I often visit newly diagnosed kids, who recently have been confronted with their diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes. Only the smell of the hospital makes me think of summer 2011. I was 14 at the time when my diabetes diva had entered my life like a whirlwind and completely turned my life upside down from one second to the next.
During the past few weeks before my diagnosis, I got sick all the time and felt super tired. I was struggling with severe foot cramps which came to the point of me not being able to stand or walk at times because I could not handle the pain. I had also lost a lot of weight and my eyesight had deteriorated clearly. I remember being at an orchestra camp about two weeks prior to my diagnosis and having troubles with reading sheet music as well as constantly running against glass doors and lanterns. A short hike ended with my friends having to carry me back to the camp because the foot cramps were too strong.
At that time, my parents and I didn’t realize how bad I was feeling. We would lay the blame on teen growth, puberty and a possible magnesium deficiency. Additionally, I was dealing with emotional stress due to my parents’ divorce and having to move to a different house with my mom and two younger siblings.
About 4 weeks before I got diagnosed, my mom requested a blood test because of the foot cramps. When the results came back, they didn’t state a lack of magnesium in my body but an increased blood sugar value. However, we didn’t realize the degree of urgency at that time.
I then went on holiday, when I started drinking crazy amounts of liquid and having to go to the toilet constantly. At a paediatrician friend of my family’s urging, my parents and I were driving to the hospital on my first day of school of the year 2011.
I felt very weak when we arrived at the hospital in the afternoon. At the children’s medical unit, they started collecting my personal data and taking blood samples from me. About half an hour later I got my diagnosis: Type 1 Diabetes. At first I did not know what that even meant. Type 1 Diabetes? I had never heard anything about that before in my life. Only the serious look on my parents’ faces made me realize that the diagnosis was not exactly frivolous. A bit later I found out that my blood sugar was way over 1000 mg/dl (normally it should be between 80-120 mg/dl) and my Hba1c was 15.5% when I came to the hospital. My doctors explained to me afterwards that I would have fallen into a diabetic come if I had not gone to the hospital that day and that people normally do not make it there in such a good condition that I have been in when their blood sugar is that high.
So while I was laying on the treatment couch, the doctor was trying to explain to me and my parents what the continuing process of treatment would look like. I cannot remember all of the things that he was telling me. Simply his mention of me having to stay at the hospital for some while comes to my mind. And that I told my mom that everything is going to be okay, that she does not have to worry about me and that I would manage to do this by myself.
Shortly after, they started the treatment and the administration of a potassium and insulin infusion. My room was getting prepared and only after my parents saying goodbye, I really started thinking about my diagnosis. I had never dealt with Type 1 Diabetes before in my life and therefore did not know anything about it.
Though I was not scared, but was trying to cope with the pain which got cause by the potassium infusion. After that, everything went so quickly. The administration of insulin, several training courses about Type 1 Diabetes, what was happening in my body and what I had to do to control my blood sugar diva in my everyday life. Sessions with a nutritionist on how to count and weight carbs and BEs correctly, how and where to inject, how often I have to test your blood sugar, what I have to do when my blood sugar is high or low, etc. So many facts and information that you have to acquire in such a short period of time.
Due to my extremely high blood sugar, my eyes were so tarnished that I had to get them checked quite often during my stay in the hospital. For about a week I could only recognize contours and colours. After that I had to use a magnifying glass for several weeks if I wanted to read. It took a long time for my eyes to get used to the lower blood sugar values and to get back to their normal state. Because of my decreased ability to see, the nurses always wanted to wheel me in a wheelchair whenever I had to visit the eye specialist. However, I always insisted on walking, after all my feet were healthy – although I was not spared the confrontation with glass doors here as well.
During the first few days after I got diagnosed, I was not allowed to eat any food that contained carbohydrates. Thus I only ate vegetables, cheese and ham (I was not vegan back then), which was not a problem for me since I have always been a big fan of vegetables. Especially my granny was one of the biggest supporters during my time at the hospital. She would visit me every day, despite her impaired health condition, and bring me cucumber salad, tomatoes and grilled chicken.
A few days after my diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes came the “big” day. The first time that I would ever inject myself with insulin. I had a lot of respect for the needles, but was not afraid of it. For me it was clear that this was a vital and lifesaving process – insulin=surviving. Still I cannot exactly remember the situation. Only my mom described to me how calm and certain I was when I did my first injection.
At the beginning of my diagnosis my doctors told me that I would have to stay at the hospital for approximately 3-4 weeks. Though I had to stay for 1 ½ months because I got sick occasionally and they had to work on recalculating my basal rate because of a stomach flu.
You’ll find out more about my stay at the hospital and my first time back home after my diagnosis in Part 2.
To be continued 😉