Mother’s Intuition

by Leighann on August 9, 2008

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”

“At preschool.”

“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.”

“Crap.”

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.”

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 @bibledude January 6, 2010 at 9:36 am

Oh, man….
This brings back SO many memories and feelings for me. My son (almost seven now) was diagnosed at 17-months old, and I remember feeling lots of the same things…

Thank you for sharing your story!

Dan King

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2 Michael Hoskins January 6, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Leighann. This brought incredible tears to my eyes (which is somewhat ackward as I’m currently at work reading and probably should have waited until I got home…). I’m a 30-year old Type 1 who was diagnosed at age 5, an only son of a Type 1 Mom who diagnosed herself at the same young age. She’s in her late 50s now with relatively few complications and non that are incredibly significant. But her greatest fear was always that her child – which docs said she couldn’t have up until the time I was born in 1979 – would someday become diabetes. That fear materialized, and it still haunts her each day. It has become my greatest fear, and especially difficult to deal with now that I and my wife of 5 years want to start a family. Without any complications myself after 25 years and a full and productive and happy life, I know that diabetes isn’t all-limiting and is manageable. But that fear is there, and it’s one only a parent can feel. I fear the day when my son or daughter hints at being overly-thirsty or in need of bathroom-runs…. Fear more than anything. But your voice and the others within the Diabetes Online Community make it easier and help incredibly. Thank you for all you write here! MWH

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3 Jennifer January 6, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. Since I didn’t know you when she was first diagnosed this was a great glimpse back. Aiden was diagnosed pretty early on and it was purely because of mother’s instinct. I don’t say that to toot my own horn. I just knew that something wasn’t right. I usually don’t rush to the doctor but I figured that paying $20 for a co-pay was worth the peace of mind. Thank goodness I did and that my husband believed in me and came with us.

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4 leighann January 7, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I think parents know more than doctors sometimes give them credit for. I know each and every time my son is getting an ear infection and try to get treatment before it gets bad (which sometimes backfires if a different doc won’t treat him).

I am also thankful that our doctor took it seriously and acted quickly. All based on her drinking too much milk in one day.

Looking back, I think I probably knew a few days before I called the doctor.

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5 Carolyn Cooper January 31, 2010 at 1:59 am

Oh, boy, my eyes filled up reading this. As another mother in your situation, I do understand. Here is how the diabetes drama unfolded in my family:

http://promotinghealthandpatienteducation.blogspot.com/2008/12/type-1-diabetes-and-grief.html

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6 KristinD July 28, 2010 at 6:47 am

we have the opposite..Sarah was 5 and dx on her last day of preschool..she had no symptoms..yet..it was her routine physical, and they asked for a urine sample..then we were asked what she had for breakfast..embarassed, she had coco puffs, her favorite and ovaltine..the same breakfast she’d had for 3 years..we left for a blood test. by the time we got home from preschool we were told she needed a fasting blood test..we did that, went for a pancake breakfast, of which she ate 2 bites..she fell asleep on the way to preschool, and on the way home..then we got the call..and our lives changed..it took me by such surprise because she hadn’t shown any signs.

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7 Leighann July 28, 2010 at 6:59 am

Wow Kristin, what a shocker! But I guess the good thing is that you probably caught it early in the game.

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8 Tonya June 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Wow, as a mom with a newly diagnosed 6 year old, this really touched me. Our story is so similar, and yet so different. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you, so very much.

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9 StacyMitchL July 15, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I am just now reading this post. It is amazing how we all have such similar stories. Thanks for sharing.

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10 kelly August 17, 2011 at 9:35 am

Some how I am just reading this post. I have tears streaming down my face because it takes me back to that same time with my daughter and although she was older at the time of dx, the symptoms, urgent call from the doctor and our reactions were so similar it is well, creepy. I just knew something wasn’t right with her but she looked so “normal”. The fog and rush of emotions we lived in for the following 5 days in Children’s Hospital still haunts me. Not a day goes by that I don’t pray for a cure in their lifetime.

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11 ulric richard August 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

thanks for sharing. As a brother of type 1 and a father of 3 year old type 1, this website helps me to see the best in everything regardless of the challenges. i pray there will be a cure soon.

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12 Stacey February 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Wow…I know it has been a couple of years since you posted this, but I just now discovered your blog and read this post. My son was diagnosed one month before his second birthday. This story is very similar to our own family’s…my intuition was spot on. I knew something wasn’t right, but I kept hoping it could easily be explained away. My son just started preschool two weeks ago, and it has been very very hard for me to let go and let the teachers and nurse take care of him. Today I’m having what we call a “bad diabetes day”. He refused to eat his lunch like four year olds sometimes do, and so I sent him off to school knowing that he would most likely have a low because he skipped lunch. I got a call from the nurse 45 minutes later saying his sugars were 30!!! I just have been feeling so helpless. I can’t force him to eat…it’s just one of those days. I’ve been crying most of the afternoon. After the initial shock of his diagnosis and months of depression, I’m pretty much handling the disease very well. It is just part of life now. It’s been almost three years. But then you have days like today where I have to go in the bathroom and have a good cry so that my boys don’t know something is bothering me. It is a horrible feeling. It is really good to know other moms are having these same issues. It really helps writing about it, and I love knowing that my feelings and experiences can really help moms of newly diagnosed kids. I’ve often thought about starting a blog myself, but find it kind of hard to get started. Thank you for sharing your story.
Stacey

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13 Karen K March 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Thank you for sharing this…it has brought back our fateful diagnosis day, as well as with a flood of tears. Truely, a day we will never forget.

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14 Valerie March 22, 2012 at 4:09 am

So difficult to read everyone’s post. My son was diagnosed 9 months ago, at age 16 and it still feels like yesterday. I watched him for 3 months, knowing something was wrong but could easily explain away almost every symptom to his age.
It is just such an overwhelming diagnosis and it does not matter the age, just different concerns.
My heart goes out to all of us with diabetic children and I continue to pray for a cure or prevention for the future

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15 Ann W March 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Thank you for sharing your story! My daughter was diagnosed 2/12/99 at the age of 6. I was in shock and her dad was in shock! I don’t remember much of the phone conversation past ‘endocrinologist’ and replied “What exactly is that?” She is now thriving in junior college and doing well overall (although don’t we all wish that blood sugars would be ‘a little’ better). Most recently, my 17 year old son was diagnosed 2/5/12 so once again I am shocked! People now ask me “So this runs in your family?” to which I reply “Apparently now it does”……they are the only 2 people in our family with Type 1. I cry, I worry, I laugh and just simply cannot understand why Both of my beautiful children have to deal with this for the rest of their lives. Like the rest of you, I hope and pray for a cure someday and that my children will handle their condition with grace and determination!!

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16 Jo T May 4, 2014 at 7:15 am

On 12 April 2014 I followed my gut and motherly intuition and took my 4 year old son for the relevant tests. He was diagnosed as Type 1 Diabetic and admitted to the hospital. It was a very difficult week of juggling his needs, my husband and my daughter and somewhere at the back of the line were my basic needs. Reading all of your posts has me sitting in tears, but also feeling more normal. Thank you for sharing your stories so that newbies like myself can relate to the feelings – its great not to feel alone.

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17 Leighann May 4, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I’m sorry to hear about your son’s diagnosis. But do know that there are other families out there going through the same thing and who are here to support you. You can do this…and so can your son!
Best,
Leighann

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