When Nadia was just 3 years old, her mom, Natalie, brought her to the doctor, suspecting she may have a urinary tract infection. The doctor agreed and prescribed antibiotics, but when the family returned a week later for a follow up appointment, a urinalysis revealed there was glucose present. An additional blood test determined that Nadia's A1C level, or average blood sugar level, was elevated to 9%. The normal range is 4.6 – 6.0%.
Nadia's physician referred her to an endocrinologist at Children's Health℠. There, the family learned that Nadia had type 1 diabetes and that she needed to be admitted at Children's Medical Center Plano for treatment.
"That was Nadia's first and, to this date, only hospital stay at Children's, and I still remember how excited she was to get ready for her 'slumber party' at the hospital," says Natalie. "She packed her books and stuffed animals into her backpack, grabbed her favorite blanket and was ecstatic to have her own TV and bed."
Natalie says Nadia's smiles soon faded when it was time for her first IV and numerous injections and finger pricks. But then, a volunteer came in and brought her a big, pink fluffy rabbit to ease her fears.
"From then on, knocks on the door for pokes were sprinkled and broken up with knocks from people who were coming in to just make her happy with various gifts or words of encouragement."
Nadia and her family soon met with diabetes educators and nutritionists who gave them a bigger picture of what living with type 1 diabetes would entail. One educator, who had type 1 diabetes herself, stressed the importance of pursuing a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system for Nadia, something her family worked on immediately upon discharge from the hospital.
After three days, Nadia and her family went home, a bit shell-shocked at the new responsibilities they now faced with her care, but Natalie says their despair wouldn't – and couldn't – last long, thanks to Nadia.
"As I started to get overwhelmed by the weight of the new responsibilities on my shoulders, it seemed like the color had drained from my world," says Natalie. "But then I looked down at Nadia, with her big, fluffy bunny, and saw she was smiling. She looked up at me and said, 'Mommy, I like the doctor with the red balloon. Can we come here tomorrow?'"
Nadia adjusts to her new normal
Nadia and her family began monitoring her blood sugar levels both day and night, relying on both a CGM and insulin pump in addition to traditional finger pricks. Natalie says managing Nadia's diabetes requires them to pause before almost everything, including eating, sleeping and playing. But as Nadia has grown older, she has taken on more ownership of managing her disease and understands what she needs to do to thrive.
"At school, she checks her levels prior to all meals and has a special station in her classroom where she can check her glucose levels and manage her insulin needs after recess as well," says Natalie. "She currently plays on two soccer teams, and when she has time on the bench in between playing, she reaches for her diabetes bag to test her sugar even before reaching for her water bottle."
Nadia understands that while her diabetes may make her different from her peers, there are others out there just like her – many of whom she met at Camp Sweeney, a summer camp for children living with diabetes.
"At camp, Nadia was able to unite with countless others like her which helped her embrace her disease and realize it makes her unique," says Natalie. "She also has two uncles who have type 1 diabetes, and she sees it as something that unites them."
A fateful meeting on the soccer field as Nadia finds her new doctor
Over the years, Nadia and her family have met a few specialists at Children's Health, but her current doctor, Soumya Adhikari, M.D., a Pediatric Endocrinologist at Children's Health and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, crossed their path at just the right time. Nadia had just received word that her current endocrinologist would be moving, and the family was unsure of who her new doctor would be.
"We were actually at a coaches meeting for youth soccer and my husband somehow began talking to a man about type 1 diabetes," says Natalie. "Turns out, it was Dr. Adhikari. He shared a lot of our same perspectives on empowering kids with the disease. So before we left, I asked if it would be possible to have him as Nadia's new doctor, and he told me that he'd look into it."
Dr. Adhikari has monitored Nadia's care since that meeting and has been a valuable resource to her family as they navigate her journey.
"Dr. Adhikari has been very knowledgeable about new technology and techniques for managing her disease," says Natalie. "He has yet to be stumped by any of the questions I have, and it was the icing on the cake when we realized he was one of the doctors at Camp Sweeney the first summer Nadia attended."
For his part, Dr. Adhikari says, "From her smile to her bounce, everything about Nadia says 'can-do' and caring for her has been a privilege." Nadia is now 6 and is, "the happiest girl with the biggest heart,” as her mom puts it. She's an active child who enjoys school and has fully embraced her role as "big sister" to her twin siblings.
She loves to talk about her diagnosis with others and is proud to show how it doesn't hold her back.
"Nadia has accepted her diabetes and is able to shine in spite of it, something she loves to demonstrate at any opportunity," says Natalie. "She loves to talk about her medical devices and diabetes with others and is proud to show how much she can still do."
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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