“It may seem unusual to have a Type 1 Diabetic as the Riley Kid of the Week as we gear up for the Purdue University Dance Marathon; diabetes seems common enough and manageable enough that it may also seem out of place here. Type 1 Diabetes is commonly confused with Type 2 diabetes; Type 1 isn’t as common as people may think. Also, Type 1 is manageable… until it’s not.
On November 16, 2021, Greg was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 8. He was in DKA, which stands for Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This is a life threatening complication of diabetes, when one’s blood sugar has been high for so long that they’ve developed ketones in their blood causing the blood to become more acidic. DKA can lead to diabetic coma or death.
The days leading to Greg’s diagnosis he had been complaining of stomach pain, he had a 32 ounce water bottle with him constantly, he had one meal where he seemed to have a great appetite and many others where his stomach pain was so great he refused to eat. He didn’t have a fever, and he didn’t start vomiting until the night before we took him in. He was lethargic, pale and thin. We knew something was wrong, but we were looking for the things we thought we should be - fever, vomiting, diarrhea. We didn’t know the signs of Type 1 Diabetes, and we didn’t know to look for them.
On November 15 before he began vomiting we made arrangements to keep him home from school. Dan, his dad, took the day off and I, mom, called to schedule an appointment. Speaking to the pediatrician office I told them that I felt a little crazy because he didn’t have any signs of illness but I just knew he wasn’t ok. We scheduled him an appointment for the next afternoon. When his symptoms changed that night we agreed to get him the first appointment the next day. On the morning of November 16, Greg was too weak to tie his shoes, too weak to walk to the car or buckle his seatbelt. I put his shoes on him, carried him to the car and watched my husband drive him to see the NP, and I knew that they’d be sent to the Emergency Room.
About 10 minutes after the appointment was scheduled to begin, my husband texted to tell me they were headed to the ER. I left work to join them. We waited in the ER for an ambulance to transport Greg to the Riley PICU at IU North, where we spent 72 hours learning how to count carbs, calculate blood glucose corrections and inject insulin.
Greg has graduated from multiple daily injections to using a Dexcom CGM, and an OmniPod insulin pump. He is able to do most things that any “normal” kid can do, but he has to approach all things differently. We leave home with juice, fruit snacks, glucose tablets, emergency glucose kits, extra pods, glucometers, etc. And he constantly has devices attached to his person or in a pouch so that we get real time glucose monitoring.
Diabetes is a lifelong chronic illness that impacts all the major organs. At this time there is no cure but we hope for a cure in Greg’s lifetime. There’s also no break from diabetes — it’s all day, everyday. Every sport, meal, snack, mood, impacts blood sugar. There’s no remission. It’s exhausting, which is why I am so grateful to PUDM for including Greg as a Riley Kid. I hope knowing his story will help others know the signs of DKA, and help people understand Diabetes better.”
-The Leonard Family