Diagnosis – the first injection

After being told Amy had type 1 diabetes we were given some time to be together before one of the wonderful DSNs came back to enquire whether Amy was hungry as it was now dinner time. She was hungry, as she had been for the last couple of weeks.

Her dinner order was taken and it surprised me that she was immediately offered what we call ‘weekday food’ or more to the point ‘crappy food’, consisting of things like Smilies, which most 10 year olds like Amy adore. Of course I had the common misinformed opinion that type 1’s couldn’t eat certain foods and I guessed ‘crappy food’ fitted that bill.

We were transferred to the room which was to become Amy and Jane’s room for the night and a second DSN came in, saying that dinner would be ready soon and Amy needed insulin. It was all handled very, very well, with calmness, control and bucket loads of support from the DSNs. I really liked how everyone focused on talking to Amy, not the parents; it made complete sense but I’d rarely witnessed this before.

Then the horrible question came from the DSN: “Amy, who would you like to do your injection?”. I shuffled forward in my chair expecting to do it – remembering Amy’s fear of needles and Jane’s fear of blood – before I was stunned by Amy’s response.

“If I’m going to have to do this for the rest of my life I might as well start now.”

Waves of amazement preceded waves of pride which preceded waves of tears.

It was quite a slow process but she did it. I was so proud.

Diagnosis – a diabetic 10 year old’s viewpoint

Feeling poorly

I had been off school sick in early December, away from my friends who I missed. But it was only a horrible cold and I was sick once or twice. It was nothing to worry about, soon I’d be okay and back at school again.

I’ve always been pretty rubbish at knowing when I needed to go to the toilet but it was getting worse. I was getting really, really, really thirsty and ended up downing pints of water to try and quench my thirst but nothing seemed to work. The more I drank the more I went to the toilet and I remember noticing that there was no colour at all to my wee. But I don’t remember this happening at school at all, which is strange seeing that I was there for two weeks after I was ill and the Doctors say that the early December illness probably caused the problem with my pancreas. Perhaps there’s a delay.

We broke up from school for the Christmas break. I love Christmas because I get to have fun decorating the Christmas tree and seeing all of my family and I’ve got lots of them to see. I love the celebrations, the family ones and the chocolate ones. We’re allowed to stay up later, things are more relaxed, we can snack on chocolates if meals are a little later than normal. When I wanted a drink I’d get it myself, I’d even have my favourite Fanta if there was some in the fridge. It was great.

After Christmas I went shopping with Mummy and before I went out I remember saying “can I take a bottle of water with me” and Mummy said “don’t bother we won’t be that long”. But I did need it, I knew I’d need it and I was right. Why didn’t she listen to me? We’d only been at the shops 5 minutes and I needed the toilet so I went into McDonalds and used theirs. After coming out I complained I was thirsty and asked “can I have a drink”. Mummy said “but then you’ll need the toilet again”. I didn’t get that drink.

We went into Iceland and I saw a pack of fruit juice and pleaded for them. “No”. “No”. “Alright then if you’re really that thirsty”. I opened it immediately after we’d paid for it and drank it. Then I asked for another. I didn’t get it.

At the Doctor’s Surgery

The next morning Mummy woke me up and told me I had to go to the Doctor’s at 10am. At the Doctor’s Mummy explained about the drinking and toilet visits. He pricked my finger and took some blood which he tested but he didn’t really say anything. There was lots of words, I didn’t understand any of them but I didn’t think it was serious as Doctors just give you medicine which you take for a while and then you’re better.

I heard the word ‘diabetes’. I think that’s the first time I heard the word directed at me. I thought about my Grandad who I knew had diabetes and I knew it just meant that he couldn’t quite eat as much cake as he’d like to. I didn’t know there were different types. The Doctor said he’d phone the hospital and they’d call us if needed.

After the Doctors I went to one of my friends to tell her that I might not be able to come to her party and I gave her the present I’d bought her. When I got back Daddy told me that I had to go to the hospital at 3pm.

