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  • T1Y1: Type 1 Diabetes Year One. This is what my 15 month old son is referred to at the hospital we now frequent at minimum every three months. At the ripe bold age of 14.5 months, Liam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Parents of children like Liam, who are diagnosed so young, typically find out their child has diabetes once their child is already in crisis. That is how we found out Liam was diabetic.

    For a few weeks, Liam seemed aggressively thirsty and started peeing more than usual, soaking through his pajamas at night. A friend of mine from college was type 1 and I had never forgotten his description of his own onset, and because of that I started questioning whether Liam had diabetes. People thought I was crazy. We had no family history on either side and it was ludicrous to think a healthy, organic eating, breast fed baby could possibly have something like diabetes. I still couldn't shake the feeling I had.

    Liam began to get sick from what we thought was a bad cold; I was sick myself so it made sense. When he became incredibly lethargic I took him to his pediatrician who ignored my suggestion of diabetes and instead diagnosed him with Strep and sent us home on antibiotics. That night, as he grew sicker, our pediatrician assured us that this was typical of Strep on a small body. The next morning, as his breathing became labored and all he wanted to do was sleep, my husband and I knew we had to take him to the ER.

    Nothing prepares you for watching your baby struggle to live. As nurses attempted to get needle after needle into my completely dehydrated baby, my husband and I watched on completely helpless. It was the worst feeling in the world. Liam was in DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition. His body was struggling to remove the excess sugar in his blood. His PH level was 6.9, a level the body can only sustain for a short period of time. Had we not taken him to the hospital when we did, I have a hard time thinking about what could have happened to him.

    Nothing prepares you for a life changing diagnosis. I will never forget the moment the ER doctor uttered the words "onset diabetic". Those words crushed me like a ton of bricks. The doctors told us we needed to be transported in an ambulance to a hospital better suited to care for Liam, and only one parent could go. I rode in the ambulance next to Liam, who was hooked up to a machine to deliver fluids and insulin, and held his tiny hand while he went in and out of consciousness. We arrived at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, an institution we are incredibly lucky to live near. They brought us to the PICU and I held Liam throughout that very long first night in the hospital. Every hour on the dot, the nurses came in to finger prick him and draw labs. They wouldn't let me nurse him and that is all he wanted to do. It was by far, the hardest night of my life. I slept for maybe 45 minutes that night, unable to sleep with him laying on me and nurses waking him to check his blood glucose level so frequently.

    In the morning his levels started to get better and by that afternoon they moved us to the Endocrine floor where we would spend the next three days learning how to keep Liam alive. My husband and I learned how to draw blood to test for glucose levels and how to inject him with insulin. We learned how to determine how much insulin he needs based on his glucose level and carbohydrates consumed. We learned what could happen to him if his blood sugar dropped too low--our first class we were introduced to a syringe we would need to give him to avoid him going into a coma if his blood sugar was too low. We learned how to treat high blood sugar. We became experts on type 1 diabetes in a matter of days.

    As a life long optimist I have struggled to find the silver lining in all of this. I grieved for Liam, sad that he will one day have to think about everything he eats, counting carbs and dosing himself for them. I mourn the loss of being able to give him sweets without a second thought. Now I really need to think, if I give him this cookie, how much insulin will I need to inject into his little body. It sucks. Plain and simple.

    As I have thought long and hard about his diagnosis I have started to realize a few things. This is just part of Liam's story. He is a brilliant little boy with unmeasurable potential. He has two loving parents who nurture him and provide everything he could ever need. He is constantly surrounded by family who adore him and shower him with love. He has an extended family in our friends and colleagues who have shown us support in so many ways. Liam is lucky.

    Liam will never know a life other than this. While having onset diabetes at his age is very uncommon, he's fortunate to not be older and used to a different lifestyle. He will never remember being as sick as he was. He will never remember a life before diabetes. Maybe that's a little sad, but I think I'd rather grow up with a condition as opposed to developing one when I've already become set in my ways.

    As we walked through the Children's hospital yesterday, we saw so many sick children. Children who will never have a normal life. They are really sick. Liam is not sick. Liam has some extra needs but he has the potential to live any life he chooses despite his condition. My brother said if you had to pick one chronic condition to have, diabetes would be his pick. He's right. Liam will probably live longer than most because he will have to go to the doctor every 3 months and will pay close attention to what he eats. He will be healthier than all of us.

    I will end on this final note. What I am most impressed by is Liam's resiliency. He now allows us to finger prick him without flinching. Many times we can give him shots without him freaking out. He continues to make anyone he meets smile ear to ear with his glowing personality. He is so incredibly outgoing, talking to anyone who will pay attention. He makes people happy. I could not be more proud to be his mother. I watch him interact with strangers and friends alike, overwhelmed with pride.
    He is beautiful.
    He is perfect.
    Diabetes will not define him.
    Diabetes will not define us.
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