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“Nate would get in the car when I picked him up from school and say, ‘I am so thirsty. I drank a bunch of water at school, but I’m still thirsty.’ When we got home, he’d drink even more water,” she explains. “Then, after he finished his homework, he’d go lay down. He had very little energy, which was unusual for him.”
At first, Jamie thought he was just coming down with a cold or the flu. But after another week passed, she noticed other symptoms. Nate’s appetite had grown along with his thirst. He was also going to the bathroom a lot. So much, that his teacher reached out to Jamie.
“She said she wasn’t sure if he was trying to get out of class, or if he really had to use the bathroom,” Jamie remembers.
Nate assured his mom that he wasn’t trying to get out of schoolwork. “He told me he had to go and just couldn’t hold it. I called the doctor’s office and they suggested some changes in his diet. We tried them for a few days, but it didn’t change anything.”
A week before Halloween, the family went to a pumpkin patch. “Nate seemed fine while we were there. He was still going to the bathroom often, but seemed to have more energy,” Jamie adds. “Afterward, we went to a restaurant for dinner. Nate said he was starving and ate part of an appetizer, a cheeseburger and fries. As he took a couple of bites of dessert, he said he didn’t feel good.”
At home, Nate complained his stomach hurt, and he was up several times throughout the night using the restroom. “At this point, I was at a loss and had no idea what was wrong,” Jamie confesses.
The next day, she took Nate to urgent care. After hearing about the boy’s symptoms, the doctor did some blood work.
“When the results came back, he told me to take Nate directly to the emergency room at a children’s hospital. I needed to go quickly and shouldn’t stop along the way. I looked at him with panic and asked what was going on. He said he was pretty sure Nate had diabetes.”
Nate’s blood sugar was dangerously high – 660, to be exact. Care providers at the hospital confirmed the urgent care doctor’s suspicions.
“I honestly didn’t know anything about diabetes,” Jamie admits. “I only knew shots were involved and you needed to manage your diet. I didn’t realize how our lives were about to drastically change.”
During Nate’s two-day stay in the hospital, the diabetes team taught Jamie how to count carbs, fill a syringe with insulin, and calculate the amount of insulin to give her son. She also learned how to check Nate’s blood glucose levels and know when his level was high or low.
“I didn’t sleep the entire two days we were in the hospital,” she confides. “Nate was so scared of the needles. He was mad at me for having to give him shots and stick his finger several times a day – which was painful. I felt overwhelmed and was emotional with the amount of information.”
Jamie was also worried about her other son, Jake. As Nate’s identical twin would have diabetes, too?
“I had a ton of questions for the endocrinologist during our first appointment. How was this going to affect Nate in school? What things could eat and not eat? But my burning question was about Jake. What were the odds he would have diabetes? The doctor said there was less than a two percent chance he would have it. She assured me that she had many patients with a twin sibling who didn’t have diabetes. Her answer didn’t ease my anxiety at all.”
Nearly two months later, Jamie’s fears came true.
“Jake wasn’t acting like himself. He’d come home tired from school. He was eating a good amount, but not drinking a whole lot. Still, the panic started to set in. I called Nate’s doctor, and she asked me to start keeping a log. I spent the next week checking Jake’s blood sugar when he got up each morning, before each meal, and again two hours after a meal.”
A review of the log by the doctor sparked blood tests. “I already knew what she was going to tell me when the results came back,” Jamie sighs. “Jake had diabetes, too.”
That night during family dinner, Jamie revealed Jake’s diagnosis to her husband and Nate.
“Immediately, Nate said, ‘This is great!’ The rest of us looked at him in shock. I asked him why he would say that knowing everything he has to go through with his own diabetes,” Jamie recalls. “Nate replied, ‘Because we can go through it together and he’ll know how I feel.’
“As we all looked at each other, our family knew we had a choice – we could either bury our heads in the sand or fight. We choose to fight. That conversation became the driving force for our family to tackle this disease head on and not look back.”
Nate, has indeed, been a great help to twin brother. He has helped Jake learn how to count carbs, prep strips for his meter, and offered advice on which finger to stick so it doesn’t hurt so much.
Nate and Jake’s younger brother, Noah, watches out for them, too. “He helps them with their meters, gets them a juice box, and sometimes gives them a hug when they have to get a shot or a pump change,” Jamie adds. “Noah knows a lot about diabetes, and is very happy he doesn’t have it. It’s still in the back of all our minds, though. We know there is a chance he could have it too one day. We definitely monitor Noah closely for any symptoms.”
Even though her family has an amazing support system for which they are very thankful, Jamie and her husband often felt alone in the beginning. Through their doctor’s office, they learned about organizations and social media sites where they can connect with people who either have the disease or help care for others who do. Touched by Type 1, American Diabetes Association, Type 1 Diabetes Support and Information, JDRF and Connect through Blue Cross Blue Shield have been welcome additions to the family’s circle of friends.
“These sites have made a huge difference for our family,” Jamie says. “We’ve learned about camps, support groups, coping strategies – and most importantly, that we are not alone. We have come a long way since the twins were diagnosed. Diabetes is not easy, but we are a stronger family for it. We live every day the best we can with the hope that one day someone will find a cure.”
Originally published 10/31/2017; Revised 2022
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