Monday, October 1, 2018

Cause of Death: Type 1 Diabetes

While Type 1 Diabetes is never directly listed as a cause of death (it’s usually complications of Type 1 which I’ll get into), it may as well be. Because if Type 1 didn’t exist, if it didn’t make its way into innocent bodies, then these deaths wouldn’t be a thing.

If I’m ever going to get angry at Type 1 Diabetes, this article is the time.

I’ll do a quick overview for those unfamiliar with this disease. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly attacks the beta cells in the pancreas. Well, those make insulin, and insulin is needed to live.

Technically, no one should die of Type 1. Before 1921, this disease was a death sentence. When someone was diagnosed, they were weeks or even days to live. This is because they went into DKA. What is DKA? DKA stands for Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which is when there's a large amount of acid in the blood, called ketones. This happens when your body doesn't have enough insulin, so it starts breaking down the fat as fuel. It is FATAL. All of that changed in 1921 when insulin was discovered by Banting and Best. People could live and thrive with this disease.

2018. It is the year 2018 and people are still dying. Young people who had their whole lives ahead of them.

There are many different reasons for the loss of these lives. Some of them, were so painfully preventable.

So many missed diagnoses, when a simple finger prick at the doctor could have revealed the illness that was screaming in their bodies. ALL DOCTORS SHOULD DO SCREENINGS FOR TYPE 1 USING FINGER PRICKS. It is so simple, so easy, and early detection can save so many lives.

One case of this has stayed with me and remained close to my heart, and with the permission of her parents, I’m going to share her story with you. Kycie Jai Terry. One Sunday Kycie complained of a headache. Not getting any better, on Wednesday she went to her doctor and was diagnosed with Strep Throat as the cause of all this. But even then, her condition didn’t improve. She kept throwing up and losing weight. So on that Friday in the January of 2015, her parents took her to the ER. Type 1 Diabetes. The whole time it was Type 1 Diabetes. Not Strep throat. She was life flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital as her condition continued to deteriorate and she started seizing. They thought she fell into a diabetic coma, and waited for her to wake up. Only they found that her brain had herniated. She had a traumatic brain injury, and her life would never be the same. But she was a little fighter, beating so many odds. She fought, with her loving parents alongside her, even though she only opened her eyes for short periods of time and made little movements. Once a perky little girl, now unable to talk, walk, or eat.  On July 11th, after developing pneumonia, Kycie passed in her parents’ arms.

Beyond Type 1 has worked hard to get their DKA awareness posters in pediatricians’ offices around the world. Type 1 is so commonly mistaken for a simple virus, a stomach flu, a UTI, or even just a child acting out. And sometimes, this misdiagnosis is fatal. When, again, a single finger prick at the doctors’ office could have changed everything.
Diabetes can have a mind of its own and lives are also lost for unfair reasons that couldn’t have been prevented. Examples include becoming hyperglycemic, or hypoglycemic due to various things like acute illnesses, dosing miscalculations, etc. And long term complications of this disease like kidney failure or heart disease. This is why we continue to fight for a cure.

In the meantime, we need to do everything we can to prevent as many losses to Type 1 as we can. It’s so easy to feel lost in this huge world when things can go so wrong. But you’re not helpless, you can make a difference.

How can you help?

1- You can try to get Beyond Type 1’s DKA Awareness posters up in your local doctors offices.

2- You can spread the word about the early symptoms of Type 1, and maybe you’ll help a family catch it before it’s too late.

3- Visit and ‘like’ Test One Drop’s Facebook page, where resources are constantly shared, and so is news related to this topic.

4- If you know someone who has lost a loved one to Type 1 Diabetes, let them know about Beyond Type 1's program Jesse Was Here.  This is a program to connect parents who have lost their children to Type 1, where they can find support.

5- If YOU notice the warning signs in someone, SPEAK UP! Advise them or their parents to ask for a finger prick at the doctors.

A full list of potential warning signs:
Excessive Thirst
Frequent Urination
Rapid Weight Loss
Increased Appetite
Stomachache, Nausea, and Vomiting 
Dry Mouth
Bedwetting or Heavy Diaper
Blurry Vision
Irritability and Mood Changes
Fruity Breath
Heavy Breathing
Itchy Skin
Slow Wound Healing
Rapid Heartrate
Recurrent Infections

For now, let’s take a moment to honour and remember some of the lives taken by T1D, and do them some sort of justice by doing what we can to prevent more passings.

In memoriam.

From left to right:

Jesse Alswager (13), Kycie Jai Terry (5), Sophia Daugherty (10)

Arya Greenlee (3), Natasha Horne (20), Michael Cohen (25)

Will Hauver (22), Alex DePriest (17), London Layton (15)

From left to right:

Drew Turville (11), Angela Elizabeth Robinson (11), Kedrick “Santana” Callaway (13)

David Brown II (4), Morgan Angerbauer (20), Marquis House (19)

Addie Parker (4)


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