More about diagnosis – an unplanned guest post by Dan

We noticed this post by Dan in the comments section of Jen’s recent video blog where she talks about her diagnosis. We thought it was a really interesting tale, so asked Dan if we could post it as a blog in its own right so that more people could see it. Dan kindly agreed, so here he is talking about this diagnosis – thank you.

Over to Dan…

“After watching Jen’s video – which did make me laugh at points where I saw similarities with myself – I thought I’d comment and add my diagnosis into the mix…

… I can’t exactly recall for quite how many weeks I’d been feeling a little bit under the weather, or quite exactly how long I’d been drinking more and peeing more, but the few days leading upto me being diagnosed really said it all. I had been off school through not feeling good, but now we were on holiday over the Christmas and New Year period, looking very gaunt, and more-or-less permenantly attached to the toilet.

Making things worse was the fact that I was drinking bottles and bottles of (sugary) Coke, which in hindsight was pushing the blood sugar up even further, and making me drink and pee more. Then came those accidents in the middle of the night. At 14 I really shouldn’t have been having an accident in bed, but hey, it was happening. Being that my Granddad was also a Type 1 diabetic, something dawned on the family that they probably should be getting me checked out at the doctors, so off I was dragged to the Emergency Walk-In Centre, pretty much knowing what they were going to say anyway by this stage.

At the clinic, I was called in to have a finger-prick test by the nurse, who nodded knowingly and told me that I had better go through to the doctor. Not content with that result the doctor decided he wanted to test my blood sugar again, and so on he went. Would have been nice of him to use the finger pricker, but no, he proceeded to manually stab a lancet into my finger and do it that way. With a look at the reading he proclaimed to my parents (who had insisted on coming in with me) that “of course he’s diabetic” and that I could have gone into a coma and died aready through the blood sugar being so high (36 as it happens – and although I’ve had some moments where I’ve binged on sweets since, it’s thankfully never been that high again!).

Off I was whisked to the hospital’s paediatric ward, who were waiting for me, for them to sort me out. I remember more tests being done on me here initially, along with the fact that because my blood sugar was so high, and my mouth so dry, I could only manage a few words before my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and I’d have to take a drink of the now ‘sugar-free’ juice I’d been provided with.

They were very attentive at the hospital and very reassuring. It was nice to speak to the Consultant who had been called in especially to see me since it was around 7pm now, and since it was also 29th December. During our chat, despite being told by a nurse earlier that they’d probably give me a dose of insulin via the IV in my hand initially, the Consultant announced that he was going to help give me my first injection. And I guess that’s where all of the daily injections began (initially 2 injections per day with Mixtard, but in later years moving onto 4 injections per day of NovoRapid and Insulatard making things a bit more manageable).

He asked me to take down my trousers so we could get access to my upper leg, asked me to hold the insulin pen whilst he too held onto it over my hand, and although I was attempting to hold back for a minute whilst I’d psyched myself up, he plunged the needle into my leg and delivered the dose. We chatted some more, and he even encouraged me to take the opportunity to eat the McDonalds that my dad was offering to go for. I didn’t, I just wasn’t hungry. Thirsty still though!

Spending the night in hospital, I made friends with a couple of the other people in my ward, but took the time to learn how the insulin pen worked along with the blood testing meter. It was a bit of a novelty I guess (if you can call it that!) pricking my finger and seeing the reading.

The next day I was told that if I showed that I could at least eat breakfast and some lunch I’d be discharged. So having managed a yoghurt, I tried to force some awful ‘vegetable crunch’ down me. After that, with my new bag of extras (needles, insulin…) I headed home.

I guess the day of diagnosis and of discharge will always stick in my head. 29th December 2000 and 30th December 2000 respectively. 2 Days ’til New Year 2001. Needless to say I didn’t celebrate too much that year!

