Camden Caldwell

Age 13

Diagnosed 7/24/14 at age 7

Most mothers can tell you the exact time her babies were brought into this world. We can recall the full story of labor and delivery in considerable detail.

Camden was brought into this world on November 9, 2006. It was a Thursday. It was chilly, but I didn’t need a coat. I wore a purple shirt and jeans to the hospital. Camden was born at 1:19pm at a whopping 7lb 3oz. He was perfect in every way.

Just 2,815 days later, also a Thursday coincidentally, my perfect son was nearly gone.

July 24, 2014. It’s not a birthday. It’s not an anniversary. But it’s a date that our family will never forget. It’s the day Camden was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Just like every story, this one has a beginning. On July 20th, we were celebrating our middle son’s 13th birthday. Camden wasn’t feeling well, but we had just returned home from a very long and active vacation and he had started football practices so we didn’t think much of it. Being the third of three boys, we didn’t rush to the doctor for “normal” things. We chalked it up to exhaustion and overdoing it. We opted to for the wait-and-see approach. On July 22nd, he was still feeling a bit puny. As I was sitting with him, I was scrolling through photos on my phone. In scrolling, I noticed he had seemingly lost quite a bit of weight in the last month or so. So I posted the side by side photos on Facebook with a cutsie line, “Ok, what happened to my chubby baby….I wish I could lose weight this easily. Wish I knew his secret.” Friends laughed and commented on the photo, some even agreeing and offering their own explanation such as, “He’s growing out of his baby fat.” Little did I know that secret was slowly killing my son as we giggled.

By Wednesday, July 23, Camden was throwing up more regularly and I had decided when I got home from work I would take him to the urgent care because I googled it and he just seemed dehydrated and needed fluids. Probably a stomach bug, I told myself.

We got to the local urgent care run by a very large hospital conglomerate. The doctor spent less than 5 minutes with us. He confirmed my internet diagnosis of a stomach bug. He prescribed him Zofran for the vomiting and told me to, “Come back on Monday if he isn’t any better.” This was Wednesday, remember.

By Thursday things had taken a bit of a drastic turn. Camden’s eyes appeared dark and sunken. He could no longer make it to the bathroom to vomit without stopping halfway to rest. He was dying. I didn’t know.

I called the same urgent care clinic back and explained who I was and that my son had been seen there the day before but I really felt like something was wrong. I told them, “I know my kid. This is not right.” They said, “If you feel like you still need to come in, you can.” So I did.

A different doctor was working that day. After the usual questions and patient histology, she asked me a series of questions that seemed very unassociated.

• Has he been drinking a lot of water?

• Yes, we were at the Florida beach for 9 days and he played the whole time. Makes you thirsty.

• Has he been going to the bathroom a lot?

• Yes. That happens when you drink a lot.

• Has a lost any noticeable weight recently?

• Wait, what? Remember that Facebook post?

• Actually, yes. Let me show you a photo.

It was at this time, things started happening quickly. The doctor’s face changed. She knew. She knew our world was about to be changed. Forever. She knew my son was fighting for his life. She was about to break my heart and she knew it.

“Ma’am, I highly suspect your son has Type 1 Diabetes,” she said. I know I probably sounded rude but I told her, “No, you are wrong, we are here for a stomach bug. He just needs fluids.” So she explained she wanted to do a very simple, very fast blood test that would either confirm or exclude her suspicion. But she knew. And she was right.

After reading off a number close to 600, she told me that she had called an ambulance from Children’s hospital and they would be there any moment. When the EMT’s arrived, they tried getting insulin into his veins but they were too closed. So they hurried him into the ambulance, where during the 30 minute ride he was driving in and out of consciousness. My son was in DKA, Diabetic Ketoacidocis.

I remember calling my husband and my parents to explain the unexplainable while watching a team of paramedics battle to save my son’s life. I have never felt more helpless.

After hours of testing and neonatal nurses trying to find the non-existent veins in Camden’s arms, he was finally sedated and calm. I, however, was not.

The doctor told us Camden was incredibly sick. He said he was approximately 24 hours away from death. Those words are tough. But they are even more difficult to process when you go back to July 23rd. If I had taken the advice of the doctor who told me to wait until Monday, I could be burying my son.

After 4 days of insulin drips and diabetes vocabulary immersion study, we were released. I was terrified.

Camden adjusted incredibly well. Of course there were some rough patches, that is to be expected. The same week he was released he was back at football practice. Three weeks after his release, he played in his first football game of the season. He was not just alive, he was living!

Fast forward to today, Camden is what I call the “Healthiest diabetic I have ever met.” He is rarely sick. He never stops and he is always, and I mean always, smiling.

We still celebrate November 9 as his date of birth. But we also celebrate July 24 as the birth of our “new normal” life. His life. Living. With Type 1 Diabetes.


Last photo of Camden at the beach before diagnosis

Photo from 5 days before diagnosis

Side by side comparison posted to Facebook

Facebook check-in during first ER visit (July 23, 2014) with comments showing T1 symptoms

Camden lying on the sofa after we were sent home with a misdiagnosis.

Camden in the ambulance

Camden giving shots

Camden at game 3 weeks after diagnosis

Camden checking blood sugar in the huddle during first game after diagnosis

2019 Camden in Football Uniform

2019 Camden