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My Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis
So if you’ve spent a hot minute roaming around my blog, chances are you know I am a Type 1 Diabetic. Some folks know my diagnosis story, but many do not. Oddly, out of all the things I can talk about, this is probably one of the more boring topics. But I find it important to share anyway, just because you never know who it might help.
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition that can strike anyone at any time, but it USUALLY is diagnosed in childhood. Hence it’s alternative name: Juvenile Diabetes. I have a theory that in order to develop Type 1 Diabetes, you need 3 things: Leaky gut, an infection, and the right genetics. More about what exactly Type 1 is ( at least according to ME over here.)
I was diagnosed at 16 years old, in August, immediately prior to my Junior year in High School and the infamous 9/11/2001. My parents were going through a divorce. Or had just gotten a divorce? I don’t remember much from that summer, because I was pretty sick. Anyway, the last background info you need is that my mother is also a Type 1 Diabetic. She’ll scoff when she reads this, but without her, my diagnosis story would NOT be boring. So, thanks, mom. You saved my life whether you believe it or not.
What I felt like
I was ALWAYS hungry. And thirsty, And tired. Drivers ed and my driving hours that summer were on tap for that summer. Honestly, I can only remember ONE class. I was in a half-asleep state otherwise. I remember I sat with a friend in class, and we would be typical teenagers together, and I’m grateful for him. Because he kept me awake.
I also spent a lot of time with my boyfriend, like any normal teenage girl. One day I went over to his house, crawled in his bed, and slept for an awkwardly long time. I remember his parents were extremely worried about me. I remember he was worried about me. But I just needed to sleep. I would wake up and eat and drink, and then immediately go back to sleep. That was my life.
The moment I knew it was more than mono or a cold was when I was at the movies with my boyfriend and friends. I can’t remember what we were seeing because I spent the majority of the time in the bathroom peeing. I think I got up close to 10 times during the movie. So I knew something was wrong.
The moment of truth
After the movie and general teenage debauchery that I was able to stay awake for, I went back to my mom’s apartment. I’m lucky that it was my two weeks at her house at that point in time because she saw it. She saw that something was wrong, and when I told her I didn’t feel right she immediately used her glucometer to check my blood sugar. It was in the 400’s. That’s really high, Y’all. Assuming it has been up that high for weeks, I was dangerously close to DKA. Still, 400 is not as bad as it could have been. I think my mom once told me her sugar upon hospitalization was in the 800s. That’s like, borderline coma.
I remember specifically that it was nighttime, and that because she knew this disease, she felt comfortable letting me stay home and calling the pediatrician in the morning. So that’s what we did. I remember she made me a breakfast fit for royalty because she knew it was the last meal I’d ever eat with analyzing every bite. After that it was on to the doctor, who shot me up with some insulin and sent me to Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Admitted to The Hospital
We went back to my mom and stepdad’s apartment to get me some clothes, books, and my CD player. My boyfriend was there for some of this. I can’t for the life of me remember if he came to the hospital with us or not. Yes, it was a high school relationship, but that kid was a true hero through all this. I’ll always be grateful for him.
When we got into Boston and I was hauled away there was some confusion and panic that I had already been given insulin without a glucose tolerance test. But since my blood sugar was still high, in the 200’s now I think, they just went ahead and admitted me. If I wasn’t diabetic I’d have been in insulin shock by then. They then proceeded to give me the world’s WORST IV in my forearm. Totally blew the vein, leaving me with a bruise that would literally last a month.
The Hospital Stay
I wasn’t in DKA, I wasn’t sick, and I wasn’t any trouble. I had done a science fair project on type 1, watched my mom deal with it my whole life, and I was ready to get on with my life. The Hospital was a flurry of doctors, my family, my boyfriend, and a friend who wore a blonde wig one day that I’ll never forget. It was boring. I spent A LOT of time standing in the window watching a building being built.
Because of the type of diagnosis I was on a ‘little kid’ floor so I wasn’t allowed to leave my room without supervision. Not that I’d want to, there was only a playroom with preschool toys available to me. All in all, I spent a week in the hospital learning to give myself shots, count carbs, and deal with the ups and down in my blood sugar. I had my first Diet Coke and HATED it (But that has since changed).
The only part of my hospital stay that was boring was my roommate. An anorexic girl of about 12. She would scream at the food they brought in the door, including mine. Since I was on the window side, this happened more than I’d like to admit. She did offer to let me watch Chicken Run with her though. All I can say is that I hope she’s ok now.
One doctor or nurse told me that I was one of the fastest releases for a Type 1 Diagnosis they’ve ever had. Yay?
I left the hospital and went out to eat at Outback with my boyfriends family. Cue the shooting up jokes. Man, I loved those people. Looking back on all of the support I had I am in awe…
I proceeded to finish my driving hours and get my license too. I just had Type 1 Diabetes now, but everything else stayed the same. School started, and it was like ‘Oh, hey guys. I’m Diabetic now.’ Everyone shrugged and I got to go to lunch twice. Because my long-acting insulin caused my sugar to drop a little bit before my scheduled lunch. When you have a class of fewer than 70 people that you’ve been with since forever, these things tend to just be accepted. The school nurse (who had literally been with my class every year, except one, since kindergarten) was notified and offered to help me with my shots, but she knew I would be ok. She knew my mom.
And that was it.
I was diagnosed at 16. My mom was diagnosed at 18. I’m lucky that my learning curve was so short because I already knew so much. I’m lucky that I had someone to catch on, and that I was old enough to speak up. So what should you look for if you think someone might be Type 1? This is a list of my symptoms.
- Excessive thirst. Not just thirsty a lot. I would drink a whole 2-liter soda bottle in one sitting and still need more to drink
- Excessive hunger. Like cannot get enough, and yet there’s no weight gain.
- Constant bathroom breaks. It makes some sense with the excessive thirst, but the kidneys are also desperately trying to clear the sugar out of the blood. So there’s LOTS of peeing with high blood sugar
- Excessive sleep. I could sleep for almost a full 24 hours only waking up to eat, pee, and drink.
- A weird fruity smell on the breath
- Confusion, combativeness, weird mood changes
Life with Type 1 Diabetes can be annoying, but it has not held me back at all. All I really had to change was my plan for college. No more ROTC for me, and no more free-to-me medical school. So I became an engineer instead, which lead me to the freakin’ awesome life I have now. I’m cool with that.