by LAURA BRODNIK
On a sunny day in May, Brisbane mother Dominique Bain was joyfully preparing to celebrate her son Archer’s first birthday. However, the discovery of some frightening symptoms saw him rushed to hospital before the family had a chance to celebrate. What followed was the stuff of nightmares for the young mother; with the news Archer had been diagnosed with a life-long chronic disease, for which there is no cure.
The fear in Dominique’s voice was unmasked as she recounted the events of that day and the journey her family has undertaken ever since. “Archer didn’t seem like himself for a few days so I booked a doctor’s appointment to have him checked out,” she said.
“The morning of the doctor’s appointment he seemed very lethargic and he was breathing very heavily, so I rang 000 and we went straight to hospital in the ambulance. The paramedics were unsure what was wrong at first and I was terrified – it was the scariest experience of my life. They started to run tests immediately upon our admission and had to insert a cannula, which caused him great distress.”
“It didn’t seem right, seeing him covered in tubes and getting poked and prodded. I was distraught, but I tried to remain as calm as possible for Archer’s sake. It was obvious that he was very unwell but a part of me was still hoping that it wasn’t too serious.”
Dominique said she was in shock when she learned Archer had Type 1 Diabetes and was very ill with severe Diabetic Ketoacidosis, a potentially life threatening condition which is associated with very high blood glucose levels. “I remember thinking that he was too young. He was still a baby. It also felt surreal because it all happened just one day prior to his first birthday. One minute we were planning his party, and the next minute we were by his side in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit,” she said.
“We then spent several days in hospital learning how to manage the diabetes, including how to give him injections, count carbs and test his blood glucose levels. It was very overwhelming at first.”
Dominique, her husband Graham and sons Archer and Emerson have now started putting the pieces of their life back together despite the frightening diagnosis.
“Diabetes is a completely life changing event and it has the potential to place a lot of stress upon the family involved,” Dominique said. “We have learnt to work together as a team to manage Archer’s diabetes and we make sure that we still do things that we would have done prior to the diagnosis, such as travelling and having fun. We want to teach Archer that he can do anything in life, despite having diabetes. But I still harbour a fear that something may go wrong or that he could end up seriously ill in hospital – or worse.”
Archer has received a swell of support from family and friends since his diagnoses, but to her surprise Dominique has also found herself facing criticism from people who do not understand the condition and slammed her for feeding her son a poor diet.
“It is a common misconception that there is just one type of diabetes which is caused by the person consuming too much sugar. In actual fact, there are two major types – Type 1 is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by the immune system mistakenly turning on itself, destroying the beta cells within the pancreas and resulting in nil or very little insulin production. Type 2 is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively,” she said.
“Type 2 can be reversed, whereas Type 1 is a chronic, lifelong disease. It is frustrating when people assume that Archer’s diabetes is the result of too much sugar or a bad diet of junk food when that is simply not the case.”
In order to dispel these myths and raise funds for research Dominique and her family are taking part in the Walk to Cure Diabetes, an event organised by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“The walk gives the community hope that there will one day be a cure. The proceeds assist JDRF in spreading awareness about Type 1 diabetes and supporting medical research projects that aim to cure, treat and prevent the condition.
“Archer is doing well now. However, it is a stressful and challenging journey and we are taking one day at a time. I just hope that we can find a cure so that Archer can enjoy life without the burden of diabetes.
“My advice to other parents would be to join a local support network where you can discuss the ins and outs of the disease with other parents who are in the same boat. Also, never give up on a cure, because we will get there.”
According to the JDRF there are 122,300 Australians currently living with Type 1 Diabetes.