All in the Family: Couple Struggles With Three Diabetic Children

Coffey said, "I would like them to check more often because if they're running high, they can correct themselves quicker."

It gets trickier during the summer, when the children enjoy going swimming and when they want to go out and play. They often have to change their pump sites every day. The family also has to be sure to carry extra insulin and supplies wherever they go.

And there are many times when Matthew, the youngest child, now 9, doesn't check his blood sugar at all or doesn't take insulin after he eats.

"He'll sneak food and not tell me that he ate it, or he'll forget, so when I check his blood sugar later, it will be really high," Coffey said.

That's common in children with diabetes.

"Kids get busy, and it's a lot to remember to check blood sugar and take insulin all the time," Buckingham said.

Incidence on the Rise

The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision. If left untreated, Type 1 diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, vision problems, hearing problems and other serious complications.

That the Coffey children have Type 1 diabetes and their parents don't is unusual, but their diagnosis seems to reflect a growing trend.

"I think the incidence is going up a little bit," Buckingham said. "Now, we're seeing it in about 1 in 300 or 400 children, and there seems to be a higher incidence in children younger than five."

And, he added, there's no one cause for Type 1 diabetes in children.

"There are a lot of theories, such as things in our diet, like exposure to wheat protein, viruses in the community and others. But nothing can be proven."

As doctors and families such as the Coffeys can attest, there is no cure, either. There's also no way to prevent it. But there are things people can be aware of.

"We strongly recommend that anyone with a family member with diabetes get tested," Buckingham said.

"We can test for antibodies in the blood. If there are multiple antibodies, then the risk goes way up," he added.

Research into a cure for juvenile diabetes is ongoing, and there are some promising treatment prospects out there, including the development of an artificial pancreas and more studies examining people's ability to regenerate their own islet cells.

While Lori Coffey and many others dream of a cure, they're also working hard to raise awareness.

"Informing people is equally as important as raising money. It's by being informed that people can help their kids by getting them to the doctor and getting them diagnosed and getting them the help they need," Coffey said.

Professor Buckingham said, "We're really pushing increased public awareness. If a child has increased thirst or increased urination, the child should be tested for diabetes."

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