The desire to want to change the course.  The longing to change a life, even if it is just one. In the diabetes world, we call it advocacy. To get out there and make constructive noise because the ‘norm’ is not acceptable.  The hope to right what could surely be classified, as a wrong.  When someone decides to speak up about an issue, it’s not with the idea of changing the world upside down, it’s more like a voice of compassion saying this needs to be rectified.  Even if it impacts only one. It begins usually, on a lonely road; and sometimes a VERY lonely road.  The question is asked, “Can this even help just one person?"

Since I have been involved in this diabetes world, it’s always pulled at my heart any time I read a story about a child who had passed away because their type 1 diabetes was undiagnosed. How can that be? In my 22+ years being in this diabetes world, I have lost count how many times I’ve read or heard that someone had been to a medical professional, or that a parent had no idea of what they were experiencing and after time; their child became severely ill and went into DKA (Diabetes Ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones because your body can not produce enough insulin.  In type 1 diabetes, the body attacks itself diminishing the production of insulin, until virtually none is created.  Without the insulin, DKA becomes evident).  Many become very, very sick. Some children become brain damaged. And some children die from DKA.

When DKA occurs, many times vomiting is present.  It’s usually at about this point some sort of error occurs. Parents, medical professionals, others who observe and see what appears to be a stomach virus, and/or a flu.  Severe vomiting.  Even though there are many signs of diabetes occurring, especially type 1 diabetes, it has been this writer’s observation that it’s when the vomiting is occurring, the diagnosis becomes a problem.  It’s at this stage, this very dangerous stage, that many times the patient is being treated for something that is not even close to what is actually occurring in his body.    

Now being sent home to treat something it’s not, the patient’s body continues to deteriorate and becomes a time bomb.  And many times the patient, the family, and the medical team, don’t even know it until that time bomb explodes.  No one…knew.  It was not a flu/virus at all...it was diabetes.

Undiagnosed...in many cases...too late.

In my next column, I will share how this incredibly painful experience, started a movement.  How real life stories began a crusade that has really only just begun.

I am a DiabetesDad.
 

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