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15 November 2006
Our Jennifer was just seven when, nine years ago, she suddenly fell ill from diabetes type 1. It was in summer when our Jenny was examined and diagnosed by our GP. Previous to this, there had been some days when Jenny had suffered from nausea, headache and similar symptoms, but nothing which for us at that time pointed towards diabetes – not even in retrospect. We thought it was summer ’flu or sunstroke. Our GP, who knows our whole family well, very soon suspected diabetes and confirmed this based on an initial urine sample. The decisive factor for his suspicion was certainly that our daughter had the (characteristic) smell of acetone, which we had not noticed, however, although the doctor did. Certainly, he was more aware because one of us two parents (her father) also had diabetes type 1 and was under his care. Even so, we were quite shocked at our daughter’s diagnosis. We had not expected this. At that time our daughter had finished Year 1 and had just learned reading and arithmetic and was now supposed to learn to deal with this illness as independently as possible!
She was first put on insulin in a 14 day hospital stay in a local hospital, which followed immediately after the diagnosis. It is very hard to see a small child being confronted with a needle from one day to the next. In Jenny’s case she knew about this already from seeing it in her father’s case, but to be given injections herself and then to have to learn to inject herself was something rather different.
Jenny received intensive insulin therapy, initially with two sorts of insulin (short term and long term insulin), and later a third sort was included. For us it was altogether astonishing how quickly Jenny was able to inject herself independently. She soon noticed that she could only stay with friends if she was able to inject and test herself. She did both with a very high level of discipline and understanding for her age. The restrictions on her diet were much more difficult for her.
In spite of all our efforts it was clear how complex the illness could be in a growing girl. Growth and all the changes it brings had a continual influence on her diabetes. It is worth mentioning that we had a long lasting and also troublesome problem with the need to inject Jenny again late in the evening – when she had long been asleep – so as to control the increase in the mornings. Every evening it was torture – and not just for Jenny.
Jenny has had an insulin pump for two and a half years now, which has eliminated the problem of the late evening injections, but also the injections which were necessary in the early morning. Anyone who knows how long young people can stay in bed in the mornings at the weekend and in the holidays values this component highly. For our daughter the pump therapy is a great relief and an improvement in her daily life – even if there have been repeated phases when considerable technical difficulties have arisen. The most important thing is that she feels more at ease with the pump and less restricted.
There are still highs and lows in her diabetes readings and some unexplained values. But we all try to react calmly. After all, Jenny will have to live with diabetes for many years to come.