Orangeville mom shares “nightmare” summer to raise awareness for diabetes

November 10, 2016   ·   0 Comments

With November 1 marking the beginning of National Diabetes Awareness month in Canada, one Orangeville-area mom is sharing her “nightmare” run-in with Type-1 Diabetes in hopes it could save lives in the future.

Last May, Tami Campbell was a normal mom, with a normal family, working a normal job. Operating a daycare service out of her home a short distance outside of town, Mrs. Campbell often found herself running around after a collection of kids on a daily basis. Two of those were her own – the now four-year-old Rachel and her two-year-old sister.

With business going well and the summer months approaching, Mrs. Campbell was looking forward to spending some quality time with her family, which also included her husband and a teenage son. Those plans were quickly turned on their head when Rachel started to exhibit various problems towards the end of May.

“I guess it all started right at the beginning of the summer, on a near daily basis Rachel was getting so worked up and irritable that I couldn’t have her around the rest of the kids at the daycare, so I had to call my mother-in-law to come in and take her away during the day,” Mrs. Campbell explained.

It didn’t stop with irritability. Soon enough Rachel developed an insatiable thirst, chugging back litre after litre of water on a daily basis. She started wetting her bed again a full year after she was fully toilet-trained. It started out as once a night, then two and three and four. Her eating habits exploded, with Mrs. Campbell saying it wasn’t abnormal for Rachel to be eating anywhere up to five bowls of cereal for breakfast and still claiming to be hungry.

To the average person, a child eliciting those symptoms may not raise concerns, at least not on a serious medical level. They didn’t with Mrs. Campbell, but it turned out they should have.

It was only by chance that Rachel found herself being examined by a doctor, as the result of Mrs. Campbell scheduling an appointment for her teenage son.

“It was while I was on the phone that I thought about Rachel, the fact that she was still wetting the bed several times a night, and so I asked my doctor if he’d be able to see her, too.”

In the days leading up to the appointment, Rachel was a little under the weather. Mrs. Campbell assumed she’d caught something from one of the other children and so saw to it that Rachel was medicated and spending her time resting in bed.

“She slept around the clock for three days straight leading up to that appointment, but I figured it was just the flu or something like that,” Mrs. Campbell said.

But on arriving at the doctor’s office, Mrs. Campbell quickly sensed something was off. It became apparent rather quickly that Rachel was suffering with a problem extending far deeper than a deadly dose of the flu.

After taking a urine sample and immediately testing it at the office, Rachel’s doctor referred her to Brampton Civic Hospital and  told Mrs. Campbell to head to the emergency department, noting that there would be staff on hand waiting for Rachel.

“At this point I was panicking, I hadn’t been told what was wrong, only that Rachel was clearly very, very sick,” Mrs. Campbell said. On her way over to the hospital, her teenage son did some basic research on his phone and quickly came to the conclusion that his sister was likely suffering with Type-1 Diabetes.

Type-1 Diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin – the hormone that helps the body to control the level of glucose in blood. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy.

At the hospital Rachel was quickly transferred to the facility’s paediatric unit, where Mrs. Campbell finally learned the true extent of her daughter’s condition.

“My husband and I were sitting with Rachel while she rested and one of our old high school friends was also in the paediatric unit with his child. He immediately came up to us and said ‘Oh, does your daughter have Type-1 Diabetes too?’” Mrs. Campbell said, “I guess that’s how we found out.”

Rachel spent the next several days recovering in the hospital and learning about her disease. It was a huge learning curve for the entire family, says Mrs. Campbell, but one that Rachel took completely in her stride. She took to practising blood sugar checks and giving insulin to her favourite stuffed animal. Before long she was discharged and allowed to go home.

Mrs. Campbell attempted to juggle running her daycare business with caring for Rachel and attempting to manage her new condition, but learned rather quickly that she couldn’t do both.
“That was the end of the daycare business,” Mrs. Campbell said. “I remember a doctor telling us when Rachel was first diagnosed that diabetes never sleeps. This became a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job for me.”

But Mrs. Campbell was still on the lookout for something to do during the day while she cared for Rachel and her younger daughter. An idea soon struck home.

“Back when Rachel was in the hospital, one of the nurses came around and asked her what her name was because she wanted to write it down on the whiteboard above her bed. It was the second day we were in there, so Rachel had perked up a little bit and so she stood up and threw her right arm in the air and shouted, ‘I’m superhero Rachel!’” Mrs. Campbell said. “So I decided to make a superhero cape for her once we got home to remind her that she really is a superhero.”

Because of the fantastic experiences the Campbells had at the Brampton hospital, Tami has since taken the superhero cape idea to another level – making over 100 capes and donating a large portion of them to Brampton Civic’s paediatric unit.

“I wanted to give back a little. After I did the cape for Rachel I decided to wanted to make all the other kids at the hospital feel like a superhero, so I donated a whole bunch. I’m going to be making up another batch and sending those over in early December too,” Mrs. Campbell said.

She has also started selling the superhero capes online on Etsy and Facebook, while they’re also available in a select few stores in Orangeville.

Her main goal though, moving forward, is ensuring that families across the country are aware of the symptoms kids show if they have Type-1 Diabetes.

“The most concerning thing for me is that I know this is a genuine killer. If you don’t catch this as a parent and get your child the help they need there’s a real possibility they could die. We were told that if we’d been even a few days later getting Rachel to the doctor it may have been too late; it’s incredibly scary,” Mrs. Campbell said. “So my goal is ensure that I’m educating and advocating for Type-1 Diabetes because everyone I have talked to that knows someone with Type-1 Diabetes has the same story – that they had absolutely no idea about the signs and symptoms.”

While there aren’t currently any ways to completely cure Type-1 Diabetes, there are things you can do to ensure you live a long and healthy life.

“If you take your insulin as recommended, regularly monitor blood glucose levels, make sure you’re eating healthy meals, exercising regularly and managing stress levels effectively, there’s no reason why you can’t live a long a happy life,” Mrs. Campbell said.

Now just over three months on from her stay in the hospital and Rachel is managing her Type-1 Diabetes well, with the help of her family. She started school in September and generally has the typical positive outlook on life that only comes with the innocence of youth.

“It’s been a complete lifestyle, but she’s healthy right now and she’s happy,” Mrs. Campbell said. “That’s all we can ask for after what we went through.”

For more information on Type-1 Diabetes or to read up on Diabetes Awareness Month, visit

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