1BEING DIAGNOSED AS A DIABETIC
It was in my fifth year of life that something happened which would forever change the way in which I live. For the past four years, I had lived as a carefree child. That single day threw all that I had known into turmoil; I had been diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic. At the time, I believed that my life would never be the same as those around me. Fast forward over twenty years into the present. I now know that although there are certain things which I must pay careful attention to, such as physical activity, I can still live a normal life and do many, if not all, of the things which those around me do daily. This is the story of how those first few weeks of being a diabetic transpired and how they changed the way in which I will have to forever live my life.
The setting is early March 1990. The location: Regina, Saskatchewan. I had been at home when my mother first began to notice that I had suddenly began to drink a lot more water than I normally would. As she had just seen a television advertisement about being certain to look for the warning signs of diabetes, she decided that she should check for some others. By deciding to do this research, she discovered that I did indeed have many of the other signs. This is what began my journey into medical care in regards to diabetes. As my mother did not yet have her license, we took a taxi to the Northgate Medical Clinic, where I saw my family doctor and was given what is known as a glucose tolerance test. At the end of this testing, it was determined that I did indeed have diabetes. I was immediately sent to the Regina General Hospital. This news was confusing to me, as I did not yet know what diabetes was, and was troubling to my parents, as they did not know how to deal with a child with diabetes. This trip to the hospital was but the beginning of many such trips for me.
Upon my arrival at the hospital, I was admitted to ward 4F, which at the time was dedicated to treatment of newly diagnosed diabetics. This ward has since been converted to the pediatrics ward. However, at the time, this ward allowed me to be surrounded by others who also had diabetes and therefore see that others had diabetes as well and that I was not alone. That first day, it was believed that I would only be in the hospital for one to two weeks. However, as a young child who had never had to eat on a set schedule before, I at first refused to eat according to the schedule which the hospital dieticians set for me. Due to this, my hospital stay ended up being close to an entire month. During this time, a diabetes educator would spend time both with my parents and myself, giving us training on a wide variety of things, including nutrition, how to manage insulin reactions, and what to do in case of illness. An event which sticks out in my mind from this period of time was learning the proper way to give insulin injections. We would first practice on a doll, injecting it was saline solution, and once we had mastered that, we would inject ourselves with the same solution.
Although my time in the hospital was over two weeks, I was granted day passes approximately halfway through this stay. This allowed me to return to my pre-school classes. However, by this time, I had begun to be extremely dependant on someone being with me at all times, and as such, my mother would often have to stay for the entire class.
As time progressed, my diagnosis with diabetes became increasingly easier to have as a part of my everyday life. One aspect which helped in this transition from naïve 5 year old to diabetic was my time spent at Camp Easter Seal, a camp designed by Saskatchewan Abilities Council to help in your becoming more independent with your diagnosis. This camp not only caters to diabetics, but also to individuals with some form of mental illness. It was at this camp that I first gave myself a solo insulin injection, thus opening up the door for me to do more independent things, not always being fully reliant on my parents to be there. However, as with any sort of illness, I have also relied on my parents in times of illness to ensure that I am getting the proper medical care or that I am looking after myself properly in terms of insulin reactions.
It has over twenty years since I was diagnosed with diabetes. I will not say that it has been easy, as it has not. However, being diabetic has allowed me to grow more as an individual, having to deal with different difficulties that I otherwise would not have. It has now become a part of my everyday life, and I no longer remember a time when it was not. My routine has become one which includes the aspects of diabetes management: testing blood sugars, injecting insulin, always being aware of the amount of activity I am involved in. This has also caused me to learn more about nutrition than I would otherwise know, such as the exact value of different forms of foods, and I eat on a healthier meal plan that I otherwise might. And yet, even with these many conditions which are on my life, I have come to the realization that those many years ago I was wrong. I can live a normal life, participating in many of the same activities as do my friends. The only difference is that I must always be conscientious of that which I am participating in as well as the fashion in which I am doing so.
MY ADVENTURES WITH DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening complication in patients with untreated diabetes mellitus (chronic high blood sugar or hyperglycaemia). Near complete deficiency of insulin and elevated levels of certain stress hormones combine to cause DKA. DKA is more common among Type I diabetics, but may also occur in Type II diabetics generally when physiologically stressed, such as during an infection. Patients with new, undiagnosed Type I diabetes frequently present to hospitals with DKA. DKA can also occur in a known diabetic who fails to take prescribed insulin. DKA was a major cause of death in Type I diabetics before insulin injections were available; untreated DKA has a high mortality rate.
In 2003, I was attending college at Briercrest College. I was living on my own for the first time, and was having difficulty controlling my diabetes in the first place. One week I began to get very sick and coule barely eat, was not sleeping very much, and even when I did eat, I could not eat more than a few morsels at a time. During this time, I was also going to class, which I found out was a very bad idea. Anyways, one night I was lying on my bed, trying to get a little bit of sleep, and I began to hallucinate a flying monkey telling methat I needed to get up and have some sugar right away (by the way….wrong thing to do when you’re in DKA). So I eventually got up and got a can of pop. As I was trying to drink that, some friends of mine from the dorm I was in saw me and decided I needed to get to a hospital right away. So away we went. I went to the ER, they said I was diabetic and acting odd, and I was taken right to a room. The doctor came in and did some tests and gave me saline and potassium (cause my pH level was majorly messed up). I was asked if I remembered my chemistry (I couldn’t even remember my name at the time). Eventually I got taken up to the ICU, where I spent about a week. I then went back to school. And a couple months later, this happened again. Except I checked myself into the hospital before I was almost in a coma (like the first time).
I managed to survive the next few years without DKA…but then I was in Morden, MB and ended up in the hospital there yet again. This was an interesting experience, in that I thought I was having a conversation with the people I was staying with all night long (I wasn’t) and actually was so sick that I could only eat liquid foods for the month after getting out of the hospital.