Kids diagnosing themselves

By Karen Abernathy - bio | email

Some parents think their children are whining or trying to get out of school when their kids tell them they don't feel well. But parents may want to pay more attention to their children's health complaints.

One child recently diagnosed herself with a serious disease, before the adults in her life noticed anything was wrong. Josie Somerlott, 11, got concerned about her own health while she was watching t.v.

"They had a public service announcement that listed the symptoms of diabetes, and I had most of them," Somerlott said.

She told her grandmother, Karla Tucker, about her symptoms.

"I agreed with her. Yeah, you do have those symptoms, but that doesn't mean you have diabetes," Tucker said.

Josie didn't stop there.  She went straight to the internet and took an online diabetes quiz.

"It said, 'If you have one or more then you should go to the hospital immediately.'"

Her score was seven, so she went to her Mom this time.  Robin Somerlott also disregarded her concerns.

"I just dismissed it. Oh no, you're fine," Robin Somerlott said.

But the 11-year-old couldn't shake the feeling something was wrong. She'd lost 20 pounds, but was eating and drinking more than usual.  Finally another relative stepped in.  Ken Land is Josie's Uncle.  He was very familiar with diabetes.

"My wife is a type one diabetic," Land said.

He brought Josie a glucose monitor. A normal reading is around 100. Josie's was off the charts. Finally, there was some validation to her concerns.

Pediatrician James Swift said Josie's intuition and perseverance put her on the right track.

"There's a lot of intuitive knowledge from her standpoint to see that and go, 'Wow wait a minute. Could this be something that's going on with me?'"

Swift said the red flags for diabetes that families often miss are sudden changes in a child's weight, hunger, thirst and energy. He said parents often overlook symptoms of other diseases, too. Kids who can't catch their breath when running may not be out of shape. It could be a sign of asthma. Constant abdominal pain could mean your child has appendicitis.

Josie's Mom regrets not paying more attention to her daughter's concerns.

"Josie did say, 'I told you so, Mom,' and I think I deserved it. I think I did deserve it."

Josie now manages her diabetes with insulin and offers this advice: If you don't feel well, "Go to the doctor and tell them to check your blood."

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.