Having mixed emotions is natural when it comes to sending any child to summer camp. For parents of kids with diabetes, extra angst comes with letting them go for the first time.
"I've had a really hard time dealing with Ally being away at diabetes camp," says Misty First of Cincinnati. "I've never gone this long without knowing what her blood-sugar numbers are."
While First, a mother of three, was worrying "every three minutes" while her 8-year-old daughter was having a blast, she took time out to share her ordeal with Parent to Parent. She also has a blog at www.boxofchocolatesblog.com.
Ally was diagnosed in February 2009. Since then, First has been on a mission to get the word out on the warning signs of Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition that affects how the body uses glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood. Daily insulin injections or an insulin pump are necessary to control blood-glucose levels.
At the first medical check-in at the camp in Ohio, mom is reassured about how food will be served, how carbs will be counted, how blood-sugar levels are checked at meals and at midnight, again at 2 a.m. and then again at 4 a.m. if necessary.
Even though First had concerns about sending Ally to diabetes camp for a week, she says she knew her child was in good hands and that she thrived being with others who face similar health challenges.
Ally's symptoms before she was diagnosed: Extreme thirst and frequent urination. The child was so tired she did not have enough energy to speak above a whisper or hold her head up, her mom recalls.
"I feel so strongly about educating people about the warning signs of Type 1 diabetes because I did not know. Before Ally's diagnosis, I knew of diabetes, but all of my prior dealings with diabetes had been with Type 2. Honestly, I did not really understand that there were two types of diabetes.
"I thought diabetes was something that people got when they were much older. I had heard many times about increasing obesity in America and higher risks of diabetes because of it. I never imagined that my active 5 1/2 -year-old could develop diabetes. I thought that she was coming down with the flu or something. The symptoms can look like so many other illnesses and I kept second-guessing myself. I'm thankful that my instincts guided me to get help that day. I'm thankful that our pediatrician recognized these signs and directed us immediately to the nearest children's hospital."
Since Ally's diagnosis, First says she has talked to many other families who almost missed their child's diagnosis.
"As a parent, you don't want to overreact and you generally trust your doctors," the mother says. "I hope to be able to share these warning signs of Type 1 diabetes far and wide, so that not one more child will ever go undiagnosed."
The Mayo Clinic website at www.mayoclinic.org says Type 1 diabetes signs and symptoms can come on quickly and may include:
*Increased thirst and frequent urination. As excess sugar builds up in your bloodstream, fluid is pulled from your tissues. This may leave you thirsty. You may drink -- and urinate -- more than usual.
*Extreme hunger. Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy. This triggers intense hunger that may persist even after you eat.
*Weight loss. Despite eating more than usual to relieve hunger, you may lose weight -- sometimes rapidly.
*Fatigue. If your cells are deprived of sugar, you may become tired and irritable.
*Consult your health-care provider if you've noticed any symptoms.
For more information, go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation website at www.jdrf.org, or the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org.
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