This year's theme of National Diabetes Week is "It's About Time" - to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and early treatment for all types of diabetes.
It’s common for many children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to end up seriously ill in the Emergency Department before they are diagnosed.
Max has a different story. His mother Melissa knew the signs and Max was diagnosed and on treatment before he developed any dangerous complications such as Ketoacidosis.*
Max is now 15 years old and an excellent student and athlete, but six years ago life seemed very different.
Max’s mother Melissa had just picked him up from a sleep over when the other mother remarked on how thirsty Max had been during the stay.
“It raised a red flag for me because my brother had recently been diagnosed at 39 with type 1 diabetes, and my best friend’s daughter had been diagnosed the year before,” says Melissa.
Still, Max seemed fine and he headed off for touch football with his dad. Melissa mentioned the comment to her husband and asked him to keep an eye on how much he was drinking.
Before the match had even started Max had chugged 2 litres of water.
Melissa had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant and still had the glucometer in a cupboard.
“When they got back from touch I did a finger prick test and the reading went straight to ‘HI’.
When I saw it all I could think was crap - he’s got diabetes!” remembers Melissa.
Melissa rang her friend whose daughter had recently been diagnosed and told her about his thirst and high blood sugar readings. They were patients of Dr Harte’s and had recently changed to a pump for diabetes management.”
“She said ‘go to hospital….. and make sure you get a pump.’”
Melissa took Max to Pindara Emergency and informed the somewhat bemused doctor that her son had just developed type 1 diabetes and she didn’t want to leave without a pump.
Max was officially diagnosed at 11am and had a pump by 1pm that day.
“At the time life felt frantic with four boys, especially because our one year old was born with congenital glaucoma and needed surgery and frequent visits to specialists in Brisbane. I just knew we had to make sure we had the best treatment and the best system that would work for Max,” says Melissa.
Melissa says the diagnosis of diabetes takes some getting used to. At first the information overload can be overwhelming, and life can seem complicated. But as time passes, it does get easier.
Melissa felt for nine-year-old Max as he came to terms with the changes.
“It felt like his childhood innocence was over. He had to grow up overnight and understand what was a pretty serious health condition. No more of his beloved sleep overs with friends, at least for a while,” says Melissa.
Since then Melissa and Max have learnt that diabetes “has to fit in with Max’s life, rather than being his life”.
“Lucky for us Max at 15 is very responsible with his diabetes. He knows he has to keep his blood glucose level below seven for optimal performance so he can achieve at school and sport. His HBA1C is in the 6’s and hopefully this will lead to a life without diabetic complications down the track.”
“He is a competitive athlete so he manages his pump for training and to prepare for races and games.
“He is very disciplined and responsible – not because we made him that way, but lucky for us, that is just the way he is,” says Melissa.
* Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a serious condition associated very high blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetes. It develops gradually over hours or days and leads to accumulation of dangerous chemical substances in the blood and urine called ketones.
This is a serious medical emergency and can be life threatening if not treated properly. If these symptoms are present, contact your doctor or go to hospital immediately.