Your toddler has type 1 diabetes. The signs were so subtle, you ignored them

Last spring, 2-year-old Layla Henschen kept “drinking water,” recalls her mother, Ashley Henschen. At first, she wondered if it was the heat that made her daughter so thirsty.

“I was drinking almost two cups of water at a time,” Henschen, 33, of Indianapolis, tells TODAY.com. “His diapers were constantly wet. We would change his diaper. Then within 30 minutes he would be drenched so he would need to be changed. He was 22 months old at the time, so it’s unusual to get drenched that quickly.”

Henschen was pretty sure something was wrong with her daughter’s thirst and urination, and changing her diapers had become exhausting, so she decided to call the doctor. That led to Layla being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before getting much sicker.

When 2-year-old Layla Henschen became irritable, her parents wondered if she was just part of the

When 2-year-old Layla Henschen became irritable, her parents wondered if she was just part of the

“I just trusted my gut,” says Henschen. “His blood sugar was around 500, whereas a normal blood sugar for someone his age should be between 80 and 100.” Drink, soak in diapers, eat more

Starting in May 2022, Henschen noticed that Layla was constantly drinking water. The temperatures were warming up, so Henschen thought that Layla was adjusting to the heat. Although, Henschen was worried that Layla would soak all of her diapers.

“I was thinking, ‘Do we need to increase the size of the diapers? Do we need diapers for the night?’” says Henschen.

But then she noticed that her daughter was irritable and frequently in the pantry getting snacks. Still, it was hard to understand if these behavior changes were a new phase of development or a problem.

“We ignore it. ‘It’s growing,’” recalls Henschen. “It seemed like all the signs and symptoms could easily be dismissed as something else.”

Layla’s parents initially attributed her change in attitude to “the terrible two”.

“I was quite irritable. It was difficult to go to a restaurant at that time,” says Henschen. “We had gone on a trip, and she was really terrible the whole time. They warn you about going out with your 2 year old to a restaurant and stuff. So, she had all the signs, but because we didn’t know what to look for, (we missed it).”

After two weeks of Layla constantly soaking her diapers so that every morning Henschen needed to change all her bedding, Henschen got fed up and called the pediatrician.

“One of the questions from the nurse was: ‘Do you wake up drenched every morning?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ shares Henschen.

When the Henschen family found out that 2-year-old Layla had type 1 diabetes, they took a crash course in carbohydrates and insulin so they could better care for the girl.  (Photos courtesy of EmKay)

When the Henschen family found out that 2-year-old Layla had type 1 diabetes, they took a crash course in carbohydrates and insulin so they could better care for the girl. (Photos courtesy of EmKay)

The nurse told Henschen to bring Layla over right away. After a urine test, doctors noted Layla’s elevated blood glucose levels and diagnosed her with diabetes.

“It was never a thought in my mind,” says Henschen. “I was so confused. They said (her blood sugar) is this high, she needs to go quickly to Riley (Hospital for Children) right now, and they talked about her being (in) the pediatric intensive care unit, and it was an experience overwhelming. … It was so shocking.”

When Layla arrived at the hospital, doctors ran more tests and found she had diabetic ketoacidosis, which occurs when a person doesn’t have enough insulin to convert sugar into energy. Instead, the liver uses fat for fuel, which causes a buildup of ketones, which at high levels can be dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Henschen took her daughter to the doctor at the right time.

“They were like, ‘How did you catch this? When we see patients come in with this high blood sugar, it’s usually to the point where they go into a diabetic coma,’” says the mother. “They said it was diabetes. … I knew Type 1 diabetes was worse, and when they said Type 1, it was the most shocking.”

Diabetes type 1

“Type 1 diabetes is diabetes due to insulin deficiency, and the most common cause of type 1 diabetes is autoimmune,” Dr. Tamara Hannon, director of the Pediatric Diabetes Program at Riley Hospital for Children, tells TODAY. that he didn’t treat Layla. com. “Over time, the autoimmune reaction destroys these pancreatic beta cells in such a way that the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet its needs.”

Almost immediately after Layla Henschen began treatment for type 1 diabetes, her mood and energy improved, and she was running all over her hospital room.  (Courtesy Ashley Henschen)

Almost immediately after Layla Henschen began treatment for type 1 diabetes, her mood and energy improved, and she was running all over her hospital room. (Courtesy Ashley Henschen)

Signs of type 1 diabetes include:

“Parents notice that their child may be using the bathroom more than normal, urinating more than normal, and drinking more than normal,” says Hannon. “It means eating a lot. Not having insulin is like starving.”

Insulin, a hormone, helps the body take energy from sugar into cells. But without it, sugar and fat are not properly stored or converted to energy. That means that even when people eat more, they don’t gain weight.

“Unexpected weight loss is another symptom,” says Hannon. “If diabetes becomes more severe before these symptoms are detected, a person can be very, very sick. They could have a bellyache. They might feel sick.”

When parents notice these symptoms, they should call their pediatrician to schedule an appointment, she says. “A simple blood test can diagnose diabetes,” she adds.

While Ashley Henschen was scared and overwhelmed when she first learned of Layla's diagnosis, she now feels she knows how to help her little girl manage her type 1 diabetes. (Courtesy Ashley Henschen)

While Ashley Henschen was scared and overwhelmed when she first learned of Layla’s diagnosis, she now feels she knows how to help her little girl manage her type 1 diabetes. (Courtesy Ashley Henschen)

People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin throughout their lives. They can’t trust medicines that can help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood glucose levels.

“If you’re not making insulin, you need to replace it,” she says. “In type 1 diabetes, insulin is absolutely necessary.”

Layla’s life with type 1 diabetes

Layla stayed in the hospital for two days after her diagnosis. While she was there, Henschen and her husband learned how to care for a child with type 1 diabetes.

“It was really hard to accept it, and you want to cry, but you have to accept it first, and there are so many emotions,” she says. “I had to put my emotions aside and learn to take care of my baby. That’s the only option she had.”

Almost immediately, the family noticed a change in Layla’s mood.

“She is happier now. We know that she just wasn’t feeling well and her attitude changed when we were in the hospital,” says Henschen. “She was running across the room.”

To keep Layla Henschen busy getting her insulin injections, her parents high-fived her after each injection.  (Courtesy Ashley Henschen)

To keep Layla Henschen busy getting her insulin injections, her parents high-fived her after each injection. (Courtesy Ashley Henschen)

There has been a bit of a learning curve. Layla was used to snacking when she was hungry, but now Henschen needs to read labels to see how many carbs she contains and whether Layla might need an insulin shot to enjoy the meal. They are trying to associate insulin with something fun.

“We high-fived him after the injections,” says Henschen. “It’s crazy to see a 2-year-old that he is so strong and brave.”

Layla wears a blood glucose monitor on her arm, which delivers real-time readings of her blood sugar to her parents’ phones.

“We don’t have to check her blood sugar with a finger tap before meals, which is nice. But it’s hard because she doesn’t understand either,” says Henschen. “Distracting her or high fives, that really helps.”

After her daughter’s diagnosis, Henschen worried that Layla could only eat sugar-free candy, but learned that it’s “sort of a stereotype.”

“It may just require more insulin,” she says. “We don’t try to restrict her from anything, and even when she gets older, I don’t want her to feel left out or that she can’t have what her friends have.”

Although having a child with type 1 diabetes requires a little more planning, life hasn’t changed much. Henschen hopes that when others hear about her story, they will seek help if they notice anything wrong with her son.

“Trust your mom if you think something is wrong,” she says. “The worst thing the doctor can say is, ‘No, she’s fine.'”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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