March 17, 2000. My two year old son was breathing heavily. He was rarely awake and when he was he wanted nothing but to drink. He was drinking so much that I couldn’t keep a diaper on him. He was wetting everything and soaking all of his blankets. He was clingy and wouldn’t let me out of his sight. He wanted me to hold him while he slept. He barely spoke any more. I could get nothing done. I didn’t know what was wrong.
I didn’t think that we were dealing with an ear infection. I still didn’t know what the real problem was but who was I to question the medical staff? They were the professionals. I was simply the mother. They said that he was fine. I had to assume that he would be.
Despite the antibiotics, my son just kept getting worse. I booked an appointment with our family doctor. It was flu season and this bug really seemed to be taking its toll on my little guy. We were to see the doctor just after lunch. I stopped at a store before our appointment and picked up some baby food. I was hoping that he would be able to handle it later on.
As we sat in the waiting room, everyone’s eyes were on the lifeless little bundle in my arms. He was sound asleep and labouring to breathe. A lady was called in before us but she refused to go. She told the staff that we were to be seen first. I had him in my arms and headed down to the examining room.
The receptionist looked at my child with deep concern on her face. I had been seeing this doctor since before both of my boys were born. She knew me and my children. She knew that this was not normal for my son. I told her that his feet were freezing despite the wool socks I had put on his feet. I just could not get him warm. She continued to look worried. She touched his lifeless body and told me that our doctor would be right in.
We didn’t wait long and in he came. My son never left my arms. The doctor simply looked and him and gave me his diagnosis. In that one quick glance and he told me that my son most likely had diabetes. He was in ketoacidosis. He had carbon dioxide running through his blood instead of oxygen. This was very serious. He could be wrong. It may only be a chest infection but he was ordering an emergency battery of tests. We were to go to the hospital immediately. We would be seen as soon as we got there. We had no time to waste. The staff would be waiting for us.
My mind was a blur. I didn’t understand half of what he was saying. I understood a chest infection. That would be okay. The rest sounded scary so I put it out of my mind. He had a chest infection and we would have that treated. I packed my child back up and headed off to the hospital. All would be fine. We would get our tests and we would return to the doctor’s office for a prescription. My son would be himself in no time. I had confidence in this doctor. I ignored the worried look on his face. I focused on a diagnosis of a chest infection. The other words sounded scary. It wasn’t good to have carbon dioxide in your veins. Nothing bad could happen to my child. He would be fine.
True to his word, we were immediately taken into the lab where they drew blood. The staff couldn’t believe how still he was. He was two years old and didn’t flinch when they drew his blood. The x-ray was just as odd. I had to hold him up so that they could get the right angles. We were finished everything in no time flat and headed back to the doctor’s office.
We arrived before the results it seemed. We sat down and across from me was a poster that said “The signs and symptoms of diabetes”. As I read it my heart began to sink…
Needing to urinate a lot
The list continued but those ones jumped out at me. My little boy had almost every symptom that they listed! He had diabetes but he was so lifeless. Diabetes wasn’t that bad. What was going on? Now I was beginning to get scared. All of those worried looks from everyone who saw us were starting to hit home. My baby was seriously ill. He might only have diabetes but he also had this thing called ketoacidosis. He still had to be okay. I had lost one child before he was born. I had miscarried but I still felt that I had lost a baby. I had been four months along in my pregnancy. My latest baby was over two years old. I was not going to lose any more children. My son was going to be okay.
Soon after our return the doctor came out of his office. His face was deathly serious. He took me into his office. “Barbra, it is as I feared. Liam has diabetic ketoacidosis. I have already called the other hospital and a doctor will be waiting for you. He is the best. You have to get there right away. Go straight to the hospital. Liam is a very sick little boy.”
Go straight to the hospital. Liam is a very sick little boy. Hurry. My mind was on auto-pilot. I had yet to put my son down. I walked out to the waiting room and told my husband what I had been told. We hurried to our vehicle. It had started to snow but I didn’t notice. My other son sat up front with his father as I held Liam in my arms in the back seat. He always sat in a car seat but this time I was not letting him go for anything.
Fear began to take hold as we headed off to the next hospital. The drive is about an hour long on good roads—we had hit a snow storm. I sat in the backseat and did nothing but pray and will my son to keep living. If there was a way to transfer my life into his small body I was trying. I didn’t see the roads and I was later told that there was not a lot of road to see. My focus was on the small body in my arms. He had to live. He had to be okay. He was my baby and he was going to be okay. I was owed this. My child had to live. My baby would be fine.
True to my doctor’s word there was a team waiting to see my son. They began to get his general information. Height and weight could not be done in the traditional way because he still was not awake. They put him on a baby scale and I was shocked to see that my two year old little boy weighed 11kg. He was just over 7 lbs when he was born and now he was only just over 22 lbs! What had happened? How did he get so thin? How did I not see this? He was always slight but this seemed surreal.
He was put into a bed and a monitor was attached to his finger. We were told it would measure the amount of oxygen in his blood. The readings were not comforting. I was still holding his small hand. Within a few minutes a man walked in the door. He had bushy hair, a bushy beard, big winter boots and a lumber jack shirt. He looked like anything but a doctor and yet he would be one of the two men who saved my son’s life. This would be the man who would set the course for the rest of my life.