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August 2, 2003

Complications, Hyperglycemia and DKA

Question from Australia:

My two and a half year old daughter passed away, and acute onset of diabetes is the cause we have been given for her death. There were no apparent signs (drinking pattern changes or excess urination) and no drowsiness until a few hours before her death.She was taken to hospital where her heart stopped. They revived her, but her heart stopped again, and they were unable to revive her a second time. Please help us understand this.

Answer:

I am deeply sorry to hear of your loss. Acute onset diabetes can be devastating, especially in very young children in whom the symptoms quite often are not particularly clear. You may have read that the peak age of developing type�1 diabetes is around 11-12 years, but it is still quite common in younger age groups.

We don’t even know if it is exactly the same disease or a more ‘virulent’ form which, for some reason, results in faster destruction of the insulin making cells. What happened to your daughter was probably because of the build up of acid in her blood stream [called diabetic ketoacidosis — Ed.] which is toxic to organs such as the heart. You should have the opportunity to discuss all of this with her paediatrician and, if you haven’t been offered, you should ask for this. It is extremely important that you understand as much as possible about what happened.

KJR