A Mother and a Diagnosis

“Look Mrs Portelli, once a diabetic always a diabetic. Whatever I try to tell you today, you will not be able to understand. Go home and have your family doctor call me. On the way, stop at the hospital pharmacy and pick up these medications”. And he hands me over a prescription…

If I told you I was in shock, it would be an understatement. I felt totally numb and in disbelief. These words, although now I know that they were the harsh truth, still echo in my head till this very day, even though it has now been over 23 years since my beautiful 3 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
I was living a normal life. A stay at home mum of two beautiful girls aged 3 and 5 at the time. I had noticed that my youngest daughter was very slowly but surely losing weight but thought nothing of it at the time as I thought ok, she’s getting skinnier and taller. All normal for a 3 year old. Then she started being extremely tired to the point where she didn’t want to go out. She preferred to sleep instead. What later got even more my attention was she started wetting her bed and the smell was funny. I had thought it was because she was drinking loads of fluids. 

Then one day, my husband was walking home and

overheard a conversation but what mostly caught his

attention was when they said that diabetics drink a lot

and have more frequent visits to the bathroom. Of course

he came home to tell me what he had overheard. Having

heard this I immediately called our family doctor and took

her for a visit. He asked me to take a urine sample with

me and when he checked it he did not speak. When he

asked to take a small blood sample, my heart fell to my

feet as I knew something must be very wrong! And so it

was. This thing called a glucometer marked at 33mmols!
That was the day our lives turned upside down. My gorgeous, perfect 3 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. I had no idea what this disease was let alone that children of such a young and tender age could get. For me, diabetes was always something associated with older people. I was totally ignorant on the subject. Where do we go from here?

Life has to go on and against many odds, I had to make it happen for my family. We tried to get her the best treatment. We also flew her to UK to have her seen by specialists but slowly and surely, the reality sinks in. That this disease is not curable and is for life. But then again, there was treatment for it and they could live a life as close to normal as is possible and I was committed to do just that.

During the first few months I learned as much as I could, whilst taking care of all her needs, teaching a young child to cope, and all along, fighting depression and spending long sleepless nights just watching her breathe and crying my eyes out. As a mother, you want to make it all better but this was something beyond my control and it hurt. I lost 13 kilos in 3 weeks. Was put on anti-depressants and feeling like I was dying a little bit more inside with every finger prick on those tiny fingers and every cry from her with every injection. But I fought for her. I wanted to teach her to never allow Diabetes define who she is but to build a strong character so that she could always be in control of her precious life.

The years pass by, with many milestones reached. There are times when you doubt yourself. Always wondering if you did the right thing or took the right decision but watching her grow into the lovely person she is today, with all its ups and downs, is very rewarding.

And then, tragedy strikes again!! Years later, when her brother was 11, I started noticing some tell-tale signs in his behaviour but you do not want to see it. You are in denial. But the time comes when you have to face it and face the consequences of that finger prick that changes his life forever. Diagnosed at age 11, we started all over with my son’s diagnoses. This time we had some knowledge but still, it hurt like hell. How could this be happening again? Thank God, my son is a very sensible boy and took it all into his stride as he had always seen his sister checking her bloods and injecting so it was a situation which he was brought up in.

As a mother, they are now older and hopefully wiser, but deep within, you never outgrow the pain of watching your most precious children living with this condition. The sleepless nights when they are sick. The waiting to hear them if they are not with you. The worry, constant worry at the back of your mind. The hope, that you have taught them well enough for them to know how to care for themselves and the knowing that you love them so much with all you have. Lastly, the promise, that you will always be there for them to help them, support them and allow them to live their lives as best you know how.


Margot Portelli, 51, Gozo, Malta

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