Someone Who Will Understand

No one understands the early signs of diabetes, and of worry, than the parent of a child with diabetes.

Karen Hargrave discusses diabetes at schoolBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaz

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

March 2009 — The other day an acquaintance of mine called and asked me for advice. She is concerned that her daughter may be showing early signs of diabetes and she isn't sure what to do. She took her concerns to her daughter's pediatrician and felt as though they were prematurely dismissed. The doctor tested her and said the test was negative. That was the end of story as far as the doctor was concerned. As we went through the list of symptoms her daughter has been exhibiting, there were a number of things that could explain her symptoms. Some led us to the possible conclusion that it could be diabetes and some did not. In some cases, we found many other possible explanations. But others were harder to dismiss, like very high blood sugar readings taken using her mother's meter.

This is where I felt like I was the perfect person for her to be talking to. I suggested a number of things she hadn't thought of and that no one but a parent of a child with diabetes (or a medical professional) would have reason to know. I suggested things like making sure the meter was calibrated, that the test strips hadn't expired, that she had washed any sugar or other sources of contamination off her hands before testing, etc.

We then talked about reasons the test could have been negative even if she is developing diabetes. Someone else had told her that this was possible but she didn't really understand the details of why. I explained to her that this could be true because her daughter's body is still making some insulin, and this would explain the huge fluctuations they have found in her blood sugar readings when they have checked it (ranging from 95-300 mg/dl).  We talked some more about her concerns, and especially how it feels to be dismissed by your doctor when you, as a parent, just know something isn't right with your child.

My friend then went on to say how her entire outlook had changed during these past few weeks. It occurred to her for the first time that for children with diabetes and their parents, there are NO breaks from this disease. They need to be constantly aware of it, monitoring it, or treating it. She got very fired up about how unaware the rest of the world is when it comes to this very isolating existence that is type 1 diabetes.

The entire conversation made me very aware of two things. The first being how amazingly knowledgeable I now feel about diabetes, its symptoms, and treatment. This is something I never thought possible when Joel was first diagnosed.  I feel so fortunate to be able to be a resource for friends and acquaintances who feel concerned about their own children showing early signs of diabetes or just those seeking information.

The second is how profoundly this particular friend's awareness has been changed by this experience. Whether her daughter is showing early signs of diabetes or not, I am certain that she will never take for granted her children's health or what parents of kids with chronic medical conditions go through to maintain their health. It was a relatively short conversation, but one that had a lasting impact on both of us.

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: July 12, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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