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the day our lives changed forever

Madeline and her siblings–like most other kids in our community–had been pummeled week after week, all winter long, with one virus after another. So, when she fell ill on the night of March 5, 2011, I chalked it up to yet another gastrointestinal bug. I stayed up with her all night long, the two of us catching sleep in 20 minute intervals in between her repeated episodes of vomiting. She was desperate for water, yet could not keep down any fluid–even that coming from tiny chunks of ice. She cried to me about her parched mouth as I tried to soothe her by telling her that if she did not drink, she would not vomit. It was a horrible night.

Madeline finally stopped vomiting around 8 a.m. on the morning of March 6, a Sunday. As I watched her sleep, I noticed that her breathing had changed. It was deeper, as though she had a chest cold. Except, she had no cold symptoms at all. Her palor, extremely dry skin, and sunken eyes concerned me greatly. By the time I decided to take her to the ER for what appeared to be dehydration, she had been sick for 14 hours.

After checking in at the ER, we waited nearly two hours before being called back to triage. In that time, I watched my baby’s condition deteriorate. She could barely walk, and could not sit upright. Her breathing continued to deepen. Her speech became more difficult to understand. All she wanted was to sleep, and of course, water.

As soon as we walked into the triage area, the look on the nurse’s face transformed immediately from one of sympathy to concern. As Madeline slumped over in the wheelchair, I fielded questions:  Does anyone in your family have diabetes? Does anyone have an autoimmune disease, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis? No. No. No. The nurse asked for someone to check Madeline’s blood sugar level while she continued to take history from me. Then, I heard it: She’s critical high.

Madeline was quickly wheeled into a treatment room, and the controlled chaos of her treatment began. Nurses repeatedly tried to place an IV line despite Madeline’s severe dehydration. Gadgets were placed to monitor her vital signs. Doctors filed in and out, each asking me the same questions: Does anyone in your family have diabetes? An autoimmune disease? Are you sure? I could not ignore the distressed looks on the faces of the medical staff, and the urgency in their actions was palpable. As Madeline cried out for me and begged—begged—for water, one nurse stepped out with tears in her eyes. I tried to keep the appearance of calm for Maddy’s sake, as panic and fear quickly swelled. Doctors quickly confirmed what I had already figured out… my beautiful, perfect little girl had diabetes. They also acknowledged what I did not realize: that if I had waited any longer to bring her in, she probably would have died.

We rode in the transport that was transferring Madeline to the pediatric intensive care unit at our regional children’s hospital, me up front and her in the back with the medical staff. I kept looking back, hoping she remembered that I was there with her. Our lives were irrevocably changed.


About Heather Garcia Queen

I am… a mother of 3 spectacular children. A wife of an architect extraordinaire. An MSW. A psychologist in an elementary school. A (wishful) writer. A protector of family and spirit. A worshipper of the natural world. A seeker of knowledge. A lover of the arts. An introvert. A silver-lining kind of girl.


15 thoughts on “the day our lives changed forever

  1. Like a hammer to my chest. Again so sorry you’re going through this…

    Posted by Lisa | 03/24/2011, 2:33 am
  2. So many people will benefit from you telling your story. Some will seek medical help just in time. Some will understand they are not alone. Some will think about the “what ifs” and be a little bit kinder in their everyday lives. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Jodi Bergen | 03/24/2011, 2:33 am
  3. I’m speechless after reading your first post. I can relate to your experience on so many levels yet have no idea what its like to have a child with diabetes. You have quickly learned that you don’t know anything….and at the same time…..know far more than you ever thought possible. You and Madeline are an amazing team. Keep the faith.

    Posted by Steph | 03/24/2011, 2:42 am
  4. You know, I am surprised how diagnosis stories never cease to cause chills to permeate the back of my neck. This is going to be a difficult journey Heather. There is not “rule book” or “instruction manual” on how long you will grieve or the emotions that you and your family will endure. I found this part very hard in the beginning. I felt that everyone expected me to be “OK” within a few weeks of Joe’s diagnosis (Joe is 7…diagnosed 4 1/2 years ago when he was 3). I was beating my self up internally for not “getting it together” for not “bucking-up” and “bouncing back” as quickly as I felt I should be.

    Please know you are not alone and if you need ANYTHING please feel free to contact me…via FB and/or at sweetandjoe@gmail.com .

    I look forward to following your blog. I started blogging much later into Joe’s and our family’s journey with type 1….so, my perspective has been different. I am anxious to appreciate your perspective.

    Thinking of you and your family.


    Posted by Reyna | 03/24/2011, 1:14 pm
  5. I remember that day so vividly in my eyes. They day my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1. Everything changed in the very instant that I heard the word Type 1 Diabetes. My heart breaks right along with you. It’s hard in the beginning, really hard. But you are strong and you can do this.

