The Incredible and Courageous René


elda-vv-rodriguez-lopez-4René was diagnosed March 23, 2015 after a difficult week. He began to get very thirsty. He started asking and drinking lots of water. My mom said that this was within normal limits. I started to feel nervous though, something wasn’t right. One day he peed in his bed, which he had never done. I worried more. He’s almost like a son to me; I’m his older sister, (I’m 31 years old and he’s only 7). I thought something was bothering him, perhaps school. Maybe he was suffering being bullied, I thought. I asked but everything was fine. The next day, he peed again. My mom took him to the doctor. He said he could have sinusitis and gave him medicine. It did not improve and it returned worse. Then his doctor sent him to do some tests, (it was Saturday). Laboratories didn’t open until Monday though.

Our family is poor, and that worried me also. That Saturday René wanted to go to a park to play, so my mom took him. They returned later that day and he ate almost nothing. I was very worried at this point, so I Googled symptoms and as a result, it gave me “type 1 diabetes.” ???? I asked a friend of mine who is a nurse, if she could weigh René.

She said to take him to do these tests and we could finally get some answers. On Sunday, René was very listless—he did not want to eat anything and he looked dehydrated. His eyes were sad, but he couldn’t stop smiling. It’s this picture that I have of him that makes me sad, minutes before his diagnosis. I remember that sadness, but I also remember that God is great. René may have died. What would we have done if we didn’t do the test super early? I left for work that day asking God that everything went well—it did and he finally got the care he needed.
My Mama told us that after he gave a blood and urine sample, he returned to the house. About two hours later, the lab called to tell him it was urgent and to take another urine sample. They thought the first test was contaminated and therefore gave them incorrect results—it was 50.0 mmol/L900 mg/dL. My mother took him there to be retested and the results were the same. They then told her it was urgent and that she should take him to the emergency room. 
In Mexico, if you want to live you better go to the hospital by your own means. We have no car though. My mother tried to carry René as best she could to the Green Cross, (an aid station 20 – 30 minutes from where they live). When René entered the emergency room, my mom says that he almost couldn’t walk. Before that, at the laboratory, while he was waiting for the results, he was very restless and threw a fit because he was not feeling well. We say again, God is great! From work I was very worried and called them by phone many times, but my mom did not respond. I was scared, so at 2 p.m. I called my dad. “René is at the Green Cross; it’s serious. I went to him as fast as I could and arrived at 3 p.m.  My mom motioned me with her finger to read the sign at the bottom of his bed. It read, “type 1 diabetes mellitus.” We cried together. ????

I started to read about type 1 diabetes; I wanted to know everything. Why did you get sick? What medication did you need to feel better? Was there a cure? The entire family was very frightened. What were we going to do? How will we pay the hospital? Did René understand that he would have this disease for life? Will he suffer? Will it make him sad? What did we do wrong?

René was in the hospital for eight days with hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. His blood glucose levels yo-yoed: 15.4 mmol/L278 mg/dL, 1.7 mmol/L30 mg/dL, 9.4 mmol/L170 mg/dL, 15.6 mmol/L280 mg/dL. In that first week, we discovered words like insulin, glucometer, test strips, lancets, carbohydrates, glucose. It was difficult—René wanted food and we couldn’t give it to him when he was high. He wanted to sleep, but we had to wake him up and make him go up and down 10 flights of stairs to get his blood glucose down. There were other children with other conditions in the same room that were given cookies and ice cream and René could not eat any of it. It was then that I thought, How can we do this?

In a country that has the highest rate of childhood obesity how can we care for René? Thank God René is a very intelligent boy and understands very well the care that must be followed, which has helped us a lot. He’s a great kid. My mom bought insurance that the government gives in order to pay expenses. Our family has helped us, too. We left the hospital on March 30, with so much fear, with so many doubts, but thankfully to God, our family and the doctors, René can have a healthy and happy life. Every day we know that for him to be the happiest and most secure child, he must know that he can do all sports, go to school, go out with friends and visit them in their homes. We want him to be an independent child.

It is not easy, because it’s hard to stop feeling afraid. That’s why I signed up for the Snail Mail Club, to know that there are other children out there like him. There are other children to read René’s concerns and understand. Other children that also need his advice. When we received the kit, it was very exciting. He filled out the postcard at once and pasted his photo. It is for his friend in Italy. And we are waiting to receive a letter, and then we’ll send his.” I hope that together, they can build a strong support system, and hopefully one day visit each other, perhaps as adults. ????


Read René’s story in Spanish/Lea el cuento de René en español.

WRITTEN BY Elda Rodríguez López, POSTED 09/15/16, UPDATED 10/01/22

Elda is the older sister of René y is 31 years old. She lives with her family in Mexico.