When Zainab stopped smiling, her father knew that something was seriously wrong...
Zainab's type 1 diabetes diagnosis rocked her family. But with the extraordinary support of her father, Muhammad, and the generosity of Life for a Child supporters, she was able to find her smile again.
At six-years-old, Zainab stopped being the happy and active child she had always been and started to become unwell.
She was very pale and urinating much too frequently. And the special smile she’d always had for her father began to fade away.
Naturally, Muhammad was beside himself with worry. And when a nearby doctor diagnosed Zainab with type 1 diabetes he couldn’t believe it. His own father was living with type 2 diabetes, but that had been diagnosed at the age of 48. The whole the idea of diabetes in a child was unbelievable and so distressing.
He immediately feared for Zainab’s life and future, and he also worried how his family would cope.
Zainab’s diagnosis shocked the whole family. They were especially worried because she was so terrified of needles.
As a lone parent with four children to provide for, Muhammad was already struggling. The modest income he earned as a tuk-tuk driver was stretched to capacity. Now there would be diabetes supplies to pay for too, and these would be needed daily.
Even with loans from relatives and countless hours of overtime, it soon became a struggle to get hold of the insulin and test strips Zainab needed to stabilize her blood glucose levels.
And the harder Muhammad worked, the less time he had to be by her side, providing the care and reassurance she so desperately needed.
For about a year, Muhammad juggled the competing demands of providing for his children and also ‘being there’ for them. And no one could have tried harder.
Zainab’s fear of needles meant that, at first, she only felt comfortable receiving injections from Muhammad. And this was just one of the multiple responsibilities he carried on his shoulders.
As well as providing a home and food for his family, he also had to cover school fees, and pay for Zainab’s insulin, syringes, and test trips. Plus each month, he had to collect these supplies from a hospital over 170 km away. Even on good days, this required a round trip of at least three hours, which meant losing work and income. It was a constant battle, just to scrape by.
With every day that passed, Muhammad also grew more and more worried about Zainab. She was becoming quieter and seemed to have less life behind her eyes. And he hardly ever saw her smile.
Seeing the pressure the family was under, Zainab’s doctor introduced them to the local Life for a Child partner clinic. And this marked a real turning point in their story.
Through the Life for a Child partner clinic, Zainab and Muhammad were able to access free insulin and testing strips, as well as diabetes education and counselling to help them cope with the stress they had both been feeling. It was as if two massive burdens had been lifted – the worry about Zainab’s life and future and the relentless struggle to make ends meet.
They also learned that they were not alone in their experience. They met many other children like Zainab who are living with diabetes – and thriving. And this reassurance and sense of community has helped the whole family to accept Zainab’s diagnosis and find more peace.
Zainab is now a happy and healthy eight-year-old. And when she’s not outside playing with her brothers, she enjoys nothing more than a tuk-tuk ride with her ‘hero’ dad.
Today, Zainab is able to check her blood glucose levels and manage her injections by herself, although she still likes Muhammad to do it when he’s home.
At school, her favourite subject is Mathematics, and she says that in the future, she wants to be a doctor so she can take care of children living with diabetes, just like her.
Muhammad now worries less about his daughter’s future. And best of all for him, her beaming smile is back.
By donating today, you could help another child like Zainab to manage diabetes and go on to fulfil their ambitions – and their potential.
By donating today, you could help a child like Zainab manage diabetes and go on to fulfil their ambitions – and their potential.
The names of some people and places have been changed to protect the identity of young people supported by Life for a Child.
Life for a Child thanks Muhammad and Zainab for sharing their story for this article. We also thank our local partner for the expert care and support they provide to young people living with diabetes. Finally we thank Syeda Huma Zahra Naqvi for the photography.