Stacey Crescitelli thought her 13-year-old son was just experiencing the normal phases of being a teenager.
He had grown a lot over the course of a few months. As Stacey told “Today Parents,” her son had all of a sudden become one of those “reed thin, gangly boys.” She and husband, Joe, just thought their boy was leaning out.
Then came the sleeping.
Since losing almost 25 pounds, their son was sleeping more and more. Stacey and Joe suspected Henry might be dealing with depression, but deep down they both knew there was something more going on.
However, it was during the spring of last year that Stacey and Joe realized the signs Henry was exhibiting were beyond those of a typical teenager.
He was in the kitchen when all of a sudden he called for Stacey. She told Today:
“One minute he was in the kitchen getting water, and the next he was asking me to help him to the couch because he couldn't walk or focus his eyes,” she said.
He had suffered a serious bout of vertigo, which lasted for the entire day.
Along with the vertigo, different symptoms arose: frequent headaches, dizziness, and stomachaches. Henry also complained that his legs ached. Stacey assured him that it was normal for kids growing rapidly to experience achy legs. She advised her son that he stretch more often and perhaps not sleep with the dog, as to ensure more room on the bed.
Yet, combined with the weight loss and increased sleep, Stacey and Joe knew it was time to see a doctor. That's when the family learned that Henry's symptoms weren't a normal part of becoming a teen.
He had type 1 diabetes.
By the time he was diagnosed he was already in diabetic ketoacidosis, writes Today, which is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes that can lead to coma.
Henry was hospitalized for four days.
Stacey tells Independent Journal Review that because so little is known about type 1 diabetes, far too often young people die before a diagnosis is even made:
“Type 1 diabetes isn't about too many doughnuts or soda or anything like that,” she explained.
“What I want parents to know more than anything [are] the basic symptoms.”
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes (previously called juvenile diabetes) is when the body doesn't produce insulin. The disease affects 5 percent of people with diabetes and approximately 1.25 million American children and adults.
The Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and notes that the onset of symptoms may be quick:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Bedwetting in children who previously didn't wet the bed during the night
- Extreme hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Irritability and other mood changes
- Fatigue and weakness
- Blurred vision
- In females, a vaginal yeast infection
Today adds that signs of dehydration — cracked lips, sunken eyes, and pale skin — can also point to symptoms of type 1 diabetes.
Stacey told Today she didn't realize when teenagers experience sudden growth spurts they aren't supposed to lose weight, either.
Henry's other symptoms were significant once they were identified as part of a pattern.
Stacey explains to IJR that part of the difficulty in diagnosing diabetes in young people is why the mom is on a mission to make a simple blood test part of the basic checkup for kids.
“The blood glucose meter should go hand in hand with the stethoscope or thermometer,” she said.
Although, not every day is a good day for Henry while he begins adjusting to his diagnosis. Still, Stacey feels supported on her journey, as a mom of a child with type 1 diabetes, by a community of parents whose children face similar struggles.
They have been a never ending well of encouragement, knowledge and support for me," she said.
She adds that although there's a certain amount of fear that comes with the unknown, she and Henry look on the bright side. She tells IJR:
“[I]t isn't an easy thing, this type 1 beast.... it certainly challenges you some days and there is always, for me as a parent, a kind of undercurrent of fear and exhaustion from it...”
Adding: “[B]ut also there is a lot of laughter and an intense appreciation and love that comes with dealing with it day in and day out.”