JDRF celebrity ambassador, actress Nina Wadia’s son, Aidan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 2017, aged 10.
Here she tells us about the shock and confusion the diagnosis created, how she has tried to deal with it and the admiration she has for how well Aidan is handling the life-changing condition.
“In September of 2017 we were on holiday when we noticed Aidan was drinking a lot of water and going to the toilet more than usual, but because it was very hot, we didn’t think much of it.
But when he started throwing up violently we cut our trip short and returned to the UK. Within a couple of days he was collapsing and had lost a lot of weight.
At first we thought a virus Aidan had caught in November 2016 was rearing its ugly head again – but something didn’t feel right so we took him to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London. He was actually carried in by his dad.
A finger prick test was done and the nurse said to us: “Did you not know he was type 1?”
I said: “Type 1 what?”
I only knew about type 2 diabetes. When it was explained what type 1 was, my knees gave way. I was not expecting something so serious, so chronic.
We had a junior doctor take us aside and tell us what was happening – our son wouldn’t be able to eat another bite of food without injecting himself with insulin first, for the rest of his life.
My son and daughter didn’t know what was going on – but could see from the looks on our faces it was something big.
When Aidan was told what was happening he burst into tears. He then asked if he would still be able to drink Tropicana orange juice, his favourite. This, at least, we found funny.
It was a few hours later that another senior doctor calmly told us we can still expect our son to have a great life, especially with all the technology there now is to help.
My son loves tech so I made it my mission at that point to get my hands on whatever there is that will make him ok.
This helped me deal with the diagnosis a lot, but I still struggled for the first few months as I couldn’t believe this had happened to my family. A type 1 diagnosis definitely impacts everyone in the family.
We had a lot to learn about the condition, and because we are studious people, we went into research mode. We wanted to learn all the ins and outs of what type 1 diabetes is, how to live with it and how we could normalise life for our son in the quickest time.
We must have managed it because Aidan found out on the Saturday, and was back in school by the Thursday.
While Aidan desperately wanted to go back to school, he still feared his friends would look at him differently. He was also nervous and scared about injecting himself in front of them.
When his first friend came round to visit him though, the conversation went something like this:
“Hey, what’s up with you? My mum says you’ve not been well.”
“Yeah, I got T1D…”
“Oh, what’s that?”
“I’ve got to inject myself before I eat any food.”
“Oh cool. Want to play X-box?”
(The first conversations I had with my friends meanwhile lasted about three hours and involved a lot of tears.)
Dealing with it
This made me realise I have to deal with it in the same way as Aidan. Yes it’s crap but we just have to get on with it.
By day three he wanted to take control of the situation and asked to inject himself. Don’t underestimate children – they can really handle things when they put their minds to it.
Six months went by and a friend, who is a publisher, told me I should put down my thoughts as writing is a good way of dealing with all the anxiety and stress.
When I did, it came out as a story – a story which I realised could help other children and parents dealing with this condition. There are not many books which explain what type 1 is – and it’s so important more people know what it is and what to look out for.
If I had known the symptoms of type 1 we would have cut short the holiday straight away and I would not have had to see my son carried into hospital that day. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
But it was important for me to write a book that was empowering not sad. So I focused on the tech side of things – the gadgets – wireless pumps and being ‘scanned’ with a flash glucose monitor.
The word Bionic T1D – the name for the book – came from Aidan – it’s how he and his friends saw him.
Aidan is still doing really well and has made some solid friends. I think he is incredible for how he is handling it – there is no one braver in my life than my son.
He has openly said that if anyone needs a conversation about their type 1 he will help them out by talking to them. (And he did that very well in June when he met Theresa May at 10 Downing Street with JDRF!)
For me, I want nothing else than to let people know that as a parent it is a shock but you can also handle it. You create your own new normal and it’s a good one.”