It was the first week of the school summer holidays in 2009. Francesca was 6 years old. She had been feeling (what we thought was) under the weather for a couple of weeks. She was very tired but it was the end of the school year and she had been very busy with various things, so we put it down to that. She was also drinking vast amounts and going to the toilet a lot, which didn’t seem surprising, given the amount she was drinking
One morning, she woke up considerably worse so my wife took her to the doctor with a written list of symptoms so she didn’t forget any. The doctor didn’t seem unduly concerned and told her to take Francesca to the hospital for a blood test. It was too late to take her that day and we had no idea how urgent it was, otherwise we would have taken her to A&E. We took her to the hospital the next morning for the blood test. Francesca was so weak by then that I had to carry her from the car to the phlebotomy department. The nurses struggled to get blood from her and seemed very worried. I thought for a moment that they would fetch a doctor or take us to A&E. In the event, they took her sample through for analysis immediately. Less than an hour later, after I had gone to work, my wife received a phone call from one of the doctors at our surgery. He told Claire to take Francesca to hospital immediately. When she said she couldn’t as she didn’t drive and it would take me possibly half an hour to get home, the doctor said “She needs to go to hospital now so I’ll call an ambulance. Please pack an overnight bag. “She rang me and I raced home but they had already gone to hospital. I raced there and arrived to see Francesca on a bed with lots of tubes attached to her. We were told her fingers and toes were cold and this meant that her body had started to shut down. We had got her there just in time.
After spending a few hours in A&E, she was transferred to the children’s ward and put in her own room. Later that evening, the paediatrician decided to transfer Francesca to the High Dependency Unit at the bigger hospital in Coventry in case her condition deteriorated so that she was already where she would need to be. She was transferred by ambulance under blue lights. Fortunately, she didn’t get any worse and was transferred back the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton the next day.
While she was there, we began the daunting process of learning what we needed to do for Francesca; blood tests, insulin injections etc. There was an enormous amount of information to take on board. We met with the diabetes nurses (who we would see a lot more of in the years to come) and the dietician, all of whom were full of advice.
After spending five days in hospital, Francesca was considered well enough to be released, much to her relief. We left the hospital loaded with books, sheets of information and lots of the medical equipment that would become part of our everyday lives.
A few months later, in February 2010, Francesca was dealing really well with everything but we were starting to worry about our five year old son, Jacob. He started showing the signs of type 1 but a blood test and a urine test were both clear. However, one evening when we were doing the necessary with Francesca, Jacob asked to be tested. The meter read ‘hi’. Off to A&E we went, complete with overnight bag, and our worst fears were confirmed. It was a heartbreaking moment for me when he looked up at me and said, “Am I diabetic too, Dad?” Because recognising the symptoms had helped us to have him diagnosed much sooner than Francesca, he was only in hospital for one night. The doctors wanted to keep him in longer as his BM’s were still too high, but we felt we knew what we were doing by now and he was upset at the thought of staying in hospital another night, so we took him home.
Night-times can be difficult to predict or monitor, and children with type 1 have died in their sleep because their blood sugars go so low without them knowing, so one of us gets up in the middle of the night every night to check their BM’s.
This is why we need to find a cure for type 1. Naturally, I wan5t to do my bit to raise funds for the JDRF. I am involved in a project for World Diabetes Day.
Mums of type 1 children made a video called ‘A Mother’s Anthem’ which you may have seen. The suggestion was made for a Dad’s version. I decided to take up the challenge and saw the potential for a song. The lyrics are from the Dad’s perspective.
The song is about to be recorded and produced professionally with the help of an acquaintance of mine who is in the business, who is also finding a good singer. There will also be a video which is in the process of being made.
The song will be available as a download and (hopefully) a CD single as well. All funds raised will be donated to the JDRF. It will be released to coincide with World Diabetes Day on 14th November.
Watch this space to find out where you can buy it.