At the Hospital

It was only the second time I’d been to Winchester hospital. I don’t remember the first time as I was only 1 second old – I was born there.

I wasn’t worried at all. Hospitals didn’t worry me.

Sophie’s Place seemed really friendly and so did the people. They measured my height and weight and sat me down in the childrens’ in-patients area where they took my blood pressure. It still didn’t seem very serious and I felt quite calm.

We went into a room and a nurse came to see us. She said she was very sorry but I had diabetes and I would need to take something called insulin. I didn’t know what it meant but it didn’t seem very serious. She asked if I had any questions.

“Will I have this for the rest of my life?”.

“Yes, I’m afraid you will”.

I started thinking that this might be serious. I felt gutted, worse than gutted, the rest of my life! I remember looking at Daddy who looked really sad.

They told me they needed to take some blood and then left. They seemed to be gone for ages. I started crying with fear of the needle. They put something called a canula in my arm but before that they put on some cooling spray which really hurt. The canula didn’t hurt as much.

My First Injection

It was dinner time. The nurse told me I needed to have some insulin and we all did some practice injections on a stuffed case. Then she asked me who I wanted to do the injection.

“Me”.

I said this because I was scared that if Mummy or Daddy did it and it hurt then I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. The nurse had said that the pencil case would be tougher to pierce than my skin and I was worried that Mummy or Daddy would do the injection too hard and it would hurt me. If I did it, I’d be in control and I could do it as softly as I could.

It didn’t take me very long to do the injection. I didn’t hesitate even though I didn’t know how much it would hurt me. I just wanted to get it over and done with.

I didn’t have any pyjamas, I wanted my teddies and Mummy didn’t have any food so Emilia and Daddy went home and to the shops.

They gave me my dinner, there were six Smilies and loads of other stuff. At home I only ever get 3 Smilies. I’d always wanted to stay overnight in hospital but not this way, but 6 Smilies! Hospital didn’t seem so bad.

Nanny and Grandad came over to look after Emilia and Daddy returned with some food for Mummy and some new pyjamas for me which Emilia had chosen. Soon it was time for bed and Daddy left. Afterwards I cuddled Mummy and cried, a lot.

Mummy and I settled down to sleep a little before they woke me up, as they said they would, at 2:30am so I could do another blood glucose test. We went back to sleep.

Diagnosis – a Mother’s viewpoint

On the 29th December 2010 Amy’s carefree childhood ended. I had no idea how a couple of days in late December would change our daughter Amy’s life forever and that of our family.

Amy and I were looking forward to a girlie shopping trip to Eastleigh on the 28th December to spend some of her Christmas money while her sister Emilia and her Dad went to watch footy.

But it all went wrong.

I reminded Amy to visit the toilet before we left (as she was quite often caught short) and she had a drink. We set off but within minutes Amy was saying she was thirsty and I remember being annoyed as she had already had a drink, so I dismissed her plea, not knowing this was a classic symptom of type 1 diabetes. As soon as we got there Amy then said she needed the loo, I couldn’t believe it, she’d only just been at home, how could she possibly need to go again? Little did I know this is another sign of diabetes. We dashed into McDonalds and I remember Amy had gone a very grey colour, unlike her.

Now when I look back I feel guilty that I was mean to her when none of it was her fault.

I decided to abandon our shopping as Amy wasn’t in the mood. She was still complaining of thirst and I was astounded when she downed a whole fruit juice in one go as Amy had never really drank vast quantities before. As soon as we got home Amy started drinking pint after pint of squash, interspersed with incessant trips to the loo.

Alarm bells were going off in my head.

I remembered a conversation I’d had with my best friend about her aunt who is diabetic but I pushed that diagnosis to the back of my mind, it wasn’t going to happen to my child. Instead I assumed it was a bad urine infection and knew I would contact the doctor in the morning.

The next morning I woke early and got an appointment for 10 o’clock.

