It started with headaches.
Then 10-year-old Sarah Lemaster started complaining to her mother about stomach aches.
Elaine Lemaster fretted, but the family doctor didn't seem worried.
Then Sarah began complaining of fatigue. She drank constantly - and craved ice cream. She seemed to grow more tired each day, and she made frequent trips to the bathroom. Elaine's concern grew when her daughter came home from school exhausted one Monday for no apparent reason.
They couldn't get an appointment with the doctor until Friday. Sarah repeatedly fell asleep in the car on the way to the doctor's office, and Elaine felt a flush of fear when she realized that Sarah's clothes now hung loosely on her body. She had lost more than 10 pounds in a week.
A blood test yielded frightening results: Sarah had diabetes - and was only a few hours from a diabetic coma. The doctor immediately transferred Sarah to Phoenix Children's Hospital, where a team of nurses, doctors, health educators, counselors and dieticians specialize in treating diabetes. They gave her huge doses of the insulin Sarah's pancreas could no longer manufacture, so that her cells could begin to absorb the dangerous levels of glucose in her bloodstream. Her blood sugar level had risen to more than 10 times the normal amount.
"The nurses were great," Elaine said. "They were very patient with us." She and her husband, John, stayed with Sarah in the hospital for the next four days.
With the help of the PCH team, the Lemasters have learned to cope with diabetes. Sarah's parents administer insulin shots about four times a day and make sure she eats a carefully balanced snack or meal six times a day. They know that controlling Sarah's blood sugar level remains the key to avoiding both short- and long-term problems.
"Sarah wrote in her journal at school - not really feeling sorry for herself, but kind of asking why does this have to happen to me?" said her mother. "But she realizes that life goes on, and she's very mature and responsible."