Two years ago, Genevieve was a healthy five-year-old who loved playing with her little brother and eating all of her fruits and vegetables. Over the course of a few weeks in the spring of 2015, her mother Alison noticed some changes in her daughter’s behavior that gave her pause.
“It was like something switched in her,” Alison said. Suddenly, her daughter was constantly thirsty and drinking much more water than usual. She was also showing more signs of irritability and losing her temper often at her younger brother.
Concerned, Alison scheduled an appointment with her daughter’s pediatrician. After the physician ran a urine sample, he returned with a diagnosis—as well as urgent instructions.
“He said, ‘I’m so sorry. Your daughter has type I diabetes. You need to take her to the emergency room right now,’” Alison recalled.
Alison rushed to Lurie Children’s, where her pediatrician had already informed the emergency department of the situation. In the car, Genevieve was in and out of consciousness as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is incapable of producing enough insulin.
Right away, the team at Lurie Children’s checked her blood sugar levels and started her on an IV drip to restore hydration to her body. They informed Alison that because her daughter’s body was in a state of diabetic ketoacidosis, the lack of insulin was causing her blood to acidify. If not immediately treated, the blood could cause brain swelling and ultimately death.
“I was shocked,” Alison said. “But the doctors were so helpful. They explained to me what they were doing and why.”
Genevieve was then admitted to the endocrinology unit at Lurie Children’s, where for five days she was cared for by a team of board-certified endocrinologists, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, certified diabetes educators, a registered dietician, a social worker and a clinical psychologist. The team began educating Genevieve and Alison about how to manage diabetes, check blood sugar levels, read an insulin pump and more. “The education helped me feel confident in how to treat her and handle different situations,” Alison said.
In addition to the expert care her daughter received, Alison said she appreciated the all-encompassing support the hospital provided through volunteers and child life specialists. Genevieve said, “Everyone was so nice to me. I felt really happy when a dog came to my room with a volunteer.”
When Genevieve’s team of caregivers learned she was just days away from graduating from pre-school while in the hospital, they worked together to ensure she could be a part of the special ceremony. On the day she was discharged from Lurie Children’s, she went straight to her pre-school graduation, where she sang and danced onstage with classmates. “It was just great,” Alison said. “Everyone worked together to make it happen.”
When she started kindergarten the following fall, Genevieve was equipped with the knowledge to be her own health advocate in the classroom. “I even taught my school nurse how to read my insulin pump!” she said.
Today, Genevieve says having diabetes is just part of life. Someday, she hopes to return to Lurie Children’s as a volunteer. “I thought the hospital was a fun place for me to be,” she said. “I want to tell other kids about it, so they don’t have to be scared when they go there.”
Alison remains grateful for the life-saving emergency care her daughter received at Lurie Children’s, as well as the support and education she gained from staff. “This is by far the most difficult thing we’ve faced, but Lurie Children’s made us feel that we could conquer it,” Alison said.
Ranked among the top in the nation by U.S.News & World Report for diabetes and endocrinology, Lurie Children’s is the only hospital in Illinois that is included in the honor roll of Best Children’s Hospitals. By offering medical consultation, diagnosis, education, advice, guidelines and support, our diabetes program helps parents and children lead successful lives with diabetes diagnoses.