‘My daughter was knocked out. Joking, I asked if she was breathing’: Mom loses daughter to undiagnosed childhood diabetes


girl dies due to undiagnosed childhood diabetes

On March 22, 2018, Sierra Greenlee experienced every parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of a child.

After suddenly slipping into a coma, her three-year-old daughter, Arya, stopped breathing. She was rushed to the hospital, but doctors were unable to revive her.
How did this happen to a seemingly healthy little girl? The answer: Arya Greenlee had undiagnosed type 1 diabetes [1].

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Firstly, it is important to understand how your body functions when you don’t have diabetes

When you eat food, specifically carbohydrates, your body converts it into glucose, which it then releases into your bloodstream. Then, an organ called the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps your cells take this glucose from the blood and use it for energy [2].

When you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas no longer produces insulin. When left untreated this can be extremely dangerous because it can lead to ketoacidosis [3]. 
Ketoacidosis (which is different than ketosis) when your cells do not receive the sugar they require for energy [4]. There is still lots of glucose in your bloodstream, but because you do not have enough insulin, your cells cannot use this energy. To compensate, your body starts breaking down muscle and fat for energy instead, which produces ketones (made from stored fatty acids). This causes an imbalance of electrolytes in your body and can lead to a diabetic coma or even death if left untreated [4].

What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

You may know that there is a second form of diabetes, referred to as type 2 diabetes. As explained above, type 1 is when your body simply does not produce insulin. With type 2, your body still produces insulin, but your cells are incapable of using it properly or efficiently [3]. This is also known as insulin resistance [3].

Often, type 2 diabetes actually causes the pancreas to produce more insulin, but since your cells aren’t able to respond to it efficiently, you end up with hypoglycemia (high blood sugar) [3].

Related: 7 Fruits to Avoid If You Have Diabetes

How Do I Know if My Child has Type 1 Diabetes?

The signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes can develop suddenly and rapidly in children. Here is what you should watch out for:

  • Weight Loss: unexplained weight loss is usually the first sign that something is wrong. This happens because when your child’s body does not have enough sugar, and therefore energy, his or her muscles and fat stores will begin to shrink [5].
  • Your child is thirsty a lot and needs to urinate frequently: this can be tough to pick up on since small children tend to need to pee often. When your child’s bloodstream has excess sugar in it, it pulls fluids from cells, which increases the need to urinate. If you have a toilet-trained child who suddenly starts wetting the bed, this could be a sign that something is wrong [5].
  • Extreme Hunger: your child’s cells are not getting the energy they need, so they trigger and extreme hunger response to try to get more sugar [5].
  • Fatigue: Without sugar, your child may become lethargic and tired [5].
  • Behaviour Changes: Another tough one to catch, since toddlers’ behavior can be sporadic at the best of times, but if you notice sudden mood changes, or if your school-age child starts to show a decline in performance in the classroom, this could mean something is wrong [5].
  • Fruity Breath: excess ketones in the body from the breakdown of fat and muscle can make your child’s breath smell fruity [5].
  • Blurred Vision: When your child’s blood sugar is too high, fluid could be pulled from the lenses of his or her eyes [5]. 
  • Yeast Infections: Little girls with diabetes could develop genital yeast infections, and babies could develop diaper rashes [5].

It can be difficult to detect these symptoms in a young child, see they are less capable of communicating them to us, so as parents it is important to remain vigilant to any sudden changes in your child’s appearance or behavior.

How is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?

In order to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a doctor must perform a physical exam on your child and take a blood test [6].

Unfortunately, it is not a common procedure to test a child for diabetes until they are school-age, or if they exhibit symptoms. Unless there is a family history, a baby or very young toddler will not be tested [1]. 

This, again, is why it is so very important for parents to remain alert to any sudden physical or behavioral changes in their child.

How Do You Manage Type 1 Diabetes?

There is currently no way to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes, however, it can be managed through careful monitoring [5].

The first step to managing type 1 diabetes is taking insulin. This is administered daily either by injection or through an insulin pump [6]. It is also important to monitor your child’s blood sugar levels regularly using a home blood glucose meter [3].

There are also some lifestyle factors that can help your child stay healthy. These include:

  • Eating healthy meals and snacks
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Managing stress levels [3]

Protecting Your child

There is currently nothing you can do to prevent your child from developing type 1 diabetes, and it is important to understand that if they do develop the disease, it is not your fault.

The best defense as a parent is to pay close attention to your child’s behavior and talk to your doctor as soon as you notice anything unusual.

Diabetes can sometimes be difficult to spot, but with better education and awareness, tragedies like the Greenlee’s do not have to happen to anyone. 

With proper management and a healthy lifestyle, your child can lead a full and happy life with diabetes.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

Read More:

Help Prevent Type II Diabetes and Balance Blood Sugar with These 10 Foods

Okra Controls Hunger and Diabetes, Lowers Cholesterol, and Fights Fatigue

Man Reverses Type II Diabetes in Only 2.5 Months with Keto and Fasting

The post ‘My daughter was knocked out. Joking, I asked if she was breathing’: Mom loses daughter to undiagnosed childhood diabetes appeared first on The Hearty Soul.


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