Always trust your mother’s intuition.
It was finally spring. The weather was warm. There was just a month left of preschool. My children were growing like the weeds visible from our picture window. We began spending more and more time outdoors.
One weekend my daughter developed a fever. A startling 103 fever. It bounced up and down, only responding to Tylenol briefly. It was the type of high fever that worries parents but leaves the nurses nonplussed.
I knew she must have been feeling awful because she asked for covers at night. She doesn’t like to sleep with a cover and when she does, her feet must be left exposed. She wanted to be bundled from neck to toes.
I insisted on bringing her in to evening pediatrics hours on the third day of the fever. This was a Monday night. The pediatrician, not our own, said it was just a virus and she would likely be fine by Wednesday.
Indeed, by Wednesday the fever broke. But then the baby’s temperature started to soar. We would endure a good 10 days of feverish kids.
On Friday I was scheduled to work in my daughter’s classroom. She needed to get out and blow the dust off. I led the class to the music room and we began to follow the instructor’s lead singing, dancing, and tapping sticks together to the beat.
I had thought my daughter was well enough to return to school, but during music she was not herself.
“Mommy, I need a drink.”
“Mommy, I’m so thirsty.”
Tears welled up when I told her to wait until the end of music before she could make yet another trip to the fountain.
That same night, the circus came to town. She had been looking forward to the circus for weeks. We left the baby with his grandmother and our threesome headed for the big top (dome). She donned the clown costume that was her only wish the birthday before. She told us that she couldn’t wait to try cotton candy for the very first time.
She seemed tired. She seemed hot and clammy. She was a different girl.
She did not want to hang from the trapeze bar.
She did not want to jump rope.
She did not want to meet the clowns.
We took our seats as the lights dimmed and the extravaganza began. She took one bite of the wonderful cotton candy and her eyes welled up. She did not want another taste.
She asked if we could leave early. I began gathering our things in darkness and managed to prolong the packing until the finale.
We brought our little girl home and tucked her into bed.
Over the weekend she perked up a little. The episodes on that Friday I figured were the lingering virus from the week. Her fatigue a result of feverish nights. Her thirst, dehydration from the high temperatures.
Mounting the stairs to her classroom, parents commented that she had grown three inches in the week she had been out. I agreed, she seemed to have grown up and thinned out.
A mere hour after falling asleep she awoke asking for milk. Another hour meant a trip to the bathroom. This dance began night after night.
“Go back to bed.”
“But I need a drink. I need milk. I need to go potty.”
“You need to sleep.”
We had a struggle on our hands that we had never had before. Our established bedtime routine no longer existed.
I told my husband that something wasn’t right. He shrugged it off as the lingering virus. Was that wishful thinking on his part? I had an uneasy feeling for about a week but kept thinking I was being too cautious.
If I denied her milk or a drink after bedtime, her eyes began to fill with big tears.
And then she drank an entire half gallon of milk in one day.
Upon that realization that she had consumed that much milk in 24 hours in addition to water, I called the nurse. That was a Thursday afternoon.
The doctor says that no child should drink more than 24 ounces of milk in a day.
I called my husband to stop by the lab and pick up a urine specimen cup on the way home from work. The next morning I dropped it off at the lab, but still none too worried.
I was scheduled in the classroom again that morning. Since my husband rarely works in the classroom, I suggested he take the morning off and go with her. Since it was also our turn to clean, I left work to go to the school. I figured I would be much more efficient since I know the cleaning drill and he would be able to return to work and I could drop her at home.
I began stacking knee-high chairs and tidying the classroom.
My cell phone rang. On the other end was the pediatrician. Not the nurse, but the doctor.
“Where are you”
“Where is your husband?”
“Actually…here with us.”
“Where is the school?”
I didn’t like where this was going.
“There was sugar in her urine. I was about to go to lunch and I was looking over the morning labs. I want you to go to the hospital (literally two blocks away) and get blood work done then meet me at my office at one o’clock. Can you do that? It is really important that you do this quickly.”
My hands shook as I flipped my phone shut. I told my husband to gather her things and that we needed to go now.
It seemed like everyone wanted to converse with us about this or that as I tried to usher my family out the door and to the car.
I went to the counter at the lab. I explained that I realize there are people in front of us, but that our doctor said this is urgent. Please get us in. She didn’t understand one of the orders. It wasn’t in the computer. She asked the person at the adjacent cubicle.
Please, can you call the doctor, can you call a supervisor, can you ask anyone else? We need to get her in. We are supposed to get to her office across town by one.
We waited nearly half an hour, eclipsing one o’clock. When we were finally called in we were met by two technicians and a doctor who came from across the street to perform the test that no one had heard of.
Her small body sat on the edge of a large table, legs dangling. He said this wasn’t going to be easy. I stood next to her trying to hold her still as he poked her index finger and milked it filling a pipette drop by drop with her ruby red blood. What took minutes felt like an eternity. He finished and left.
The two women readied their supplies. My husband sat on the bench with arm rests with our daughter on his lap. He gave her a bear hug to still her as the women drew vial after vial of blood from her small vein.
There have only been a few times when I have seen my husband cry as he did at that moment. I have only seen him like this with the deaths of his parents, one after the other.
I wanted him to be strong for her. I didn’t want her to sense his fear and be more frightened than she already was. He choked the hot streams back.
We finally made it to the doctor’s office. Our daughter sat eating her drive-thru grilled cheese and fries and drew detailed pictures of family members with paper and pens she had found in the doctor’s desk drawer.
She needed to go potty and my husband took her down the hall. I sat in the room alone with the doctor and heard the news: “Her glucose level in her urine was over 1,000. In her blood over 500. She has diabetes.”
That’s all I could say. I apologized and she shrugged it off. I said crap but I thought f—, which I would have been justified in exclaiming.
They returned and my daughter asked to go do something, maybe watch television in the lobby. I left my husband alone with the doctor.
In our absence he broke down as he heard the news. But I don’t think either of us really knew what was being said to us when we heard the diagnosis.
After a bit my daughter and I returned to the exam room to see what was taking so long.
The doctor said “You have one hour to pack your bags and hit the road for St. Louis.”