    It as been almost 2 years since our diagnosis. The pain still hurts, it still stings but we are making it. I can’t say it is easier all the time, but it becomes more “normal” There is a wonderful online community to lean on. We are here, to talk and to lament. We UNDERSTAND. I blog about our experience too at http://www.sweet2thesoul.blogspot.com. Feel free to email me anytime. sweet2thesoul@gmail.com I look forward to getting to know you.

    Posted by Heather | 03/24/2011, 1:45 pm
  6. Okay, I was fine until the nurse teared up. Everything from then on was read through boo hooing eyes. I keep telling myself to stop reading dx stories, but I they are like diet coke to me… I can’t quit.

    BTW~ Hi 🙂
    My son, Justin, was dx’d in October 2008 at the age of 7. He is 10 now.
    I found you through Reyna and I look forward to learning more about you guys.


    Posted by Lora | 03/24/2011, 2:19 pm
  7. Wow! I am in tears now. Tears for you and your precious girl. Tears because I know the journey that lies ahead for you all. Tears because your story is all too familiar to me and my family. My daughter, Ally, was dx with type 1 diabetes on February 10, 2009 at the age of 5.

    This is all so new for you. I am glad that you started a blog. My blog is a great form of “therapy” for me. I also would be completely lost without the connections that I have made in the Diabete Online Community. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.

    My blog is http://www.boxofchocolatesblog.com.

    Posted by Misty | 03/24/2011, 2:23 pm
  8. I’m so sorry. A diabetes diagnosis is definitely life-changing. If you need anything — anything at all — there are many of us in the diabetes online community (DOC), who have walked in your shoes and who are willing to answer questions, listen to your concerns, share stories, offer advice, etc.

    I have a seven-year-old son, who was diagnosed in October 2007. Feel free to contact me at diabetestales@gmail.com.

    The days immediately after diagnosis are difficult, but I promise life with diabetes does get easier as you grow more accustomed to it.

    By the way, my daughter’s name is Madeline, too. 🙂

    Posted by Heidi | 03/24/2011, 2:48 pm
  9. I cried through this. The story is the same as ours. What a blessing to have a nurse recognize the symptoms right away, too many are not so lucky.

    Welcome to the blog-o-sphere! It took me over 10 years to find it and it has been my saving grace. The power of “same” is an amazing thing!

    Much love to you!

    Posted by Meri | 03/24/2011, 3:49 pm
  10. Yes…it is a day that changes our lives forever.

    But, oh, what a beautiful – strong – healthy – empathetic girl your sweet Madeline will grow up to be! The road ahead will not always be easy. It will be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating at times…but it will also be full of victories, support from other T1 families, and unbelievable joy.

    Be gentle with yourself as you learn to navigate these unchartered waters. Allow yourself to walk from one day to the next with the confidence that you CAN do this — even if you feel beat up along the way.

    Welcome to the journey of raising a child with T1 Diabetes.

    You will never be alone.

    Posted by Wendy | 03/24/2011, 4:59 pm
  11. I could reply to each of you, but my message would be the same: Thank You. I was astonished to open up my email today and find notices of so many replies to my first post. It touched me deeply that you all took the time to respond and keep my family in your thoughts for these moments. Thank You.

    Posted by hmqueen | 03/25/2011, 1:47 am
  12. Heather,

    Its so great that you are sharing your experiences with others, and I know you’ll help a lot of people and attract a lot of support and companionship from other families going through this in far corners of the globe. Thinking of you and yours!
    xo L

    Posted by Lizzie Harris McCormick | 03/26/2011, 11:31 am
  13. You made me cry. It’s so scary. You made it through the first year and you can still write about it! Congratulations.

    Posted by Katy | 03/24/2012, 12:01 am
  14. Mercy, I’ve tears in my eyes reading this. I’m so glad that Madeline made it through this emergency. I hope it’s been getting easier in some ways over the last 18 months or so. In 3 weeks I’ll ‘celebrate’ 40 years with Type 1 diabetes, I’m doing just fine. I pray that in March 2051 you can celebrate in the same way…or maybe even sooner if all the various cure research amounts to something.

    Posted by Bernard Farrell | 08/21/2012, 1:08 pm
    • Thanks Bernard for your comments. I always love seeing how people fare after years of this disease… I know the outcomes are good when it’s managed as well as it can be. We are getting better… I won’t say it’s easier, but we are certainly more skilled at handling the disease. Best to you!

      Posted by Heather Garcia Queen | 08/21/2012, 3:10 pm

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This work by Heather Garcia Queen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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