Her little head looked huge on her gaunt body. She had been extra tired for the last few days. At first I had chalked it up to the sudden heat wave that was so common in the Central Valley of California. Every year we enjoyed luscious spring weather for about six weeks. Then without warning, we were shoved face-first into somebody’s pre-heated oven. Temperatures skipped the nineties altogether. The hillsides that were covered in glorious wildflowers and tender grass became a desert full of scruffy weeds and brush in a matter of days. The drastic change made us all feel wilted.
I had kept my kids inside as much as possible, reminding them to drink plenty and only to go outside when the sun went down. Darrah, however, hadn’t been outside as much as the others. In fact, every time I turned around she was curled up on the couch, sleeping. Maybe it wasn’t the heat after all.
Was our new schedule too demanding? Because we homeschooled we always took a break during the spring, then started a new school year when the heat arrived. After weeks of sleeping in, it was a struggle to get up earlier, but everyone else adjusted quickly. My little DarBear did not. She grew more tired with each passing day. Since she was in first grade and her work load was small, I allowed her to nap as much as she needed.
I had been checking for other symptoms. She didn’t have a fever, and didn’t complain of any aches and pains. Her throat and ears were normal, and she still had an appetite. I urged her to drink lots of orange juice to boost her immune system, and Gatorade to make sure she wasn’t getting dehydrated.
Could she be having a growth spurt? It looked as if the opposite was true. Around the fourth day of extreme tiredness, I noticed her frame seemed thin and her neck looked scrawny. This gave her head the appearance of being enlarged. Even though I couldn’t find a thing wrong with her, I knew it was time to take her to the clinic.
During the examination, the physician wasn’t overly concerned. He said she had a mild ear infection and he scribbled out a prescription for antibiotics. I wasn’t happy with his diagnosis. Something wasn’t adding up. I had a stack of kids, you understand. I had seen ear infections, strep throat, whooping cough, and a whole myriad of other maladies. The most serious stuff was usually accompanied by fever, which she didn’t have. And the most serious ailments I had encountered hadn’t made any of my kids resemble a holocaust survivor.
While we waited for her prescription to be filled we stopped at McDonald’s so I could get her some chicken nuggets and a Sprite. I was still determined to keep her full of liquids. We began administering the antibiotics as soon as they were in hand. I kept a close eye on her all day, hoping the antibiotics would start helping soon. At the very least I knew they should prevent her from getting any worse.
By nightfall her breathing seemed a bit labored. I wasn’t sure what to do, since the doctor had advised us to give the antibiotics time to work and assured us she would be fine in a couple of days. I decided to sleep on the couch and put her on the loveseat so I could keep an eye on her through the night.
As she slept I lay there fully awake. I knew in my heart that something was dreadfully wrong. My daughter was dying. I couldn’t figure out what was trying to erase her little life. I sobbed into my pillow and cried out to God.
Lord, I don’t know what’s wrong with Darrah. I don’t know what to do. The doctor has said she’ll be fine, but something tells me that’s not true. Is she going to die? God, if she dies, I don’t know how I’ll live! Is it selfish of me to ask you to help her? Is it your intention to take her home? Father, if that’s what your will is then I accept it, but you’ll have to help me. I give her to you. She’s always been yours anyway, and I know you’ll do what’s best, even if it means you take her away from us. I love her so much, and this is killing me. Right now I need wisdom. Is there something I can do for her? Some way I can help her? I can’t stand to see her withering away. I only ask this one thing: please don’t let us hear some doctor say, “We could’ve done something but you were a little too late.” Please…please…don’t let us be too late.
I have no idea how long I cried and prayed. It wasn’t long before Darrah woke up and said, “Mommy, I’m going to be sick.” No sooner were the words out of her mouth than she began throwing up. Vomit went everywhere and she started crying. I helped her to the bathroom and told her to get a shower and I would bring her fresh clothes. It was time to take her to the emergency room.
I spent very little time mopping up the mess. I went to the bathroom to check on Darrah and found her standing on the rug drying off. When I saw her body I was horrified. She was skin and bones! I hadn’t seen her fully unclothed in several days, and the change was alarming. I helped her get dressed and towel dried her hair. I tried not to let the panic to show. I sat her on the couch and ran to wake her dad.
We grabbed a change of clothes for her and hurried out the door. We decided to take her to the children’s hospital, even though it was fifteen minutes farther than the closest emergency room.
In the car I held Darrah’s hand and tried to soothe her. She started talking complete nonsense. At one point she began shrieking and clawing the air as if she were fighting an invisible enemy. I was terrified. Right before we arrived she told me she needed to pee, but then smiled a silly smile and said, “Never mind.” She had already relieved herself. She was soon struggling to keep her eyes open. I could no longer keep from crying. My daughter wasn’t herself, and she was fading fast.
When we reached the parking lot I shucked off her wet clothes and yanked a clean outfit over her head. She still smelled strongly of urine, and it had a sickly-sweet odor. Strange, but this was what helped with a quick diagnosis. We ran into the emergency room and hospital staff immediately put her on a gurney. They wheeled her into a room. The doctor came right away and bent over her emaciated form. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Did she just pee?” I nodded.
“I can smell ketones. I’m pretty sure she has diabetes. We’ll test to confirm it, but I’m almost certain that’s what it is. We’re going to help your little girl. She’s going to be fine.”
Inside I had been a jumbled mess, but now I was flooded with relief. Before you judge me for being relieved that my daughter was now a diabetic, please understand I had been imagining all sorts of terminal illnesses. Darrah had been declining at such a rate that I had started wondering how to break the news to everyone when she was gone. So, when I heard the word “diabetes” I knew we were dealing with something manageable. I understood that it would be difficult, and would even change our lives, but I knew she was going to live. I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. We hadn’t been too late.
The diabetes journey has been eight years now. Even at its hardest, I’ve never stopped being thankful that God heard my prayers, and that Darrah is alive. He could’ve taken her; and I hope I would have still trusted him and believed he is good…because he is.