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Case study: ‘Suddenly her clothes were hanging loose off her body’

An emergency team at Temple Street diagnosed Lauren Smyth with type 1 diabetes

Fiona Smyth with her daughter Lauren: “I was told to bring her straight to the hospital, even to break the lights getting there – that’s how urgent it was considered. On the way, I had to keep her awake, so that she didn’t fall into a coma.”

It was a sudden loss of weight on the part of her then 12-year-old daughter Lauren that first set alarm bells ringing for Fiona Smyth.

“It was the midterm break two years ago, and suddenly her clothes were hanging loose off her body,” she recalls.

Ms Smyth, from Oldtown, Co Dublin, took Lauren to a rapid care clinic, where a doctor wrongly diagnosed slapped cheek syndrome and sent her home with instructions to buy cream for her daughter’s dry skin. The GP said she couldn’t do a blood test on Lauren because she was under 18, and she didn’t test her urine.

“She told me I was over-worrying, that children of her age often lose weight. ‘She’ll be fine,’ I was told.”

However, Lauren wasn’t fine. Her lethargy increased and her condition appeared to be getting worse, her mother recalls.

Concerned, Smyth tracked down her own GP on a Sunday night, and was told to bring Lauren in for an examination immediately.

The doctor performed a urine test and told mother and daughter to go to Temple Street children’s hospital.

“I was told to bring her straight to the hospital, even to break the lights getting there – that’s how urgent it was considered. On the way, I had to keep her awake, so that she didn’t fall into a coma.”

At the hospital, an emergency team was on hand to receive Lauren, who was immediately diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and given emergency care. This prompt diagnosis helped avert the danger of diabetic ketoacidosis, but it was a close-run thing.

Two years on, Lauren and her family have had time to adapt to her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, which is a lifelong condition that requires careful management.

Adjustment

That difficult adjustment has had a silver lining, as Smyth joined her daughter in changing her diet and living healthier lifestyle.

“I knew I had to be positive. Lauren was on the point of becoming a teenager and it was important that she could live as normal a life as possible and could get the odd treat.”

So while Lauren adjusted to her diabetes-dictated new diet and lifestyle, her mother embraced it too and has lost 25kg over the past two years.

Smyth’s advice to parents who find themselves in a similar situation is to “get a second opinion and get the tests for type 1 diabetes”.

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