Mother told her child’s sickness bug was actually undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes

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  • Mum-of-two Sarah Whinkless was told by the GP that her son’s symptoms were down to a simple sickness bug but it was only when he collapsed and was rushed to hospital that the family found out he had type 1 diabetes.

    It’s sometimes very difficult to put your finger on exactly what is wrong with your child. Sometimes it is as simple as them feeling a little under the weather and other times they might be suffering from a childhood illness.

    One thing is for sure though, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare for their child to be rushed to hospital and not know why.

    Sarah’s 10-year-old son Finley had been acting out of character but their GP misdiagnosed it as a simple sickness bug. Before Sarah was able to take Finley for a proper appointment and assessment, he collapsed in their family home and was rushed to hospital.

    As many parents do, Sarah assumed her son’s funny behaviour was simply down to growing up. His increased appetite was put down to a growth spurt and this also helped explain his weight loss.

    It was only after Finley’s diagnosis that Sarah realised she should have raised an alarm sooner and challenged the GP’s sickness bug diagnosis.

    Sarah told NRS Healthcare: ‘In a few months, Fin lost over a stone in weight – yet he never stopped eating! We put this down to a growth spurt. He is naturally really skinny, so we let him eat what he wanted, but we couldn’t seem to fill him up and the weight loss continued. We didn’t notice his symptoms slowly creeping in, and looking back we could have spotted the symptoms well before he was hospitalised.’

    Sarah Whinkles/NRS Healthcare

    When Finley got to hospital Sarah and Craig, Finley’s dad, were told that their son was in diabetic ketoacidosis – a life-threatening, emergency condition caused by unmanaged diabetes and a severe lack of insulin, which had led to consistently high blood glucose (sugar) levels.

    Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood because it is very difficult to spot. It is common for it to be mistaken with other less serious conditions, especially as in the case of Finley when symptoms crop up gradually over a few months.

    Sarah explained: ‘We now know that weight loss, extreme hunger, excessive thirst, excessive urination, tiredness, anger, mood changes and sickness are all symptoms of diabetes. The weight loss was the most alarming symptom and resulted in Finley being just 3st 3lb at the time he was admitted to hospital.

    ‘His body wasn’t producing insulin so his body was breaking down his own muscles and fat. I will forever feel guilty for not having realised what was wrong, and for not joining the dots. I work in drug safety so I should have seen it – I should have known. Until the day of the ‘sickness bug’ though, he hadn’t seemed ‘ill’, just a bit run down.’

    Thankfully Finley made a full recovery but Type 1 diabetes is a life-long condition and has to be treated daily. It has made a huge impact on the whole family but they are managing it as best as they can and hope that as Finley gets older he will be be able to take full responsibility over his condition.

    Sarah Whinkless/NRS Healthcare

    Finley (second left) with his parents and brother Noah

    When it comes to how other parents should cope with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis Sarah said: ‘If you suspect your child has diabetes, or if you see any symptoms that don’t seem right to you – then insist on a doctor’s appointment. Don’t take ‘we will see you in a few days’ as an answer. Once diagnosed, take all the help offered.

    ‘Get family involved right from the start! Teach them how to perform the checks, how to give an injection, and so on. They can support your child on their diabetes journey. Most of all, try not to panic – life does go back to normal, it is just a new type of normal.’

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