WHEN Helen Humphreys' son Llew started losing weight, she knew something wasn't right.

Llew, of Llandeilo, had just gone through a growth spurt so his mum just put it down to him becoming a young man.

Things changed dramatically over a very short period of time and before long, 14-year-old Llew was admitted to Glangwili’s Paediatric Emergency Department suffering a life threatening condition, worsened by the fact that the four symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes were missed.

Llew’s traumatic diagnosis and stay in hospital could have been lessened if the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, the 4Ts, toilet, thirsty, tired, thinner were more commonly known.

The period between symptoms first presenting themselves to the actual diagnosis is different with each individual, but in Llew’s case it was just under three weeks.

South Wales Guardian:

Looking back at those three pivotal weeks Helen said: “Everyone knows that teenage boys’ bodies change, they lose their puppy fat, they have an unquenchable hunger, and their personalities can be quite different from one day to another.

“At first I put it down to just growing pains, but I know him, and I knew something wasn’t right.

"For some reason I had a niggling feeling that his symptoms could possibly be diabetes, but as I wasn’t certain, I pushed it to the back of my mind.”

South Wales Guardian:

But the symptoms persisted so Helen and Llew’s father Deian asked a local pharmacist for help. They were then able to get an immediate doctor’s appointment for a second opinion.

It was this appointment that an immediate finger prick test revealed that Llew’s blood glucose levels were dangerously high, almost 6 times the ‘normal’ level.

The doctor called the hospital to let them know they were on their way and advised Helen and Llew to go home quickly, pack a bag, and prepare for a long stay.

Helen explained what happened next: “From the second we arrived at the hospital, the situation took a very serious turn for the worst. It was very scary.

"I was told that he was dangerously dehydrated in DKA, which I now know to be diabetic ketoacidosis, the body’s reaction to the lack of insulin and high sugar levels.

"He was put on a drip and had to be cared for in the Paediatric High Dependency Unit.”

After 24 hours in High Dependency, Llew was stable enough to be moved on to Cilgeran Ward for before being allowed to go home.

South Wales Guardian:

Today, Llew is a healthy and happy 16-year-old and receives care from his diabetes specialist nurse and clinic.

Helen explained: “The nurse is tremendous, she’s at the end of the phone whenever we need her and we now feel like we’re in very safe hands.

"I can’t believe how lucky we were just because we had a vague idea of what the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are – the 4Ts, toilet, thirsty, tired, thinner.

“If we’d have not known the symptoms, it could have been quite a different outcome for Llew; one that doesn’t bear thinking of.

"If I could ask for anything to happen after Llew’s experience, it’s for people to tell their friends what the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are, whether they have a child or not, knowing what the 4Ts are will save lives, it’s as simple as that.”

South Wales Guardian:

This week is Diabetes Awareness week...

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly.

If not managed well, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications. Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age in the UK and is a major cause of lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke.

People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin.

About 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable.

It usually affects children or young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly.

Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses - taken either by injections or via an insulin pump.

It is also recommended to follow a healthy diet and take regular physical activity.

South Wales Guardian:

People with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly (known as insulin resistance).

85 to 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2. They might get Type 2 diabetes because of their family history, age and ethnic background puts them at increased risk.

They are also more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if they are overweight. It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before they realise they have it.

Type 2 diabetes is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition, tablets and/or insulin can be required.