Stacey Banks’ last memory of her niece Ebony Taylor is of her dancing with her little cousins as Stacey walked out the door of her Ipswich home.
The 22-year-old was staying over to look after Stacey’s children while Stacey went to work.
The next morning, Ebony was found dead in her room.
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Ebony had died from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious diabetes complication where the body produces excess blood acids.
DKA is caused by the release of free fatty acids resulting from the body’s inability to produce insulin and utilise glucose.
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Free fatty acids form ketones in the blood, which can cause symptoms such as lethargy, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Because of its common symptoms, it can be easily mistaken for other conditions.
“DKA is a leading cause of hospital admissions of people with type one diabetes, but people with type two are also at risk,” Accelerating Diabetes Innovations (ACADI) director Professor Elif Ekinci said at the ACADI partnering summit earlier this year.
“Each year nearly 10,000 people are hospitalised with DKA, and an estimated 200 people die from it.”
Ebony Taylor, 22, died suddenly while staying at her aunt’s home. Credit: Supplied
Having dealt with type 1 diabetes most of her life, Ebony did not show any of her usual symptoms of being unwell.
She had been happy and lively, watching Christmas movies while eating popcorn with her cousins and dancing around the living room.
“I called her later that night,” Stacey told 7NEWS.com.au. “She said everything was fine.”
But the next morning, Ebony slept in and couldn’t be roused when Stacey’s six-year-old son went to check on her.
When Stacey herself went to wake her, she realised the horrible truth.
Stacey’s husband performed CPR until paramedics arrived, who confirmed the young woman had died.
Ebony had suffered a previous episode of ketoacidosis, falling into a coma four years ago.
“She pulled out of that in a few days,” Stacey said.
Normally, she would appear lethargic and nauseous. Unfortunately, she was not wearing her insulin pump that night, so did not get any alarms.
“She’d said she felt a bit nauseous,” Stacey said.
“But she hadn’t vomited or anything like that.
“She had lots of energy, nothing to show she was remotely that sick.
“She ate dinner, she was fine, said goodnight.
“There was nothing to say she was unwell.
“Normally she gets sick, normally there’s a lot of signs that progress to this.”
Ebony Taylor died from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious diabetes complication where the body produces excess blood acids. Credit: Facebook
Now Ebony’s family is left mourning their “beautiful girl”, known affectionately as Eby.
It is the second recent diabetes-related death the family has had to face in two years.
Ebony’s uncle died last year from kidney failure caused by diabetes complications. He was 38.
Ebony was “that kind of girl who would drop everything (to help someone)”, Stacey said.
The 22-year-old was a doting cousin to Stacey’s two children and cared deeply about her family.
“She was a beautiful girl and we’re going to miss her a lot,” Ebony’s mother Susan Arthur told 7NEWS.com.au.
Stacey created a GoFundMe to help raise funds for Ebony’s funeral, which was held on Monday.
Any leftover funds will be donated to JDRF, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of type one diabetes research.
In an update to the fund on Thursday, Stacey thanked everyone who had supported them so far.
“We are just amazed at everyone’s generosity and how loved she was by everyone in her lifetime,” she said.
“Not sure how life will be now without her now, as she was everything to everyone she touched.”
An early diagnosis
Ebony was diagnosed when she was just six, in large part due to her uncle’s knowledge of diabetes.
“She was wetting the bed and her pants quite often,” Susan said.
But Susan had just given birth to Ebony’s younger sister and “thought it was a jealousy thing”.
While diabetes is generally not diagnosed until adolescence, Susan and Stacey’s brother — who was a teenager himself at the time — had diabetes and knew something was amiss.
He suggested Susan get Ebony tested, which resulted in a rare early diagnosis.
But growing up with diabetes wasn’t easy for Ebony, who Stacey said was “very rebellious as a kid”.
The family had not qualified for a health care card, so couldn’t buy an insulin pump (a small device worn 24 hours a day that delivers insulin) until recently.
Without a pump, Ebony’s quality of life was “nowhere near as good”, Susan said.
“She probably struggled a lot.
“It impacted everything.”
Diabetes as a teenager affects the ability to drive, to drink and needs to be strictly managed when playing sport or going on sleepovers or camps.
Diabetes in children, and particularly teenagers, can be overwhelming, embarrassing and stressful.
According to Better Health: “It’s normal for children or adolescents to feel sad, angry and fed up with their diabetes at times.”
“After all, diabetes is a lifelong condition, so the tasks and skills needed to manage it must be continued over a lifetime.”
The National Diabetes Services Scheme has a Youth Zone dedicated to guiding young people living with type one diabetes and their families.
Diabetes Australia also runs the DiaBuddies program, which supports children living with type one diabetes.