19-year old Georgia college student dies of diabetes complication

Looking around Marquis House's bedroom in his family's Columbus, Georgia, home, it almost feels like he's still here, like he's going to walk in the door any second.

"This is all his dirty laundry; I haven't had the heart to wash it," Chereia House, his mother, says.  "This is his (insulin) pen right here. His glasses he wore to school."

House spends a lot of time in here, remembering Marquis.

"I think about him," she says.  "I think about his personality."

Marquis was 19, a diehard New England Patriots' fan in Falcons' country.

He was a University of West Georgia sophomore, and a video-gamer, who still got a kick out of dressing up for the family's pajama costume Christmas photo.

Marquis was also a type 1 diabetic, drilled in staying on top of his blood sugar. 

"He was diagnosed when he was 4 years old," his mother remembers. "He was doing his own injections at 4, he was counting his carbs at 5."

So, losing Marquis to a complication of diabetes? 

It just doesn't seem possible. 

"Because he was so on top of it," Chereia House says. "He knew what to do, he always knew what to do."

And Type 1 diabetes requires a constant balancing act,  says Children's Healthcare of Atlanta endocrinologist Dr. Jessica Hutchins.

 "Most kids with Type 1 diabetes are taking 4 to 6 injections of insulin a day, depending on how often they're eating and how well their blood sugars are doing," Dr. Hutchins explains.

On February 11, 2017, a Saturday night, Marquis House, alone in his dorm room, called his mom.

"And he said, 'Oh, I've been throwing up.' And I said, 'What is your blood sugar?'"

Chereia House says Marquis reassured her he'd checked his blood sugar and it was within the normal range.

But he was sick to his stomach, so his mother wondered if he should go to the ER.

"He was, like, 'No, mom, I'm fine. It's just a little bug, if I'm still throwing up in the morning, I will go to the hospital,'" House says.

Marquis didn't know it, but he'd developed a serious complication, known as diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, often triggered by an infection or missed insulin treatments.

His blood sugar level was dangerous high.  Running out of insulin, his body, searching for fuel for energy, had begun breaking down fat.  That caused the release of acids known as ketones into his blood, which were now spilling over into his urine.

In the early stages, Dr. Hutchins says, symptoms of DKA include weight loss, an increase in thirst, and frequent urination. 

Kids may feel very tired and fatigued.

But as the condition worsens, she says, patients in DKA often experience vomiting, dehydration and mental confusion.

That may explain why Marquis House simply thought he just had a stomach bug.

"Usually the symptoms have been going on for weeks, very subtly and nobody has really noticed," Dr. Hutchins says. "But as far as the actual DKA, that can, within 24 hours can go from vomiting a little bit into a severe life-threatening condition."

When she hung up with Marquis, his mother asked him to call her in the morning.

"That Sunday morning, I got up and I was, like, 'Oh, he didn't call me,' says Chereia House. "So I texted him."

Marquis never responded. 

Hours later, he was dead in his dorm room. 

Only now, two months after his death, is his family putting together what happened in Marquis' final hours.

"He got up at some point, and was getting ready to administer his insulin," says Chereia Houe.  "Or (he was trying to) check his blood. He had everything out. And then passed out."

Today,  Chereia House says, it's still hard to believe the heart of their family is gone.

"But when I miss him, I come in and I just lay across his bed," his mother says. "To kind of like get his, to get his scent."

Chereia House, still consumed by questions, says she's telling their story because she wants other parents to know about DKA and other complications of diabetes.

Follow your gut, if you feel something is wrong, she says.

She wishes more than anything she's followed hers with Marquis that February night.

"I feel if I would have pushed him, and made him go to the hospital," Chereia says. "Maybe we would not be here doing this story. Every day I live with that regret, for not pushing it.`"

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