Teacher's Instinct Leads To Diabetes Diagnosis

The sharp instincts of a teacher from L'Derry led to the timely diagnosis of diabetes in a Primary One pupil.

Caolan O'Neill was a typical five year-old boy who enjoyed a normal life when the disease emerged last year.

He had just started his first term at St Paul's Primary School in the city when his teacher noticed a change in toilet habits.

The young boy was quickly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the unpreventable form of the disease that is most common in children and young adults.

Miss Fox, whose keen eye and attentive nature ensured the diagnosis, explained: "I noticed that Caolan was asking to go to the toilet a lot. I started to take note of it, because it wasn't normal for Caolan. The first day he went to the bathroom five times, the next day he was up to nine and then, on the third day, he was back to normal again, but it wasn't his normal, so I thought it was time to bring it up with Caolan's mum and dad."

The youngster was a normal happy-go-lucky five year-old who enjoyed playing with his friends and dreamed of becoming a YouTuber before his diagnosis.

His mum Amanda explained: "When Miss Fox raised her concerns with me, I immediately got an appointment with the GP; we were seen within a matter of hours and the GP undertook a finger prick test, which showed that Caolan's bloods were too high to be read. We then had to take Caolan to our local hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed."

Between 100 and 130 children develop type 1 diabetes every year in Northern Ireland, which occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin.

The Public Health Agency hopes Caolan's case will raise awareness of the four most common symptoms and ensure further early diagnosis amongst children.

Symptoms in children and young people can develop over a few days or weeks. Parents and carers are advised to look out for the '4Ts':

Toilet – going to the loo a lot, bed wetting starts unexpectedly
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Thirsty – child being really thirsty

Tired – feeling more tired than usual

Thinner – losing weight or looking thinner than normal

Assistant Director of Service Development and Screening at the PHA, Dr Bríd Farrell said: "We are urging parents to make themselves aware of the symptoms and if you do notice any of them, I would urge you to get your child's blood sugar checked that day as time can be of the essence."

Early diagnosis is important in type 1 diabetes among children to prevent rapid deterioration and potential diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This occurs when the body starts to run out of insulin, causing harmful substances called ketones to build up in the body, which require urgent medical attention and hospital admission.

Dr Farrell continued: "If we diagnose type 1 early, we can start early treatment and avoid DKA, and we can also sometimes avoid hospital admission.

"Keeping an eye out for the 4Ts can result in earlier diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. If parents are concerned about a child they should have their blood glucose (sugar) checked either in the GP surgery or local pharmacy."

Luckily for Caolan, the recent diagnosis has not limited his quality of life or stopped him from continuing with his past hobbies.

Amanda added: "Caolan is now doing great. He still loves doing all the things he did before, still dreams of being a YouTuber and still loves playing with his friends and doing anything related to arts and crafts. He is a true inspiration; he doesn't let his condition define him. We are very proud of him; he is a true wee superhero.

"We are very thankful that Miss Fox noticed the change in Caolan's toilet behaviour and that she informed us. Because of her actions we got the diagnosis early, before DKA developed.

"I would urge all parents, carers, teachers and anyone who works with children and young people, to know the 4Ts and if symptoms are recognised, please inform the parents and they should make an appointment with their GP."


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