I guess everything after that was a learning curve as Jen says in the video. Me learning what I could do or couldn’t do, and other people (friends, family, even teachers) learning what I could do or couldn’t do too, but what they needed to do should I ever not be able to help myself if blood sugar was low. And I too carried a packet of dextrose energy tablets with me faithfully everywhere I went whilst at school. Moving to college on the day that for some reason I didn’t have a dinner hour but had back-to-back lessons, I was allowed to eat durning one whereas others weren’t.

Fast-forward 12 years at the age of 25, I guess I feel like I’ve mastered most things to do with Type 1 diabetes now, and thankfully there has never been a situation to date where I have been unable to identify my own hypo and take action on it. But during that time things have changed too.

I wonder what other people’s experiences have been like in this regard, or Jen’s if you’re reading. My hypos now give me much different ‘warning’ signs than in the years after I was first diagnosed. I’d have trouble speaking coherently then if my blood was below 3 or I’d be sweating profusely and be shaking. Now, my ‘warning’ signs tend to be more subtle and only really noticable to me. I surprise myself and my family that I can quite comfortably have a coherent conversation with my blood as low as 1.7 – although admittedly at that level the conversation generally focusses on the fact that I need to eat something or drink some lucozade!”

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  1. Jen Grieves says

    Hi Dan, it’s Jen off of the video!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post your comment (now blog!) I think it’s so helpful to read/hear about as many experiences as possible. Your experience is frightening similar to mine, although I wasn’t kept in overnight, but the diabetes specialist may as well have moved into my house the amount he was round over the next few weeks. I even got a certificate the first time I injected myself (really!?) and there was a lot of ‘faffing’ (understandably) from those around me before I was let loose out on my own again – obligatory packet of Dextrose in hand.
    I don’t think I’m any more coherent now when I’m hypo – certainly not in my own head anyway – but I’m definitely better at being subtle about it because my body generally gives me good warning signs that I’m dropping, and I guess as an adult I’m more in tune with my body. You’re a brilliant writer (hopefully that doesn’t sound patronising) you should write more about your experiences! x

  2. Dan says

    Hi Jen, thank you for your message, and for the compliment on the writing! I never really thought that anyone would be interested in hearing about my experience of Type 1 so haven’t written about it before.

    I was always one of those people who declined invitations by the diabetic clinic to go on day-trips and residentials with other diabetics. My feeling was that just because I had it I didn’t need to surround myself by people who were the same – and I didn’t really want to have a group chat about diabetes. I guess I just wanted to get on with it and not make it appear to be as big a part of life as it was in reality! Probably in hindsight it would have been good to have a chat about ‘shared’ experiences with other people, and you’re right, it is now helpful to read or hear about other people’s experiences.

    I’ve read a couple of posts on your blog and it’s great reading about your take on things. You’re obviously a skilled writer – and it shows by the number of regular commenters you seem to have on your blog! I had to laugh on your post about getting your HbA1C checked and it being some rediculously high number – I thought the same when I was given mine until the nurse explained it had all changed. Why they need to mess with these thing’s I’ll never know. You watch, in the next 5 years we’ll be made to check our blood sugar levels in the American mg/dL way. For some reason my meter once turned on to that and freaked me out getting a figure of somewhere near 130 (equivalent to our 7 mmol/L)!

    I know what you mean about other people faffing around you. I remember after first being diagnosed lots of friends would ask if they could watch me have my injection as if it was something exciting. Not wanting to be rude, of course I agreed, but there’s not a lot to it is there?! Did you have the same? There were also those people who expressed how they were so frightened of needles that they didn’t know how I could inject myself. I’m sure you would have had some of those comments too. My response was always the standard: “so you’d prefer to die then?!”.

    All-in-all I think you’ll probably agree with me that friends were very important around that time, and mine certainly have been ever since with respect to the diabetes. Not only did they make me feel ‘normal’ and ignore the fact that I had to whip out an injection every now and again, or eat some energy tablets, but they also did a lot of looking out for me. Trying to convince them I didn’t need taking to hospital on the occasion I lost my insulin pen during a rather drunken night out round town always sticks in my memory! But they did, and still do, have my best interests at heart… and I don’t know about your friends but mine tend to worry about the diabetes a lot more than me!

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