Easter, not so carefree for everyone.
For many kids, Eastertime is all about chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and visits from the Easter bunny.
But for more than 1,200 WA children with diabetes it’s a tricky time of year.
Kids with diabetes like Freya have to take care of what they eat over Easter.
Freya’s diabetes diagnosis came with little warning. On her seventh birthday she barely touched her celebratory pizza and birthday cake. She was incredibly thirsty and needed to keep rushing to the toilet but with cases of flu going around, her mum and dad just thought she was coming down with something minor.
The next day she was back to normal. But by the weekend, Freya was lethargic, and her parents noticed that she appeared to have lost a significant amount of weight in just a matter of days. They made a mental note to take her to the doctor the following week.
Then, things took a turn for the worse. That night, they noticed Freya breathing rapidly in her sleep. It wasn’t normal. They made a midnight dash to Perth Children’s Hospital and got there just in time.
“We were told Freya was really sick and had DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis,” said her dad, Frankie. “Your body can’t really operate with that, and the next step is that the organs start shutting down, it was pretty frightening.”
DKA is a life-threatening complication of diabetes and develops when the body doesn’t get enough insulin.
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Freya battled to regain her strength. Over several days, little by little, she started to recover and put on weight.
Learning that Freya had Type 1 diabetes came as a shock to her family, who’ve had to learn about the ongoing management of blood glucose levels to reduce the risk of serious complications.
Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves causing chronic problems and early death. Maintaining blood glucose levels as close as possible to the normal range, often through multiple daily insulin injections, minimises this risk.
Since leaving hospital, Freya has taken the daily disruption of diabetes in her stride. She wears a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device that automatically measures her blood glucose levels, so she no longer needs to endure frequent finger prick tests and has even learned to administer her own insulin injections.
“The CGM makes life a lot easier, no more fingerpick testing and you’re constantly seeing what’s going on,” Frankie said. “Is she too low or too high, say she wants an afternoon snack and she’s a little high, we can say ‘well, don’t have too much of that’, so once you get the CGM you’re ahead of it all the time.”
“She was breathing uncontrollably fast and at one point in the night, when we got into Intensive Care, she just didn’t respond at all, it was pretty scary”
Freya’s dad, Frankie, recalling the frightening night she was rushed to hospital.
Life is never the same again for children with diabetes.
The condition requires ongoing monitoring and a careful balance of diet, exercise and treatment to maintain blood glucose levels. All at a time when kids may be fussy eaters or have challenging behaviours.
About 160 kids are diagnosed with diabetes in WA every year and the number is growing, particularly Type 2 diabetes. Previously not seen in children, Type 2 diabetes requires the same careful management to reduce the risk of complications.
Donate to Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation today to support world-class diabetes care and help WA kids with diabetes and their families enjoy a carefree Easter.