I will never forget the date of my son's actual diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, nor the days preceding it. My son, Zack, at the time 15 years old, had just returned from spending Christmas vacation with his dad in Colorado skiing for eight days. Upon his return home, he walked through the door looking pale and thin. In 8 days he had lost 10 pounds! He was a very lean and trim boy and the weight loss was very apparent. I immediately called his dad and he assured me it was just the flu, excessive skiing and the change in altitude. Twenty-four hours later, Zack was complaining of severe stomach pain and had extreme thirst. He became lethargic and the stomach pain continued. This was a boy who was very active at school, after school sports and outside activities. The following day I took him to his pediatrician and, with the symptoms I reported, he immediately did a quick finger prick for sugar levels. It was so high, it didn't even register. After a more detailed test, his sugar level was over 650. We went directly from the doctor's office and Zack was immediately admitted to the hospital. The doctor's diagnosis was Type I Diabetes. That was the day that changed our lives, Friday, January 13, 2006, truly a Friday the 13th.
Yes, I had heard of diabetes but knew very little about it. What a life changing event for not only Zack but for the entire family. Within the next 48 hours in the hospital, we had counseling on the disease, education on nutrition, nurses showing us how to test sugars, when to test, what to eat, what not to eat, how his involvement in sports would affect his sugar levels and insulin needs. I grabbed a note pad and began writing like a wild woman. My one note pad turned in to several. I could not get enough information or knowledge. I joined a local support group and JDRF.
My son is a very bright, focused young man. He immediately went to the internet and found out as much as he possibly could, understanding it and digesting it even more so than me. We were referred to a local endocrinologist who met with us on a regular basis for the next six months and was in awe at how much knowledge Zack had. During one of our visits, Zack inquired about the insulin pump. His doctor said typically insurance would not approve the purchase of the pump until after he was through the honeymoon phase, usually 1 to 2 years. However, Zack was determined and his doctor knowing of his desire and how capable he was, agreed. She made the appointment with the pump vendor in her office. Zack and I sat in the office and watched this vendor struggle with the pump, actually reading from the instruction book trying to figure out how to calibrate and program the pump, but to no avail. Needless to say Zack had done his homework and researched the pump and knew the ins and outs. He took the pump and actually showed her how to use it, set the alarms and set the carbs to units setting. I was so proud of him and the vendor was very impressed, yet embarrassed as well.
Since that diagnosis six years ago, Zack has now also been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. In addition to his insulin pump, he now has a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor). His A1C levels are great and he seems to manage both diseases with great skill.
Currently Zack is in his first year of dental school at the University of Iowa School of Dentistry, being able to skip his senior year of college due to his excellent grades and entrance exam score. He has been a speaker at some of the JDRF functions, participates in their fundraising events and walks annually. Needless to say, he is thriving, hoping for a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research! Let's all walk for Zack and all the others that suffer from Type 1 diabetes that lasts a lifetime.