My diagnosis – by Laura Cleverly
To coincide with the launch of our Children’s Campaign, Laura has kindly shared the story of her diagnosis with us. This blog features on the Independent’s blog site too. We’d like to say a huge thanks to Laura for letting us share this and for highlighting our 4 Ts campaign too. The more people who can spot the 4 Ts of Type 1 diabetes (Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, Thinner) the better. Can you relate to what Laura went through? Share your experiences in the comments below.
I was 16 at the time and had just finished my GCSEs. After a long hard struggle to get through my exams I definitely needed a break. In just a few weeks I’d lost a stone in weight and felt broken in every way through tiredness. I’d spent most going to the toilet and guzzling water. I had no idea why this was happening to me, no one did.
At the time my only dream, or desperate wish if you’d like, was that I could rest. We were en route to a family holiday at DisneyLand Paris (“the place where dream come true”, they say!). I was so tired from the journey – even though I’d slept the whole way there I was still exhausted. Other than sleep I also wished for fluids; anything and everything that I could get my hands on I would drink instantly, never quenching my thirst, I always asked for more.
The symptoms that I was displaying were put down to stress from exams, even a health care professional mistook the signs telling me I had food poisoning, although my mother had suggested diabetes to him. Little did I know that my body was slowly giving up due to undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes.
While on holiday I felt awful; I was thirsty, thin, unhappy and on the last day I wanted nothing more than to go home. I hid my physical pain well, not wanting to spoil anyone’s fun, until the last day when I collapsed a total of three times. Doctors were called, tablets were prescribed, signs were dismissed and my family were left to cope alone.
Hours before we were due to leave (I have fantastic timing) pains set in. Excruciating pains shot through my stomach, I’d never felt anything like it before. Amongst the pain I experienced terrible confusion as my vision seemed to be failing, I couldn’t see any colour, everything was a dull grey and seemed to be slipping away from me. I couldn’t breathe speak or stand. I clung to my mum as I doubled over in pain, desperate for it to end. I would have done anything to make it stop.
I passed out as paramedics arrived and was airlifted to hospital (missing the only helicopter ride I’ve ever been on). I was told by my family that with one simple blood glucose test had revealed the mystery. There and then, within seconds, my family were told that I had Type 1 diabetes and that I was in diabetic ketoacidosis. This meant that because my body had stopped producing insulin and had started using fat a fuel instead. As the fat was broken down acids called ketones were building up in my blood and in such high levels they were poisoning me.
I spent days in intensive care and was then moved to a ward, scared and angry. I know that my diabetes couldn’t have been prevented, there is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, but the way that I was diagnosed could have been. A basic knowledge of the signs and symptoms could have prevented a misdiagnosis, and who knows, I could have spent that holiday the way most people do, with dreams coming true.
Sadly I have heard stories of misdiagnosis before, signs being missed and emergency situations occurring which aren’t necessary. This doesn’t only cause physical consequences, but could potentially cause long term emotional effects for those involved. It isn’t always the case though and I also know of many people who have had a quick efficient diagnosis and treatment to follow.
The most common signs to look out for are the 4Ts: Tiredness, thirst, thin and toilet. If you or a child you know are feeling constantly tired, even after rest, then this could be a sign of Type 1 diabetes. Having an unquenchable thirst, frequently going to the toilet and losing weight in a short period of time are also signs to look out for.
The test for Type 1 diabetes is simple, all it takes is a finger prick that could put someone’s mind at rest and could also save a life.
These four symptoms are the ones that really stood out for me in the weeks running up to my diagnosis and I wish they had been spotted sooner. An in depth specialist understanding of diabetes is not necessary, but knowing the 4Ts is all it takes. If you recognise any of these signs in yourself or a child then go to your doctor and insist on a test for Type 1 diabetes. Being Type 1 aware could prevent situations like I was in; it could prevent diabetic ketoacidosis and could be the difference between a diagnosis and a life threatening situation.
It’s because of this that I’m supporting Diabetes UK’s campaign that launches this World Diabetes Day to make sure more parents, grandparents, carers and anyone who works with or looks after children are aware of the 4 Ts of diabetes. It really could make a huge difference.
Laura is 26 and lives in Portsmouth. She has had Type 1 diabetes for almost 11 years and runs an online diabetes support group called Ninjabetic. She is a Diabetes UK Young Leader and is also studying to become a nurse with dreams of becoming a Diabetes Specialist Nurse. Laura is a keen blogger and shares her experiences of living with diabetes through her blog, which are well worth a read. She also enjoys baking delicious cupcakes.