How having two children with diabetes inspired me to educate others

How having two children with diabetes inspired me to educate others

My son Dominic was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7. Less than two years later, my daughter Arianna received her diagnosis at just 10 months old. It’s been a rough road for them medically.

My son saw multiple specialists for abdominal pains and full body rashes until we finally determined he has a secondary autoimmune condition known as mast cell activation syndrome and eosinophilic esophagitis related to an undiagnosed milk allergy. We then unfortunately found out he had an anaphylactic reaction to ibuprofen.

As an infant, my daughter was hospitalized after being diagnosed with diabetes when being seen for RSV. She was then hospitalized again for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). A chest X-ray showed pneumonia, which ultimately caused her DKA. The first year and a half of her life was hard. She was sick and had persistently high blood sugars as a result. We also found out she has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which has thankfully not needed any treatment yet, just frequent monitoring.

Learning of my daughter’s diabetes diagnosis felt like a kick to my stomach. When we received her blood test results, my husband and I looked into each other’s eyes, and our hearts broke. But we knew what we needed to do, and we knew we were in the most capable hands at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Having two children with diabetes is difficult, especially a baby or toddler, as their blood sugars are constantly changing and rarely ever stable thanks to erratic eating habits, growing and hormones. My son is old enough to do a lot of diabetes management on his own with supervision. Both of my children are currently on Dexcom and Omnipod pumps. Without this technology, I don’t think my husband and I would ever be able to sleep at night.

My children’s diagnoses inspired me to become a diabetic educator. Even though I work on the adult side, my passion for raising awareness for diabetes remains the same. I love researching diabetes and bringing that knowledge to my patients, families, teammates and my own family. Helping those who are newly diagnosed understand they are not alone and that they can do this is huge for me. My children’s stories help inspire my adult patients to see they can check their own sugars or administer their insulin. If my little ones can do it, so can they.

I urge everyone to educate themselves on the signs of diabetes to avoid a catastrophic outcome. Symptoms can include increased thirst, frequent urination and possible bed wetting in a toilet-trained child, extreme hunger, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, irritability or behavior changes and fruity smelling breath.

If your child has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, know it gets better. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Join all the Facebook groups for parents of diabetic children, and never hesitate to reach out to your diabetes educators. We are here for you always. Utilize any technology you can to make your life easier and ensure your little ones are safe. You can do this.

Melissa Sartori is the mother of Dominic and Arianna, Advocate Children’s Hospital patients. 

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Melissa Sartori

Melissa Sartori is the mom of Advocate Children's Hospital patients Dominic and Arianna and is a diabetes educator at Advocate Christ Medical Center.