Kelly Niblock and her daughter, Skye
A Paediatric Omnipod® user
Skye, an adventurous 11-year-old Omnipod® user shares her experience identifying the signs of type 1 diabetes. She started her diabetes management during the global pandemic and faced a diagnosis challenge.
It can be easy to miss the signs and symptoms of diabetes. It’s even easier to miss them in the middle of a global pandemic, as Kelly Niblock and her daughter, Skye, know only too well. In fact, Skye became so poorly with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes that she developed severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication of the disease, which resulted in her being rushed to hospital.
Skye had been a bubbly, sports-loving 11-year-old. But in 2020, just as COVID-19 appeared and lockdowns and home-schooling began, she started to feel unwell. “The trouble was so many things were happening at the same time,” says Kelly. “Rather than being her usual active self, Skye became tired and would lay around watching television. That wasn’t like her. She also became anxious about everything — but I thought she was feeling isolated and depressed because of the pandemic.”
The tell-tale signs of type 1 diabetes that can be overlooked
When lockdown restrictions relaxed, Kelly tried to gee Skye up by taking her and her brothers out for walks. On one of these occasions, she noticed that Skye was constantly gulping down water. “Again, it was the hottest day of the year,” says Kelly. “So although the signs and symptoms were there, there was always another reason for them.”
It wasn’t until the week before Skye’s diagnosis in July 2020 that symptoms began to manifest more alarmingly. Skye started to complain of a headache and she needed to go to the toilet more frequently. “Then Skye complained that she couldn’t breathe properly, and we wondered if it was COVID-19,” says Kelly. “I said we should go to the hospital, but she said: ‘No, I think I’m all right.’”
Type 1 diabetes hasn’t stopped me from doing anything I want to do.Skye Niblock
But later that night Skye began to projectile vomit, so Kelly immediately phoned 111, described Skye’s symptoms and was told that an ambulance was on its way. At the hospital, doctors immediately diagnosed type 1 diabetes — and it soon became clear that Skye’s DKA was extremely serious. “I asked a doctor if Skye was going to be OK and she didn’t give me a definite answer,” remembers Kelly. “She said: ‘This is a really dangerous situation and you’re very lucky to have got here when you did.’ If it had been five minutes later, Skye wouldn’t be here now.”
Managing diabetes with modern technology
Thankfully, Skye’s condition stabilised and she was told about type 1 diabetes. “I only knew about type 2,” says Skye, who is feeling like her old self again and approaching her 12th birthday. “So at first I was confused, then I got scared.” Initially, Skye had to get to grips with a new regime of healthcare, which involved constant finger pricking and injecting insulin regularly, which she often found inconvenient and uncomfortable.
However, she now manages her condition with some diabetes technology; a tubeless and wireless insulin pump called the Omnipod DASH® Insulin Management System. She showed me her Pod, which she was wearing discreetly under her upper arm*. Skye programmes the PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager) to deliver the insulin she needs in precise doses via the Pod. Apart from being more convenient, it means she rarely has to inject.
Skye is now living life to the full again. “Type 1 diabetes hasn’t stopped me from doing anything I want to do,” she says. Skye’s favourite hobbies are all possible, helped by her Omnipod DASH® System and her healthcare team. “I’ve figured out a way to do sports and everything I loved before.”
Text BoxKelly’s message for parents is that a diabetes diagnosis is daunting and overwhelming at first. “But management soon becomes second nature,” she says. “I made a promise to Skye that she would have the same life as everyone else. Diabetes can be a challenge, but it never stops us from having adventures.”
*The Pod has many approved sites on the body and site rotation is recommended.