I was still calm at this point. I recall the doctor testing her urine which had ketones in it (not that I knew what they were) then he wanted to do a fingerprick test. He produced a new glucose meter to test Amy’s blood – little did we know this machine would be so vital to Amy’s health for years to come. I was still in denial at this point as the doctor mentioned it could be diabetes and we would have to go to hospital to have another test. Niaively I asked him if we could postpone it so Amy could go to her friend’s party that afternoon. (I cringe when I think about it now.) The doctor promised he would ask the hospital, so Amy and I visited her friend to deliver her present in case she didn’t make the party.

By the time we returned, the doctor had already phoned to say we must go to the hospital at 3p.m. I still didn’t understand the significance of this. I suggested to Amy she wore a party top as although she’d miss the cinema, she might be back in time to go for the meal. How stupid was I?

As we arrived at Winchester hospital I remembered feeling very surreal, was this really happening? We entered the ward through Sophie’s Place, a waiting area for families set up by Sophie’s Appeal. I had had the pleasure of teaching little Sophie who sadly died, aged 6, after a brave fight. Seeing her smiling face on the wall was a lifesaver for me as it helped me put Amy’s condition into perspective. Diabetes was terrible but she was not going to die from it like poor Sophie. This one thought helped me to get through the traumatic hours that lay ahead.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur as the news sank in. The staff were fantastic. I remember going into a sideroom with the diabetic nurse, after Amy had another urine and
finger prick test, to be told she had Type 1 Diabetes. Kev and Emilia broke down into tears but Amy who was sat on my lap, kept asking ”Does that mean it’s forever?” as she couldn’t quite comprehend it all. I was numb but kept thinking she’s not going to die.

The nurses found her some left over Xmas presents to make up for the fact that she had missed her party but that seemed a lifetime ago. The really harrowing ordeal for me was when they put a canula in her hand to take blood. She was probably dehydrated which would have made it more difficult. Amy went berserk, she hated needles, she still does. At this point we were all in tears including the diabetic nurse.

The next hurdle was dinner as Amy had to inject before eating. Somehow this didn’t upset her as much as I thought it would, I guess the canula had been far worse. I remember Amy practising with the DSN on a cushion then I was so proud of her when she injected in her leg for the first time.

Amy devoured her nuggets and Smilies, she was starving! I then realised I was famished too. Kev and Emilia left to get Amy and me some overnight things. We were so totally unprepared, I had no idea we would spend the night in hospital. Luckily Kev also brought back some food for me, which I devoured, I was so hungry.

Amy and I were lucky enough to get a side room which was a godsend. Neither of us got much sleep. When everyone else had gone Amy sobbed ”Is this really for life Mummy?”.What an awful question to answer. Needless to say she cried herself to sleep.

Diagnosis – a Father’s viewpoint

Whenever I think back to Amy’s diagnosis there’s a part of me which harbours a nagging doubt about whether a particular event played any part in the start of the autoimmune destruction of Amy’s pancreas. I know what the doctor’s say, that it just happens and you can’t do anything to stop it, but surely they’re wrong: if a person doesn’t get ill in the first place the autoimmune system won’t attack the pancreas. I guess we’ll never actually know until they pinpoint exactly the cause of type 1 diabetes.

Amy had been ill with the usual cold/man-flu/call-it-what-you-will which afflicts most people as soon as kids go back to school, the days get colder and the heating gets switched on. I had tickets for her and me to go and see her first ever gig, the dance act Pendulum at the BIC in Bournemouth on the 7th December 2010. During the week before with Amy still suffering we debated on whether or not she should go but I put my foot down and insisted it was only a cold. If you’ve never been to a Pendulum gig watch this and you’ll understand just how hot you get – by the end of the evening we were completely soaked (I know, euw!). It was a late night out for Amy so to help her stay awake we bought and consumed lots of her favourite orange fizzy drink. It was full on sugar. She was still quite poorly a few days later.

Back to the diagnosis story.

