A Father's Story of His Child's Diagnosis

Noelle back on the soccer field 72 hours after being released from the hospital. She scored a goal in first game back to help her team win, 3-0.

| Jun 6, 2007

I'll never forget coaching my oldest child's soccer practice on that cool damp evening in late April. The moment I laid eyes on my ten-year-old daughter as she walked onto the soccer field, I knew that something wasn't right.

I remember watching her run the warm-up lap and thinking that she was probably just a little tired. I never imagined that the hours to follow would change our lives forever.

As practice proceeded, I had one eye focused on the team drills and the other on Noelle, hoping she'd show me something to ease my concerns. Fifteen minutes into practice, I pulled her aside to ask if she felt okay. Her response was odd by normal standards but on a par with the previous few days: She said that she felt all right but needed to go to the bathroom.

Before sending her off to the porta-potty, I told her to stop drinking so much. My wife, Jennifer, and I had been trying to get her to stop from drinking excessively for several days. We were beginning to wonder why she'd become so obsessed with liquid.

As the practice progressed, Noelle began to appear lost, extremely sluggish, and very absent-minded. When her words began to be somewhat slurred, I ended practice a few minutes early to address her condition. I asked again if she felt okay. Her response had the same bathroom theme, but this time added a comment about her ears feeling blocked. Probably getting a cold, I thought.

Upon further discussion, she admitted to going to the school restroom six times during the school day. Something's definitely off, I thought. That's when I jumped on the cell to relay my concerns to Jennifer. A phone call to the pediatrician's office prompted an immediate trip to the emergency room.

Never in a million years could we have been prepared for this emergency room visit. Although Jennifer and I may have known, deep down, what was coming, we were expecting, or maybe subconsciously hoping for, a bladder infection or some weird flu virus.

The diagnosis, when it came, was too matter of fact and too painful - too much like getting struck by lightening. Never in our lives have three words been so heart-stoppingly painful as "Noelle has diabetes."

A river of frightening thoughts and visions instantly flooded our minds. This can't be happening - our daughter is active and healthy. What did we do to her? If we had gotten here two days ago, could we have prevented this? How will Noelle be able to continue being a normal kid? We can't give her shots every day - it'll be too painful for her. Can she keep playing sports? What about her adult life? Will she be able to have children? Does this mean our other two children will suffer from diabetes down the road? And finally, why? Why did this happen to us?

The shock of the blow, along with the multitude of uncertainties, released a lifetime of tears from Jennifer and me that first night. Had it not been for the Baystate Medical Center Pediatric Endocrinology care unit's quick support system, we would've kept feeling sorry for Noelle and ourselves.

Within a few hours, however, the care unit began working with the three of us through education, which began raising our comfort level. The information was presented compassionately, with well-thought-out explanations that were easy for us to understand.

Of course, our family will never be the same. Type 1 diabetes is a life-altering illness. However, our family has learned a lot about each other and the disease that has entered our home. We've learned how to control Noelle's sugar levels with long-acting, medium-acting, and short-acting insulins.

Equally important, the endocrine unit taught us that, with minor manageable modifications, Noelle will lead a normal life. She'll continue playing sports. And, with the exception of controlling her carb intake, she can eat everything she always enjoyed before the diagnosis.

As for Noelle? From her example, Jennifer and I have learned to attack adversity head-on with total conviction. Upon being diagnosed, she never once cried. Not once did she ask the question "why me?" I think she understood what was going on and how it would impact her life before we did.

Within 48 hours, she was administering her own insulin and measuring her blood sugar level. Her strength, amazing in a ten-year-old, both surprised and inspired us. In fact, her attitude has had the biggest impact on easing our worries. Who's supporting whom? We all support each other, and life goes on.

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