The Willoughbys are like any other family in Australia, except they found out the hard way their eldest son has type 1 diabetes. Mum of four Bec Willoughby explains why she wants more Aussie families to join a national study to find the causes of type 1 diabetes.
Our lives were turned upside down on the long weekend of October 2015. We’d recently become a family of three children under four – our twins had just been born; a major life event in itself.
What I thought was going to be a routine visit to the GP ended up with me rushing our son, Charlie (aged 3), to the emergency department at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew something just wasn’t right.
After expressing my concerns, our GP decided to do a simple urine test on Charlie. I remember looking at the stick and seeing it immediately turn dark brown. I don’t recall much about what he said, my mind began to race after I heard the words "type 1 diabetes" and "emergency".
I rang my husband Adam from the car, telling him to meet us at the hospital. I’m not sure how I saw the road through my tears; it all seemed so surreal.
On arrival, Charlie was taken straight through for more testing. His blood glucose level was checked and it’s a number I’ll never forget: it was 46.7. (The optimal range should be between 4-8.)
Like many others, we knew nothing about type 1 diabetes. We now know that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system stops the pancreas from producing insulin. There is currently no cure. There was no history of it in our family and our healthy son had never been sick.