How a diagnosis of diabetes led to a children’s book in Arabic

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The young Abdulla Al Bedwawi at the book campaign.
Photo credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Young Abdulla Al Bedwawi had a persistent fever before his first birthday.

The fever that had started about a month earlier did not subside, and Noura Al Bedwawi was both worried and exhausted.

“I was already a mother of three boys when Abdulla was born and I was graduating. So there was enough on my plate when Abdulla got sick. We rushed from doctor to doctor, but his fever didn’t go down, ”said the 36-year-old mother Golf news.

Shocking diagnosis

Exhausted, Al Bedwawi asked her husband to take baby Abdulla to another doctor, only to be informed of an unexpected diagnosis later. “When they got home, my husband made one of the most shocking statements I had ever heard. “Your son is diabetic,” the doctor said, and I broke down and started crying. I just couldn’t believe it, ”she recalls.

Al Bedwawi remained in this state for two days, including when she accompanied her son to his hospitalization.

“Some of my husband’s nieces and nephews are diabetic. I’d heard that they had to use the toilet frequently or felt lethargic when their blood sugar dropped. My youngest had also refused to be breast-fed at night and had moistened twice as many diapers than usual. But when he was diagnosed, I was in shock, ”she said.

First hospitalization

Abdulla was initially hospitalized to treat his diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition in which the body cannot make enough insulin and breaks down stored fats too quickly. This leads to the formation of blood acids or ketones in the bloodstream. If left untreated, it can lead to coma or even death.

After Abdulla was stabilized, he was transferred to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for him. Only now was Al Bedwawi able to collect himself.

A mother’s determination

She remembered how surreal it felt to pick up the first doses of insulin for her son. “I had to have the insulin before he was released and I felt so removed from myself. I did notice, however, that a young girl, probably around the age of eight, looked so happy receiving her own doses of insulin. She had a small suitcase to store her insulin syringes and looked just as radiant and happy as her mother.

“I said to myself that I want to be like this mother and that my son will grow up as happy as this little girl. I also decided it wasn’t the end of the world for us. I had to be strong for my son, especially since we had no other family member around in Abu Dhabi, ”she said.

Al Bedwawi took her son home and began not only to adhere to strict insulin therapy but also to read everything she could about living with type 1 diabetes.

A disease for organized minds

“I felt that this was a challenge for me. I love organization and type 1 diabetes requires intensive organization. You need to plan your meals and your medication schedule, and you need to keep track of them. So I set out to do something for my son with so much dedication that I felt like I was finding a cure for the disease! ”Said Al Bedwawi.

Abdulla was safe and sound in the care of his parents, even after an incident or two.

Continuous vigilance

“These incidents creep in with anyone living with diabetes. One Ramadan when he was about four years old my son had eaten a lot of sugary desserts and thought it would make his blood sugar high and I gave him a high dose of insulin. What I forgot was that even with sugary desserts, the blood sugar suddenly drops and the high dose of insulin made him hypoglycemic, ”said Al Bedwawi.

She remembers hearing her son’s muffled words from his bedroom.

“When I rushed to his room, he looked like he couldn’t even pronounce the words. I hurried to get him to eat some sugary fruit as soon as possible, and he asked for a doctor, ”she said.

Become an author

Soon after, Al Bedwawi decided to write a book to make diabetes more accessible to young children affected by the disease. Hence, Sugar Boy – Thifl Al Sukkar in Arabic – was born. The children’s book that Al Bedwawi wrote focused on how young diabetics are not really sick.

Abdulla obviously loved his mother’s work and two years ago he accompanied his mother and signed copies of the book as they were distributed on World Diabetes Day. “I wanted to tell my son and other children like him that they are not sick. Instead, they were sweet as sugar and therefore special, ”she says.

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The cover of the book ‘Thifl Al Sukkar’ or ‘Sugar Boy’.
Photo credit: Supplied

Enjoy the challenge

Now that Abdulla is nine years old and a 3rd grade student, Al Bedwawi says she is teaching him to monitor his glucose doses. “He can’t take the syringes yet, but we play a game to guess his blood sugar levels after each meal,” she said. The optimistic mother said she was trying to turn diabetes problems into little games for her son.

Educate others

Despite the seemingly overwhelming challenges of raising a child with Type 1 Diabetes, Al Bedwawi also found time to complete two degrees – a Masters in Business Administration and another in Arabic. Today she is doing a PhD in Arabic literature while educating her children about type 1 diabetes. “I gave crash courses in diabetes management to my older sons and they were all so patient,” she explained.

Be vigilant

Looking back on her trip, Al Bedwawi said she understood that even the most experienced patients and their caregivers cannot afford to be on guard.

“Diabetes and its symptoms can creep up, so planning and monitoring are key. But it doesn’t have to stop you from leading a normal life, ”she said.

True to her words, Al Bedwawi not only completed two degrees, but has written two more books since her first.

“For his part, my young diabetic attends a normal school and is taking swimming lessons today. So I still have to leave my son’s bedroom door open so I can watch him at night, but it’s not insurmountable, ”added Al Bedwawi.

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