National Diabetes Week

How Henry lives with diabetes

By Claire Cooper

Diabetes has been a hot topic in the media recently as the numbers of adults being diagnosed with type 2 continue to rise. But far less is written about the increasing numbers of babies and young children with type 1 diabetes which is an auto-immune condition for which there is no cure.

Lindfield mum Sarah Depledge, whose son Henry was diagnosed at just 15 months old, tells what life is like with a diabetic child and why people should give generously during National Diabetes Week (June 8th to 14th).

“The first thing I noticed was that Henry’s nappies were getting wetter and he was constantly thirsty,” said Sarah. “But I assumed it was part of the transition after stopping breastfeeding.”

Over the next few weeks Henry became increasingly lethargic and cranky and when his breathing became rapid he was rushed into the Royal Alex in Brighton. “During the journey Henry began to lose consciousness,” Sarah recalled. “The hospital staff were brilliant and, when I told them about the thirst and nappies, they very quickly diagnosed diabetes. It was a huge shock for us as there are no other cases in the family.”

Henry was seriously ill with diabetic ketoacidosis and spent two days in the High Dependency Unit drifting in and out of consciousness, and a further week in hospital before being allowed home. “I have since learnt that Henry would have had stomach cramps and blurred vision,” said Sarah. “But at 15 months there was no way he could tell me what was wrong.”

Henry’s diagnosis meant a steep learning curve for Sarah and the family, who have ‘lived and breathed’ diabetes ever since.

“Henry’s diabetes affects us all day, every day,“ said Sarah, who has to take blood by pricking Henry’s finger 10 times every day. “I even have to test while Henry’s asleep but he’s got so used to it, he barely rouses.”

Now 6, Henry needs regular doses of insulin which are administered through a pump attached to his side. “People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce any insulin so every time Henry eats I have to work out how much insulin he will need,” said Sarah, who enters the information into a hand held monitor which sends the message to Henry’s pump.

“It’s a matter of working out how many carbs there are in each food,“ said Sarah, who also has to take into account any exercise which will affect energy levels. 

Because of this constant need for insulin, Sarah has to accompany Henry everywhere. “I go to birthday parties, after school clubs, swimming lessons and even to Beavers.“ Staff at Lindfield Primary School are trained to administer Henry’s insulin during the school day.

Diabetes affects every aspect of Henry’s life. “Stress, excitement, growth, illness, extreme heat and cold, all affect him and his needs are constantly changing as he grows, although he can now recognise when he’s hypo,” said Sarah.

The family are determined to ensure that Henry’s life is as normal as possible and have enjoyed several holidays abroad. “He’s got used to his pump setting off airport alarms and being frisked by security staff!” said Sarah.

There is no cure for Henry’s diabetes but research is making inroads into managing the condition.

Last year Sarah raised over £800 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an amount doubled by her partner’s employer Vaultex, and is urging readers to support the little known charity. She is also keen to raise awareness of the symptoms of diabetes known as the
4 T’s – thirst, thinner, tiredness and toilet.

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