I’ll never forget the night that my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was the most frightening thing I have ever experienced and for a while I was really scared, and I mean really terrified that I was going to lose him.

It all came from nowhere, totally out of the blue. There is no history of Diabetes in our family and I certainly had no idea of the symptoms of even what Diabetes actually involved. One thing is for certain, we have all been on a massive learning curve over the past few months.

Late one Tuesday, I picked my son up from rugby training and he looked pale and was very quiet. He’d been knocked in a tackle and his coach was concerned enough to text me later on that evening to make sure he was OK.

Which he was. He wasn’t feeling too crash hot that evening, but neither was my other son, and there had been a 24 hour bug doing the rounds. My son had also lost 4kg in the ten days prior to this, but I hadn’t been overly concerned as he’d been training a lot and he had never liked to eat lots when he was training/playing late.

Both sons had the following day off school, but my youngest bounced back quickly whereas my eldest son continued to deteriorate. He wasn’t feeling great, didn’t want to eat much and was vomiting a couple of times a day. But he wasn’t dreadfully ill so we plodded along. He was still losing weight and I desperately tried to make him eat – coke, donuts, ice blocks. I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted him to eat as my Mum and I were starting to think he could be turning anorexic.

By Saturday morning, things were going downhill fast. He had lost 5kg since Tuesday (so 9kg in total – and he certainly didn’t have fat to lose), had a sore back, was still vomiting a couple of times a day and was in pain. He was also drinking a lot of water. I made a Doctor’s appointment and by the time we arrived there, my son was in pretty bad shape, and had drunk 6 litres of water in the couple of hours prior.

Our Doctor checked him over, at first he was concerned about Appendicitis but the pain was in his back, and we were sent home to ‘ride it out over the weekend’ and told to return on Monday if he wasn’t feeling any better. The Doctor was sure it was the bug that everyone else seemed to have at the time.

Things still continued to deteriorate. The thirst and going to the bathroom became relentless, he couldn’t eat and he was slowly becoming dis-orientated and delirious.

By 9.30pm we were starting to think about going to bed and I just didn’t feel comfortable letting him go to sleep. My gut instinct told me that something was drastically wrong; I had no idea what but something just didn’t feel right.

I rang our local hospital to see what they suggested and told them exactly what was happening but that we had seen our Doctor a few hours prior.

“We’ll send you an ambulance” said the Nurse.

“No, that’s fine… I’ll drive him.” I was starting to panic – why did we need an ambulance?

The ambulance and two paramedics arrived within ten minutes and when we relayed the symptoms they immediately thought it was Type 1 Diabetes. Apparently, the ketosis gives the breath a very distinctive smell which was also present, and they picked up immediately. At this stage, my son was saying things that did not make sense and he looked dreadfully sick. They told me that if they had arrived ten minutes later he would have been comatose.

So the longest night of my life commenced. My son was rushed to our local hospital and spent the night in ‘Resuscitation’ while they tried to stabilise him, and bring down his blood sugar levels. Thankfully, my parents were there to support me, and we watched helplessly whilst the medical staff did everything they could to stabilise him.

At 5.00am he was transferred to the ICU in Brisbane Children’s Hospital, as they advised us that they couldn’t look after him locally – he was just too sick!! I went home to get my car and a few clothes before following the ambuland down, and by the time I arrived in Brisbane my son was hooked up to four drips, lying in a private room in ICU.

For the next 48 hours he had constant care, while they slowly stabilised his blood sugar levels and introduced insulin to bring to bring him back to ‘normal’. He was monitored continuously by a Nurse, non-stop 24 hours a day, and they did an outstanding job of looking after him.

We spent a week in hospital. When his levels were brought back to ‘normal’ he was transferred out of ICU but then had to undergo an education process before we could return home. The education was spread out over 2 – 3 days and was a crash course that taught us how to manage Diabetes and how to administer insulin and monitor blood sugar levels and ketones. There was a lot to learn!

There is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes. My son now faces a lifetime of four insulin needles per day, although we are already looking into a pump to make this easier. He is doing fantastically and it has been a huge learning curve for all of us, but especially for him. He never complains and is managing the constant finger pricks, carb counting and insulin injections himself – he is truly amazing.

Without any shadow of a doubt, it was the worst night of my life – and I’m sure for him too – but we are not going to let his diagnosis beat us. We are simply not that type of people, and we are now dedicated to living a normal life and managing as best we can.

It’s all about attitude, and I am a firm believer in making the best of every day and not letting this setback affect my son’s bright future. He is one ‘bright spark’ who has an awesome outlook and attitude to life and deserves the best life has to offer, and that is the path we are taking.

 * For more information on Juvenile Diabetes, visit www.jdrf.org.au *