Volume 3, Number 1: Spring Equinox, 2001 - Special Children's Issue

A Family's Story - BC Endocrine Research Foundation

Heather and Steve Frishling

Never did we imagine, when our daughter was born in 1992 that we would be out canvassing for money to help find a cure for diabetes. She was such a healthy baby, but she did go through a short period of time, just before her diagnosis of diabetes, when she wasn’t.

Hayley, at fourteen months, had always been a good eater, but suddenly she stopped eating after a bout with the flu.All she wanted was her bottle with milk. We put it down to teething as our son had gone through the same thing.

After three days of this behaviour, I made an appointment with our doctor.Looking back in time, I wonder why we didn’t realize something was wrong or perhaps we were simply ignorant of the symptoms of diabetes.

The day before her doctor appointment, Hayley became violently sick. She was screaming in my arms as the doctor at the local clinic diagnosed her with an ear infection. Medication was given and we were up with her until 5 am the next morning. After bringing up everything she drank, she eventually fell asleep from what we thought must have been pure exhaustion.

Now imagine walking into your child’s room in the morning to wake her up, only to find her limp as a rag doll! After being diagnosed with diabetes, Hayley was transferred to the Children’s Hospital. For the next four days the staff at the hospital taught us how to ensure a healthy and better life for our daughter. We will never forget asking the doctors what the future held for Hayley and her diabetes. At the time, in 1993, their answer was that there was nothing new on the horizon. That was very scary for us! Now, only seven years later, through research, we are coming closer to a cure.

Some of the recent developments have been watches that read your blood sugars, thereby avoiding thousands of finger pricks.In addition, injections are being slowly replaced by inhalers and islet transplants could mean an ultimate cure for millions of diabetics.

When your child is first diagnosed, so many things go through your mind. Firstly, you are in shock! It seems like the end of the world. Then you start blaming yourself and feel stupid – why didn’t you pick up on the symptoms and do something? We were first class terrible parents! Then, you are angry. Why our child? However, after spending only one day at the Children’s Hospital, I began to realize that I was actually lucky. After witnessing some of the terrible illnesses that other children have, diabetes is not so bad. Yes, Hayley has a chronic illness – but with a strict daily routine of times and quantities to eat, as well as proper administration of her insulin, she can still have a long and healthy life.

One of the blessings of knowing a child with diabetes is not only the empathy they seem to develop for other people, but also their simple understanding of life. It amazes me how Hayley expresses her feelings. She knows how wonderful life is and will always go out of her way to make others happy. She is so positive of everything in her life, knowing and realizing full well the extent of diabetes and its complications.

Since Hayley’s diagnosis in 1993, she has never experienced what some children call “the finer things in life”: sleeping in because you are tired, skipping a meal because you are simply not hungry, and eating earlier or later because of a soccer game. In other words, just being a normal kid. She knows that she is not the same as everyone else. She is her own person and this makes her special, irrespective of her diabetes.

Dealing with diabetes in our everyday lives has become relatively easy once we accepted what had to be done. Hayley has a regulated and healthy diet. Her insulin shots regulate what time we get up and what time we eat. As a result, our lives are very scheduled and they have been for the past seven years.

Unfortunately life can be very difficult as well. The hardest part is taking her to school and hoping not to have a call saying that she needs an additional injection because either her sugars are too high, or worse, that she has passed out because her sugars were too low. Thank God that has only happened once. Every night I tuck her into bed, hoping that she will get through the night without experiencing any lows. There isn’t a single night that I haven’t awakened to check on her and ensure that everything was fine.

Through all of our history with our daughter’s diabetes, I could not conceive of having gone through it without the support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They have done, and continue to do, more than anyone could ever imagine. The JDRF, as we learned in time, was actually formed by a group of concerned parents of diabetic children. The organization has been excellent at informing the general public about diabetes and its complications.

Diabetes is a terrible illness that afflicts millions of people, children and adults alike. It does not discriminate against age, gender, or nationality. Today diabetes is at epidemic proportions. Prevention, as well as its treatment and finding a cure, has never meant as much to so many people.

As we are writing this letter, our daughter, Hayley, has gone on the insulin pump. Within the past four days, she has felt “almost normal”. We do keep our regular meal times because we know that it is healthy. We still count food groups because that too, is healthy. However, for the first time in eight years, she feels like she has never felt before – in charge of her life! Seven years ago, we wouldn’t have believed she could ever feel like that. Better yet she still dreams of a day when she will no longer need that tube or any device to administer her life line insulin. She dreams that terrible long term side effects such as blindness, limb loss and neuropathic disorders will be a thing of the past.

Please help Hayley and the millions of children like her to realize that dream by participating in events like the Walk for the Cure. The JDRF has worked tirelessly to get public awareness, raise funds, supply support and guidance. They cannot do everything they are expected to do without your support.

Lots of love,

Heather & Steve Frishling

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#4116 - 2775 Laurel Street
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V5Z 1M9

Email: aleta.allen@vch.ca
Tel: (604) 875-5929

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President: Dr. Marshall Dahl
Vice-President: Dr. David M. Thompson

Board Members: Dr. Keith Dawson, Dr. Jason Kong, Dr. Ehud Ur, Dr. Jerilynn Prior, Dr. Tom Elliott, Dr. Breay Paty, Dr. Sandra Sirrs

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Administrator: Aleta Allen