Over the summer, Courtney Moore’s 16-month-old son, Maddox, started grabbing her water bottle and taking huge gulps of water. She wasn’t surprised — temperatures in Sacramento, California, had been exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When he began soaking through his overnight diapers, she contacted their pediatrician and learned that Maddox had an unexpected diagnosis: He had Type 1 diabetes and was in diabetic ketoacidosis.
“The doctor said on the phone, ‘His blood glucose read 684,’” Moore, 31, who works in public relations, told TODAY Parents. “The doctor said, ‘Well, he should be like 150.’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah that’s high!’”
They rushed Maddox to the hospital where he received treatment. Moore wanted to share their story to encourage parents to seek help if something seems off with their children.
“Trust your gut,” she said. “If you feel like something’s wrong talk to a pediatrician. Talk to their doctor and just eliminate it … If it would have been nothing, I would have been given peace of mind.”
When being thirsty is related to diabetes in kids
As soon as Maddox became mobile, he seemed to gravitate toward Moore’s water bottle. She didn’t really notice any problem with it but it did seem like he was drinking much more than normal. She initially chalked it up to the heat wave. When he began soaking through his diapers, she wondered if something had changed.
“I posted asking for advice and a bunch of moms recommended that we double up on the diapers,” Moore said. “We literally tried everything, every brand we could think of, and nothing was working. He would wake up drenched in his pee. It was all over his crib. It was just awful.”
She also noticed that as soon as he woke, he grabbed for water. Moore searched online for solutions to Maddox’s diaper soaking and one result kept coming up with her search: Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder where the pancreas cannot make insulin.
“I’m like, ‘I don’t know that seems a little extreme,’” she recalled thinking. “I messaged his pediatrician and was like, ‘Here’s what’s going on with Maddox, I’m a little concerned.’”
After another night soaking through his diaper, she decided to call and she spoke with a pediatrician, who recommended bloodwork.
“Within an hour of the bloodwork we got a couple emergency calls from the hospital saying, ‘You need to take Maddox to the ER,’” she said.
Maddox was experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal complication of untreated or poorly regulated diabetes.
“Your blood glucose levels can continue to increase and people may have confusion. They may pass out. People around them would notice they were very sick. They would develop abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting,” Dr. Gregory Deines, section chief for diabetes and endocrinology at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who did not treat Maddox, told TODAY Parents. “Worse case scenarios is that people can actually develop coma and become unresponsive. If that happens, it’s extremely dangerous and people can die.”
Moore said doctors gave Maddox fluids to rehydrate him. While people with untreated diabetes drink more water, they also urinate it out more.
“I thought that was interesting because you know he’s been drinking water; he has plenty of fluids,” she said. “But his body wasn’t treating it the right way.”
Then doctors gave him insulin.
“His blood sugars were so high that it could be damaging to him,” she explained. “The first thing they wanted to do was to get him out of that danger zone, the diabetic ketoacidosis.”
People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin for the entire lives. Moore worried at first what that would mean for her toddler.
“You never think it’s going to be your kid,” she said. “I just started thinking of him having to deal with this in elementary school and potentially getting made fun of.”
But soon, she felt differently.
“I was like, ‘OK I need to focus just one day at a time. Right now, I have a 16-month-old boy who is starting to feel better,’” she said. “He’s not going to know any different.”
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes
Feeling thirsty is a common sign of diabetes. But it’s often overlooked.
“People can attribute the symptoms to other things,” Deines said. “(They'll think) 'It’s warmer so I’m just drinking more fluids because I’m thirsty.' And then they’ll think 'Well I'm having to urinate more frequently … because I’m drinking all this water.'”
Other symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:
- Loss of energy
- Unexplained and rapid weight loss without trying
- Feeling unwell
“They can come on quite rapidly,” Deines said.
Moore said in hindsight she noticed Maddox lost weight but thought it was because he was so active.
“He had other little symptoms but nothing that really trigged any concern,” she said. “He’s a growing toddler … (I thought) He’s slimming down a little bit because he’s walking now and he’s running around.”
Raising awareness about diabetes in kids
Since returning from the hospital, Maddox has been laughing, smiling and happy. Moore said she felt it was important to encourage other people to follow their instincts when it comes to their child’s health.
“I just worry about other parents who have kids that have these exact same symptoms who do the same thing I did like ‘It’s hot weather’ or ‘They’re going through a growth spurt,’” she said. “It seems like something that we could have continued to push off and it could have killed him.”
This story was originally published in July 2021.