Early detection of Type 1 diabetes can save children’s lives

Parents urged to trust instincts for early diabetes detection

SAN ANTONIO - – Sophia Roussel loves gymnastics, soccer, and swimming like any typical 8-year-old.

Yet, Sophia is doing those activities with Type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disorder very different than Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children, and once kids get that diagnosis there are a lot of new technological options.

Sophia has a pump attached to her leg which gives her insulin, and a gadget called the Dexcom attached to her arm constantly checks her blood sugar and alerts her if it’s not normal.

“It all basically keeps me alive,” Sophia said.

It was two years ago Sophia was diagnosed, and even though she was just a kindergartener, she remembers the symptoms.

“Really thirsty, cranky, but also really shaky,” she said.

“She kept saying, ‘Mom, I’m thirsty.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, where’s your water?’ ‘Oh, I finished it,’” said Conne Ann Roussel, Sophia’s mother.

Connie Ann has two family members with Type 1 diabetes, so they caught it somewhat early, and Sophia wasn’t hospitalized for long.

“We were all kind of like, ‘How did we not see this?’ But there are so many ways for it to be thought of as normal things that just go on,” Connie Ann said.

Especially now, when it’s so hot outside, and it’s normal for kids to stay super hydrated.

That’s why it’s important for people to know about the other symptoms:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Lethargic
  • Excessively hungry
  • Losing weight
  • Blurred vision
  • Fruity breath smell

In toddlers, it’s harder to figure out because they can’t communicate as well, but there are still signs.

“If you have a child that’s not potty trained yet, maybe you’re having to change their diaper more than usual, especially at night,” said Machell Day, a board member for advocacy group Breakthrough T1D, formerly named JDRF.

Day said kids who are potty trained often start wetting the bed.

Catching all these signs can save a child’s life.

“A lot of kids go into what is called diabetic ketoacidosis before they learn that they have it. Diabetic ketoacidosis can cause comas, seizures, and either high or low blood sugar. High blood sugar for a long period of time can cause neuropathy, heart issues, and other problems,” Day said.

Day’s daughter Addison was diagnosed five years ago so they know diagnosis can be confusing.

“Sometimes it can be conveyed to a parent that maybe they’re just going through a growth spurt. Sometimes it is just a growth spurt, but it’s worth getting it checked out,” Day said.

Years after diagnosis, both Addison and Sofia have their diabetes in check and are living active lives.

“Some things are harder, but I feel like everyone else,” Sofia said.

She wants other kids to pay attention to what’s happening in their bodies and tell their parents what they’re feeling.

Connie Ann had a message for parents: “Trust those intuitions that you have as a parent that something’s just not right. Go in and get checked.”

They joined the Breakthrough T1D community which has provided an enormous support system and a direct line to new technology and treatment.

The Breakthrough T1D website is open to anyone who wants to learn more about T1D or donate to help fund research.


About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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