A photo of five-year-old Desiree Lavallee. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

A photo of five-year-old Desiree Lavallee. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Life-changing medical diagnosis hits Port Alberni family hard

Parents forced to change jobs to stay closer to home for five-year-old daughter

A Port Alberni family has been left reeling after their five-year-old daughter’s diabetes diagnosis.

Desiree Lavallee had to be rushed to Nanaimo Regional Hospital last month with extremely high blood sugar and a pancreas that was shutting down. After spending a week and a half in the hospital, Desiree and her parents were released with a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and an overwhelming amount of new information about a disease they previously knew nothing about.

According to Diabetes Canada, Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce any insulin, which is a hormone that helps your body to control the level of sugar in your blood. It usually develops in childhood or adolescence, and people with Type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin or use an insulin pump to regulate their own blood sugar levels.

Prior to Desiree’s diagnosis, her father Shilo said he knew “almost nothing” about Type 1 diabetes. He says it has been “shocking” to find out how much the diagnosis has affected his daughter.

“Her life is in peril at any given moment of the day,” he explained. “Even the slightest bit of exercise can send her into a low. She goes from being a perfectly healthy kid…and suddenly her legs aren’t working. It’s so scary how quickly it can change.”

Desiree requires constant monitoring of her insulin levels. In her Kindergarten class at École Alberni Elementary, she has a teacher’s aide who is being specially trained to administer insulin, while Shilo and his wife Kristie have been getting a “crash course” in acting as caregivers for a diabetic child.

“All of our lives took a complete 360,” said Shilo. “It’s so fresh, we’re still learning every day. There’s so much information you have to take in.”

Throughout the process, Shilo says Desiree has been a “trooper.” Practically overnight, she went from being a normal five-year-old to being unable to eat candy or exercise. Desiree is learning how to check her own blood sugar levels, and is doing so without much complaint.

“She’s had to grow up so fast,” said Shilo. “But she has adapted quickly.”

Shilo has organized a fundraiser for the family through GoFundMe called “Medical expenses for Desiree and Kristie.” The funds will go towards the various medical costs the family has accrued, and will help cover the costs of both parents being off work for a few weeks. Shilo and Kristie had to change their jobs, which both required travelling out of town.

The two parents will now have to work a little closer to home to make sure they can monitor their daughter.


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The Lavallee family: Shilo, Kristie and their daughters Desiree and Kailee. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The Lavallee family: Shilo, Kristie and their daughters Desiree and Kailee. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)