Recognizing the Signs: When Diabetes Shows Up a Second Time


I am Irene Villagómez, and I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 36 years. I love the beach, movies, the theater and watching shows with my family. I also love sports—running and participating in 10k races is my favorite. Swimming is high on my list of favorite sporting activities, too—it provides all sorts of benefits! In fact, I think that I am alive because of sports.

Getting my type 1 diabetes diagnosis took a long time. At the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), they always told me that I had pinworms. It was like that for many months until a private doctor gave my mother a diagnosis. I was lucky I did not get diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Ever since then, we have continued to learn new things about diabetes.

The arrival of Emiliano and his first diagnosis

I have a son named Emiliano; he is now 21 years old. He is a Marvel fan, loves to exercise in the morning, cross-training specifically, and like his mom and dad, he loves swimming on the weekends and eating all kinds of seafood.

Emiliano was born after spending eight months in my womb. I was hospitalized for a month during my pregnancy. I cared for myself, but every time I went to the doctor, I had high blood pressure and would be hospitalized. It was a horrible C-section, and they gave me a glucose drip.

Emy also had to stay in the hospital for a month due to having underdeveloped lungs. He caught a lot of diseases in the hospital but recovered, and we were eventually able to go home.

At eight months old, he almost died from hydrocephalus, the buildup of fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. He was in the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), and, just like in my case, they could not find a diagnosis.

My son served as an experiment so that hydrocephalus surgeries are a success today. He had five surgeries between the ages of 8 and 18 months since all the valves kept falling off. These procedures affected his learning capabilities, but at least he can read and write (unlike other cases), which helps him get by.

Recognizing the symptoms and diagnosing diabetes

I never performed glucose tests on Emiliano in his childhood until his behaviors started changing dramatically. After everything that happened to my son, I believed the universe would not send more.

But on August 13, 2021, Emiliano kept drinking water and going to the bathroom after lunch. It was strange, but I refused to see it. He went to sleep and woke up around 10 p.m. to go to the bathroom again. With all the pain in my heart, I brought myself to check his glucose. The result said HI. I checked again—HI. (When a blood glucose meter reads “HI,” it means the blood glucose reading is so high that the meter cannot even measure it.)

My husband arrived from the gym, and I showed him the results. He thought the glucose meter broke, so I tried it on myself, and it said 130 mg/dL.

We went back to Emiliano, and the glucose meter marked HI again. He said he didn’t feel sick, so I wrote to his endocrinologist without an answer. We chose not to go to the hospital because of the pandemic. At 3 a.m., we rechecked his glucose, and it dropped to 350 mg/dL.

Waiting for answers

On August 14, we got up, and the plan was to go to the hospital so they could diagnose him, and the insurance for major medical expenses would cover everything (I do not have that benefit). Thank God that Doctor Antillón, his endocrinologist, answered and gave me these instructions:

  • Do not go to the hospital due to the pandemic; Emiliano has a shunt valve and is at high risk of infection.
  • He did not feel sick, and the ketone tests were negative. (We then went to perform c-peptide, antibody tests, etc.)
  • If I had Freestyle sensors, I had to put one on Emiliano. What a horrible feeling as a parent!

At noon, after the tests and already wanting lunch, I asked my endocrinologist what to do again since Emy’s glucose was higher than 200 mg/dL. I did not know what to do! Yes, even as a person who lives with diabetes, I did not know what to do. 

On August 14, 2021, I injected my son with his first insulin dose. I cry, remembering this.

I prayed he had type 2 diabetes because of his age, but he did not. With the test results, the endocrinologist confirmed the diagnosis. Emiliano has type 1 diabetes. From that day on, my routine with my son changed. 

The injections and the sensors were nothing new for him because he saw me use them. He knows that he got sick, and now he has to use them for his benefit. As a man, the biggest problem was food, but with the help of the specialist, we made carb counting, insulin and diet work well.

Knowing the signs of diabetes saves lives

One good thing about my son’s diagnosis is that I knew the symptoms. There were glucose meters and ketone strips at home, so we were far from ketoacidosis.

Capillary tests should be a priority in doctor offices and emergency rooms in every hospital, like in the U.S.A. Families need to know more about this for the life of their children. They may not have a glucose meter, but they can run to any doctor’s office and ask for a capillary test.

A message for the community

Emiliano’s diagnosis was easy. It is easy to talk about my type 1 diabetes, but the reality is that it emotionally tore my husband and me apart. We do not cry anymore, but we are still in mourning. Even so, the only way out is to pray to whoever you want and believe in, seek comfort in your family, and have good friends you can lean on and cry with.

Type 1 diabetes is already here, and we have to learn a lot, be happy, enjoy life and project this to our children.

WRITTEN BY Irene Villagomez Hernandez, POSTED 03/06/23, UPDATED 05/24/23

Irene was diagnosed on February 14, 1987. She is a hard-working, demanding, rather bossy woman, a hard-core leader, an animal advocate, and a combination of fun. Irene is also an athlete and spokesperson for type 1 diabetes in Mexico.