By Gabriel Olawale
Living with diabetes as an adult is considered relatively difficult in terms of care, lifestyle and financial implication, but having a child with diabetes not only denies such child opportunities of life, it places a huge burden on the parents. Most people are unaware that children too suffer from diabetes.
This is the plight of Mrs Falade Taiwo, mother of a 12 years old Zerubbabel, who is living with diabetes.
“I could not believe it when I was informed in the hospital that my son is diabetic,” She told Good Health Weekly.
Falade recounted that the whole thing started when Zerubbabel was nine. “He showed symptoms of malaria, we are treating him for malaria and typhoid, but his condition worsened.
“He was taken to the hospital but despite medical intervention there was no good response. He went into sudden coma. It was then we were referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, where he was diagnosed with diabetes.
“When I was told, it wasn’t a good experience, I was in shock, thinking how could he be diabetic because am a kind of person that don’t believe in junk food. We don’t eat sugary things in my family. I was not myself until after some days.
“I asked them what could be responsible for it, because when my husband and I were tested, we are not diabetic. But they made me realise that it does happen like that and since then we have been managing it. We go to the clinic, follow drug prescription and other things.
“When he was diagnosed it wasn’t easy at all because he eats like other children. So to restrain him from not taking it is not easy. Their are times, he must have taken it and we had to make him understand why he needed to drop it. I feel bad that I didn’t allow him to mingle with his peers.”
Aishat Sulaiman, Muftau’s mother recalled that but for the quick intervention of doctors, she might have lost her son who was diagnosed at 11, after his brother’s birthday.
“After taking some sugary things during his brother birthday, he was shivering and at the same time his body temperature was too high. We rushed him to the hospital where series of tests were done on him. Before the outcome of the results, he was placed on glucose that worsened his condition and he became delirious.
“Muftau fell into semi-coma, he was incoherent and I was scared. The following morning, I requested to transfer him to another hospital. The doctor perceived his mouth odour and said it was diabetes.
“They briefed us on the options and we opted for LUTH where Muftau was admitted for 10 days.
Aishat’s lament is that five years down the line, things have not been easy.
“Sometimes we are short of insulin. I have had to phone my sister to help look for where we can buy insulin. It is hell for me.
“Five-pack insulin cartridge costs about N28,000 aside other things that we need to buy. We also need to keep it in the cooler and change the water daily in order to make it last up two weeks.”
Martha Joseph, whose daughter, Blessing, was diagnosed at the age of nine, only noticed that the girl had suddenly slimmed down. There was no explanation for her rapid weight loss. She was taken to the hospital and Blessing was treated for malaria but there was no improvement.
“So they referred us to another hospital where series of tests and confirmed she is diabetic. I was surprised to hear that because there is no history diabetes in our family,” Martha remarked.
Financial implication of children with diabetes is not easy because of the need to run series of tests that could cost several thousands aside insulin and others.
“Last month they gave us insulin free of charge at LUTH which relieved me a little.”
Martha wants the government to help subsidise the cost of insulin.
Reacting to the development, Mrs Folashade Ajayi of Roche Diabetes Care said that no child should die of diabetes because these children can live normal and healthy live as long as possible.
“Children do have diabetes and when it occurs like that we should not resort to fate that this child cannot amount to anything. Once we begin to see the symptoms such excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, lack of energy, vomiting, dehydration, rapid breathing or coma among others, then the parents should take the child to the hospital to check the blood glucose.
“Most of the time” children come down with type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease resulting from destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic ß cells. So that situation is not usually hereditary, it might be due to infection but Type 2 is usually hereditary.”
Corroborating her view, Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology, Prof. Abiola Oduwole, said Type 1 diabetes is commonly found in children causing them to be needing insulin three to four times a day and also needing frequent blood sugar level checks.
Abiola who is the President, Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology in Nigeria, disclosed that although there are more adults with diabetes than children, once a child is diagnosed, that child will live with the disease for life.
“Sadly, many of them are coming from indigent background and so unable to afford the necessary care and the child ends up developing kidney problems much earlier than they should.
Abiola who consults at the College of Medicine University and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital as Honorary Consultant lamented the poor awareness about diabetes in children..
“There are no figures, so it is very difficult to say specifically the number of children living with diabetes. But I can say in the last 10 years, there has been increase in the number of children with diabetes with highest number coming from Kano followed by Lagos, Abakaliki and some other places. “These are things we can research on, why is it that we have the same north but not common everywhere. What is it that makes a particular area have more and some have less. Is it that they really have less or they were not been diagnosed?
In the whole of Nigeria, there are only 40 Paediatric Endocrinologists, and put together, we have attended to not less than 600 cases.
“These children need insulin in order to have energy, If only the government can support them with insulin, life would be better for them. Diabetes on its own doesn’t kill. It is the complications that arise from diabetes that kill.
The essence of the 10-kilometre walk is to create awareness and raise funds to support indigent parents.”