Journey has a smile that can light up a room and a fierce determination on the soccer field. A dedicated student, artist and athlete, you might never guess that among everything else, she is managing a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
A diagnosis starts a lifelong journey
Last year, at the age of 10, Journey started experiencing some unusual symptoms, including urinary issues, an insatiable appetite and thirst, and concerning, rapid weight loss. At first, her mom Amber thought the symptoms may just be the result of a combination of an extra challenging training schedule for soccer and a hot Texas summer.
“Journey was drinking water constantly, but couldn’t seem to quench her thirst,” Amber says. “It was still hot out and she had been training extra hard at soccer, so I assumed she was just dehydrated.”
After a night of online research, however, Amber realized that all of Journey’s symptoms pointed toward something more serious. She brought Journey to see her pediatrician as soon as the office opened the next morning.
“By then, Journey was so dehydrated they couldn’t even draw blood at her pediatrician’s office and they sent us to the emergency room at Children’s Medical Center,” Amber says.
There, a team of specialists, including Soumya Adhikari, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Health℠ and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, confirmed Amber’s fears: Journey had diabetes and was in diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious condition that develops when the body is not able to produce enough insulin.
While recovering in the hospital, Journey and her family worked tirelessly to learn all they could about her diagnosis and what lay ahead.
“Dr. Adhikari talked with Journey directly and answered all her questions,” Amber remembers. “At the time we didn’t know anyone else personally with type 1 diabetes and knew nothing about it other than what I had read the night before, so for the next two days we received a flood of information.”
Moving forward with support
Journey and her family met with a team of diabetes educators to address each aspect of her care, including how to monitor and manage her glucose levels throughout the day, what factors to consider when making choices about her diet and, of course, how to give herself insulin injections.
As with most aspects of her life, Journey was a fast learner.
“She was already doing her own finger pricks and injections on day two in the hospital,” says Amber. “She amazes me.”
In addition to the information she received in the hospital, Journey and her family also attended two classes, Diabetes 101 and Take Charge, after they returned home to reinforce all they had learned.
“The classes were so much help,” says Amber. “We were hit with so much information in such a short period of time in the hospital that it was helpful to take a breath and make sure we understood the very basics before we faced the more complex issues.”
Diabetes doesn’t define her
Today, almost a year and a half after her initial diagnosis, Journey is doing great. She was back on the soccer field just two weeks after her diagnosis; in August she started middle school.
“All of my close friends know that I have type 1 diabetes,” says Journey. She says that friends are supportive, but she doesn’t go out of her way to call attention to her disease and her glucose monitor is undetectable.
Journey handles her insulin monitoring and injections at school while the school nurse looks on. She and her mom Amber work together to determine “carb counts” and the amount of insulin she’ll need each meal depending on her activity level. She uses an implantable device to help monitor her glucose levels in real-time; this gives her and her family added peace of mind.
“She has learned the hard way that type 1 diabetes doesn’t play fair, but she hasn’t let it get her down,” says Amber. “She has used this year to get stronger and tougher and wants to help others and help raise money for research for a cure.”
Journey is also committed to educating others about her type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body loses the ability to make insulin.
“I wish everyone knew that having type 1 diabetes is not because I eat too much sugar,” Journey says. “When people find that out it is always their first comment.” In fact, most people who develop type 1 diabetes are of normal weight and are healthy before it starts.
With advocates like Journey spreading awareness and redefining what life with type 1 diabetes can look like, more people will understand the importance of diagnosing and managing this chronic disease – and be inspired to move forward with determination.
Children’s Health is home to one of the largest pediatric diabetes programs in the nation and was the first to receive Disease Specific Care Certification for Diabetes by The Joint Commission. Learn how our experts can help diagnose and treat diabetes in children of all ages.
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