The Story of My Dead Pancreas; Getting Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes

I was sitting in my second grade classroom at Perry elementary, when Mrs. Bullock received a phone call and glanced over at me. She told me to gather all of my belongings, that my mom was here to pick me up. She had a worried expression, but I did not think a thing about it. I grabbed my Scooby Doo backpack and walked towards the office. My mom was standing there with a look of shock, she grabbed my hand and walked me out of the elementary. We got in the car and she asked me, “Do you know why I came to pick you up?” I answered confidently, “I have a hair appointment right?” She half laughed and said, “Well that was supposed to be tomorrow, but not anymore.” She then explained to me that I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and we were going home to pack my clothes and heading straight to Riley Hospital for Children, in Indianapolis. As a second grader I sighed in relief and responded back to my mom, “Finally! Now I know what’s been wrong with me this whole time.” My mom broke down, how could a second grader understand how this was going to affect them the rest of their life? How could I be so calm about something so stressful?

We drove home and I packed my clothes and my favorite inseparable stuffed dog, Lucky. We left in a hurry towards Riley Hospital. We arrived at the hospital and they jabbed a needle in the top of my right hand and sent me to a hospital room where they hooked me up to an IV. At this point I was a little scared due to all of the needles and doctors coming in to poke me constantly. My mom stayed with me the whole time. I had visitors in and out bringing me balloons, stuffed animals, flowers, toys, and books. My favorite part was the cart that would come around each and every day where they would let me pick toys and activities to keep my mind off of what was going on. My dad drove down from Muncie and would attend meetings with my mom. The doctors showed us how to do shots, using an orange as a test dummy. The dietician would teach us how to count carbs and what foods would help bring my sugar up from lows. By the end of my stay at Riley Hospital, I did not want to come home. I made friends with all of the nurses, they would even exchange my nasty meals from the cafeteria, for food that I actually liked. My mom and I headed back to the small town of Selma, four days before my eighth birthday. For a couple of weeks the dietitians and doctors had me on a honeymoon meal plan, where I would eat the same meals each and every day at the same time so that the doctors could figure out what amount of doses my body needed of insulin.

I honestly do not know where I would be without my mom. She had suspicions that something was wrong, and researched my symptoms and diagnosed my diabetes without a doctor. She would take me in and tell the doctor what was going on and they would just prescribe more and more antibiotics telling her it was just a small sickness, nothing more. One day my little brother was going into the children’s clinic for an ear infection, earlier that morning before I left for school she had me pee in a cup and she brought that cup to the clinic to have tested. She was right all along and caught my diabetes early on to where it did not damage any of my organs or affect me later on down the road. She was there every day for me, reminding me to check my blood sugar, dose for my food, ordering my supplies, sitting on the phone for hours with insurance companies so that I would not go without, and setting an alarm each and every night sometimes more than once to get up and check my blood sugar. She was not only the one who caught my diabetes she was the one who helped me learn how to manage it. My mom made sure that I still got to do everything I wanted to do, like all of the other kids my age.

2 thoughts on “The Story of My Dead Pancreas; Getting Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes

  1. Nan says:

    Kyla – I was really touched to read your story. So similar to mine and at the same time, do different. I was diagnosed with T1D on my 7th birthday. After a small party with 3 of my best friends, my Mom and Dad took me upstairs, made me pee in a cup and then did a urine test in a little test tube. When they liquid in the test tube turned bright orange/red, my Mom burst into tears and even my Dad started to cry. I was so confused – I didn’t know what it meant, but I started to cry too just because they were crying. I vaguely knew that my Dad and one of my brothers did this same test too and they got injections everyday – having T1D in our family was the only reason I was diagnosed early. I never went to the hospital, my Dad knew enough to treat me at home.

    That was in 1968 just after the first disposable syringe was invented and before we had any tools to manage diabetes – no glucose test kits, no pumps, no CGMs. We had a urine test that was incredibly inaccurate and only 2 kinds of insulin – long acting and short acting.

    I remember the first glucose test machine – it became available when I was in college. It was the size of a lunch box, and took 15 minutes and about 10 steps to do each test. It was a novelty, but not something you could put in your backpack and carry around. I know my diabetes was wildly out of control for many, many years – partly out of denial, but I think mostly because we just didn’t have technology.

    Now I’m 54, I’ve had T1D for 47 years. I finally got serious about control in my late 20’s when the first really practical glucose monitors came out and after watching my Dad die from complications of diabetes. I’ve had laser surgery and cataract surgery on both eyes, a triple by-pass, and a kidney transplant – all complications from all those years of non-control. At the same time, I’m now healthier than ever, I exercise every day, and my AIC runs between 6.2 and 6.5.

    I know I’ll probably never see a cure for Diabetes in my lifetime, but I’m hopeful that younger people like you will be able to avoid the devastating complications and will eventually be truly cured. I applaud your efforts to share, educate and support others. Diabetes does not define who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

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