In January 2015, a week shy of the school year commencing, my whole world changed. Two of my three daughters, Francis, 12, and Lillian, 5, were both feeling extremely unwell. I took both girls to the doctor countless times until finally they checked their urine and did a finger prick test. Following these tests, Francis and Lillian were hospitalised for three days at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead where they were both diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. By the time they reached hospital, Lillian was in a critical state.
Later that year in September, my 10-year-old daughter Clarissa woke up vomiting. This time I instinctively did a finger prick test. The test confirmed my fears: Clarissa’s blood sugar levels were extremely high. Like Francis and Lillian, Clarissa too was a healthy, active, ‘normal’ girl.
I immediately contacted our diabetes educator at Diabetes NSW & ACT who was assigned to us when we first learnt of Francis’ and Lillian’s diagnosis. Within hours, we were in hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed: the genetic disease had struck our family a third time.
Due to the demands managing the diabetes of my three children, I was forced to reconsider whether I had the capability to continue with my career as a registered nurse (RN). Although I was working part time, my work sometimes demanded interstate travel, which took me away from the family for up to two days at a time. I was fortunate enough that my employer was understanding of my family’s situation and allowed me to work from home most days and to start work after I had administered Lillian's injection at school.
Although I’m an RN, I had never experienced working in endocrinology. Because of my inexperience, I refrained from disclosing my occupation with the healthcare professionals who were working with us. I didn’t want there to be any assumptions as to what I might know. I wanted the best chance of comprehending the condition and adapting our family to living with Type 1 diabetes in the most informed way possible.
LISTEN: Sue Channon talks about what it is like to be a parent of a very sick child and what people can do to make life a little bit better. Post continues after audio.
The only thing I was confident about - or so I thought - was administering the subcutaneous injections. However, I quickly learnt it's a very different experience injecting a patient than your own child, especially one who is only five-years-old, four times a day.