On the 28th December 2010 Emilia and I went to see Southampton FC demolish Huddersfield 4-1 and returned in bouyant mood to hear about Jane and Amy’s shopping trip and the impending visit to the Doctor. Diabetes was briefly discussed and a quick Google confirmed what I already knew, that if Amy had diabetes it was type 1 and that meant injections for my little girl who has a fear of needles. I was devastated at that possibility.

The next day Jane and Amy went to the doctors – read the Diagnosis post – whilst Emilia and I stayed at home. When Amy went to see her friend about the party Emilia and I stayed at home and that’s when the phone rang.

I took the call which said we needed to go to the hospital that afternoon, at 3pm. Emilia had stuff to do and didn’t want to come to something that was a routine appointment so I (somewhat harshly) told her the reality of what the visit was likely to mean and the daily injections which Amy would have to endure. You don’t get a call back so quickly if everything’s okay.

During lunch I watched Jane, she seemed so calm, I couldn’t understand how. We left for the hospital, totally unprepared for an overnight stay, they could have warned us.

In the consultation room we all sat down as the DSN spoke to us. I could see it in her eyes already, clearly breaking news like this didn’t come any easier through repetition, and I just waited for the words ‘type 1 diabetes’. I looked at Amy and Jane and there wasn’t much of a reaction; Emilia, like myself, looked full of tears, as did the DSN.

The next hour or two was a blur. I’ve no recollection of what happened next.

It was dinner time and Amy needed to inject insulin, or bolus as it’s really called, and she opted to do it herself. I was so proud, she was only 10.

Emilia and I left to go and get some pyjamas for Amy which meant a trip back home. We knew that the local Marks and Spencer’s would be open so we decided to buy Amy some next pyjamas as a treat. After some food and back at the hospital and Amy seemed okay but had clearly shed a few tears. I gave some food to Jane, spent some time cuddling and talking and left my little girl and her Mum to spend the night in hospital.

Diagnosis – 29th December 2010

Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on the 29th December 2010, aged 10. It was an open and shut case, no possibility of it being anything else.

When I look back now I can see that she displayed many, if not all, of the classic signs of someone with type 1 diabetes. Of course, back then we didn’t what they were or what to look for.


STOP (for a moment): Do you know the classic signs of someone with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes? If not, please take some time to view this excellent video by Diabetes UK and JDRF.


The day before, Amy and Jane had gone shopping but just before going Amy drank a lot of water. In the shopping centre she needed the toilet, then said she was very thirsty, she was trapped in a circle of constant drinking and urinating, a first circle of blue. A classic sign; we didn’t know.

Clearly something wasn’t right.

Jane had previously spoken with one of our good friends who mentioned the possibility of diabetes but it wasn’t until Amy started drinking pints of water that Jane recalled the conversation. The appointment was booked for the 29th at 10am, a few hours before Amy was due to go to her best friend’s birthday party.

Our doctor didn’t need time to ponder the options and after testing for ketones and her blood glucose level he called the hospital quickly, saying that they’d call us if we needed to go in, but he’d see if any visit could be postponed until the 30th so Amy could attend the party. Afterwards, Jane and Amy went to visit the birthday girl just to let her know that she might come, she might not.

A few minutes later that bloody phone rang. My heart sank.

At the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester hospital we went into Sophie’s Place, an area created by the charity Sophie’s Appeal in memory of little Sophie Barringer who lost her life to Wilm’s Disease in December 2004, aged six. Jane was her teacher.

A nurse did another few tests and discussed some personal history, asked about Amy’s symptoms and checked her blood glucose again. We were led into a consultation room by the DSN (diabetes specialist nurse) who started chatting with us, but at the time I felt like it was small talk, just some calm before the storm.

Then a word we didn’t want to hear was spoken, it started with ‘D’, it ended with tears.

Amy didn’t know what it really meant. Jane didn’t know what it really meant. I glanced at Emilia, we both knew exactly what it meant. I glanced at the DSN, her eyes were watering.