August 24, 2012

A Mother's Story

“I truly cannot recall that anybody told me that he had Diabetes - the fear of losing him was then very real to me!”

Most people know that symptoms like weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite can mean diabetes, but what if you didn’t know what symptoms and triggers to look for? That’s the situation Ronel Hentschel found herself in almost four years ago, when her son Francois, who was 2 years old, was experiencing symptoms of diabetes. Now Ronel is a true caregiver for her son with a vast knowledge of Diabetes. On Twitter she shares information about diabetes solutions, education and healthy living. In today’s interview, we talk with Ronel about the challenges of learning about diabetes, how social media helped her, and how Francois has adapted to living with diabetes.

1) Can you tell us the story of when your son was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?

Francois was only 2 years old, (he is now almost 6). We were posted to Eastern Europe. He started losing weight, stopped eating, and had the typical symptoms. I unfortunately had no knowledge of diabetes. Francois was misdiagnosed for almost two months. One day he was just so weak, that he couldn’t walk! I flew to South Africa, where he had a PH of 6.9 and severe ketoacidosis. He was in ICU for a few days. I truly cannot recall that anybody told me that he had diabetes - the fear of losing him was then very real to me! We were then transferred to an amazing hospital, with a pediatric endocrinologist. Only then did I start to realize what happened to Francois.

2) Can you talk about the process of learning about diabetes? What was difficult about it?

I can recall being totally overwhelmed by all these new terms and numbers! I quickly realized that I held the key to my son’s acceptance of diabetes and his life expectancy - the door that I needed to unlock was knowledge! Our whole life changed completely! Francois went on a pump, which made our life so much easier. Carb counting was probably the easiest for me initially. My biggest challenge was uncontrolled blood glucose levels due to emotions. The mere fact of going to a birthday party or sleeping over at grandma's house had a huge impact on his blood glucose! My other challenge was getting him to eat carbs and his loss of appetite and his total hypoglycemic unawareness.

3) Has social media helped you learn more about Diabetes and how to help your son manage it? If so, what outlets do you use? Are you a part of any online communities?

Social media played a huge part in my search for knowledge! I am making use of twitter and Facebook as well as diabetes journals to empower us as a family. I follow JDRF, IDF, JDCA, parenting diabetic kids and diabetic solutions South Africa on Facebook. I also follow more than 400 role players on twitter and still learn every day from organizations like you!

4) How has Francois adapted to living with Diabetes?

Francois's adjustment was great! I saw myself as a type 3 diabetic, which is the mother of a type 1. It becomes your diabetes to manage! His biggest challenge was last year. I came into his room one night, and he was crying nonstop! He said he didn't want to be diabetic and that we had to remove the pump! We started play therapy the following day - it came out then that the children in his kindergarten told him he is diabetic as his mom gave him too many sweets. Our biggest challenge is to educate other people and children his age so that they don't discriminate against him. Francois has become much more assertive and will talk to children and adults about the different types of diabetes as well as the myths! For that I am very proud of him! Francois is on a pump with continuous glucose monitoring, this is my peace of mind. It is amazing how a 5 year old can interpret the graph!

5) What are some resources, books, etc. that you would recommend to parents whose child has recently been diagnosed with diabetes? 

The pink panther series of books are great! I would recommend parents to make use of social media. Go to Calling All Types on Twitter and see which institutions they are following. Learn from people who know and not people who think they know. Francois is one of so many children in South Africa with type 1 diabetes, I hope and pray for a cure and truly believe that solutions are coming!

The decision to participate is always yours and your feedback is always wanted. At CallingAllTypes, we believe finding the right online resources to better manage your diabetes should be a whole lot easier! So sign up and be a part of our growing online health movement. Once you've joined, stay connected with us through Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube.

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