At first the pediatrician thought it was the flu.
After that, the doctor said it was a stomach virus.
Visit after visit. Diagnosis after diagnosis, and four-year-old Veronica McVey kept losing weight and wasn’t getting better. On the day she went to sleep and didn’t want to wake up, her parents knew it was something serious.
That’s when Pergo Inventory Control Auditor Scott McVey and his wife, Jackie, rushed their daughter straight to the emergency room where they found out her blood sugar was dangerously high. Veronica was officially diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
“It was a really, really rough experience for us being in the hospital and not knowing what to do,” Jackie said. “Nobody in our whole family had diabetes. None of our friends had [Type 1 Diabetes.]”
The McVeys aren’t alone in their experience.
Type 1 Diabetes, which most often develops in children under the age of 14, can be difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms like fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, extreme hunger, increased thirst or frequent urination, are regularly interpreted as typical childhood development or symptoms of other, more common sicknesses.
Unlike Type 2 Diabetes where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it effectively, Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body attacks and destroys all of its insulin-producing cells. That means symptoms can appear suddenly and escalate quickly if incorrectly treated, like in Veronica’s case.
Even though the McVeys were relieved to find out what was making their little girl sick, the Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis meant serious and significant changes were in store for the family. Living with Type 1 Diabetes means multiple daily insulin shots, close nutritional monitoring and the potentially severe impact of common sicknesses.
“Colds can be drastic,” Scott explained. “Even if she has a stomach virus or something like that, we still have to give her food, because she has to eat. It can be very complicated and deadly if you’re not on top of it.”
It’s a lot for the McVeys – or any family – to juggle. In their North Carolina community, nurses are shared between three schools, so Jackie and Scott often took time off work to help with Veronica’s shots when she was younger. They’ve also had to help educate teachers, principals and classmates about Type 1 Diabetes and how to recognize if Veronica’s sugar levels aren’t good.
Now at age 14, Veronica can give herself shots, but she still needs support from her family and community. In addition to diabetes, she also has asthma and anxiety, which is common in people with Type 1 Diabetes because of the added stress living with the condition brings.
“I have to remind myself constantly to take my shots and test myself,” Veronica said. “It’s just a lot of responsibility on me to get used to that now that I’m trying to do it on my own.”
Like most families, the McVeys have had some setbacks. Veronica was in the hospital several times last year, because of a growth spurt that made it difficult to monitor and adjust her blood sugar levels. Too much time off work during Veronica’s hospitalization meant Jackie lost her job, and even though things are better now she still worries about the added responsibility her daughter will face in high school.
“With teenage years, it’s one of the hardest struggles,” she said. “Because teenagers will be teenagers. They want to do other stuff.”
But the McVeys haven’t let Type 1 Diabetes get the best of them. They help each other stay positive, and Veronica is focused on academics with college on her mind.
The family’s experience with the disease has made them passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes and the three million American families just like theirs. Although genetic predisposition is sometimes linked to a diagnosis, there is no proven cause for the disease and researchers are working to develop a cure.
On April 18, the McVey family will participate in a fundraising walk to raise money and awareness for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). To find a fundraising walk near you or to donate to JDRF visithttp://jdrf.org/.
Even if people aren’t able or interested in contributing money to diabetes research, Scott said he encourages everyone to learn more about diabetes symptoms and the signs that someone’s blood sugar levels aren’t where they need to be. Chances are, you’ve got a friend or coworker with diabetes, and knowing how to help them when they need it is crucial, he said.
For more information about diabetes, visit diabetes.org.