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25 July 2011
It’s painful to live with diabetes. And when it is a child who is afflicted, the trauma is even greater. Shobha John gets three children battling the disease to tell their stories
Shashvat Rajora | 5 had to be counselled for a year
He was two years old when diagnosed with his chronic problem. Fever, constant urination and weight loss rang alarm bells. After numerous tests, his parents were shocked to learn he had Type I diabetes. Admitted to hospital for a week, Shashvat, too, was traumatized by the numerous injections he got. “He would constantly ask why I didn’t love him like before,” says Ruchi, his mother. “We had to counsel
him for a year,” says Aditya, his father. “He couldn’t understand why certain foods couldn’t be given to him. But we told him he would have to go back to hospital if he ate them. He obeyed.”
Shashvat sagely says, “Mujhe diabetes hai. Main meetha nahi kha sakta.” (I have diabetes. I can’t eat sweets.) Initially, all sweets were banned. Within a year, his growth became sluggish. A change of doctors saw a different regimen – he could eat most things, but in small quantities. Less oil and spices were used. Squashes were replaced by healthier alternatives and puris made once in six months. Birthday cakes with cream are a no-no, fruitcakes are fine, says Ruchi.
Insulin is injected into him three times a day and his teachers allow him to eat his tiffin when he’s hungry. “Fortunately, he doesn’t have a sweet tooth,” says Ruchi. She ensures he has a glass of milk before he goes to play. “We worry about his future – will he be able to look after himself when he enters his teens? We hope an eventual cure is found.”
Diya Kapoor | 6 her Family’s Given up Sweets in Support
She is the apple of her family’s eye. Her bright eyes always curious, Diya hops around constantly, her waif-like frame belying her condition. Ask her what her problem is and she whispers, “Sugar problem hai.” Her grandmother Usha is overwhelmed with tears as she says, “I hope she gets better, God willing.”
Her parents, Puneet and Shivani, won’t forget April 2011. That’s when Diya was diagnosed with diabetes. She had rapidly lost weight – from 23 kg to 17 kg in three months. Her sugar level was a whopping 502. Puneet says, “She used to love laddoos and ice cream, would have two spoons of sugar in her milk. All that is over. Now, she has ice cream just twice a week and doesn’t pester for more.”
Diya gets three insulin shots daily. There is anxiety when she goes to school. Her parents deposited a food kit with her teacher in case her sugar level drops – glucose, biscuits, sweets. The saving grace has been everybody’s concern. “Everyone, right from the principal to the guard, knows about her condition,” says Puneet. “This is the first time they have seen such a young child with diabetes.”
He drops her to school and then goes again at 10.30 am to check her glucose. She is given two tiffins – one with biscuits and another with fruit. Birthdays parties are often a no-no and if she’s given sweets, she brings them home to take permission from her mother.
The family has stopped eating sweets too. “We can’t bear to eat them when our daughter can’t,” says Shivani, her mother. With another baby on the way, there is anxiety about its future too. But also quiet confidence that all will be well.
Shaan Grover | 9 loves football, misses ice cream
He’s cute and full of beans. Plays squash and swims. His only grouse is he can’t eat ice cream. “I want 50 kg of orange bars, 50 kg of raspberry ice cream, 50 kg of french fries, 200 kg of pizza and 100 litres of Pepsi,” Shaan says disarmingly. And there lies the heartache of Sanjay and Sangeeta, his parents.
“Our lives have taken a 360 degreeturn,” says Sangeeta. “His sugar levels reached 499 in May. For us, all this was new. We don’t have diabetes in the family.” They monitor everything – his diet,
play, even sleep. “Once, Shaan’s sugar level fell to 70 when he was sleeping. That’s dangerous. No, he doesn’t wake up when I prick him,” says Sanjay stoically.
He’s given insulin on his arm, stomach or thighs. He’s used to it – says it doesn’t hurt. He has to be fed every two hours – papaya, wheat sandwiches, apples… hardly the stuff a nine-year-old enjoys. He little understands his condition. “He links everything, including a headache, to diabetes,” says Sanjay. The glucometer is a constant companion – he’s pricked 6-7 times daily, leaving his fingertips bloodless. Sanjay, a self-employed CA, goes to office late. Going to a mall is no longer fun. “We have to take insulin in ice packs. Shots are given in the restroom,” says Sanjay. There’s the added expenditure too – insulin, doctor’s fees, tests… It’s all an uphill battle.
What is it?
Most children are Type 1 diabetics. Their insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas don’t work. This is unlike Type 2 diabetes in which insulin production is insufficient. While it’s not clear why Type I diabetes occurs, it’s probably because the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells, says Dr Anoop Misra, chairman of the National Diabetes Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation. “It can also be caused by a viral infection.”
There’s only one diabetes | There are many. Type 1 (juvenile-onset diabetes); Type 2 (adult -onset); gestational (during pregnancy), etc Caused by junk food | Only in Type 2
Too much sugar is a cause | Not always
Insulin cures diabetes | Diabetes is for life but correct controls will lessen complications
Sugar is a no-no | Sugar is banned but some form of carbohydrates is needed. If blood sugar levels drop, a diabetic can go into hypoglycaemic coma