Unexpected turn of events
In an unexpected turn of events, last month my boyfriend discovered that he is also Type 1. While I had certainly noticed some tell- tale signs, such as excessive thirst and dramatic weight loss, having my suspicions confirmed came as quite a shock. For us both to be in the 10% of diabetics diagnosed as having Type 1 is so unusual and unlikely. As I sat beside him at the hospital, listening to the Diabetic Registrar explain the situation, it struck me that while the information was much the same as what I had been given five years ago, the treatment was startlingly different.
I was diagnosed in Ireland. Although I wasn’t feeling ill I spent six days in hospital before I was allowed home to begin coping with my diabetes unsupervised. For the first two days nurses injected my insulin for me, then taught me how to do the same for myself. Doctors, nurses and dietitians came by to educate and reassure me. I have since complained that in all that time spent in hospital there was still a lot that I wasn’t told and this subsequently led to problems for me down the line. However, I appreciate now that compared to the treatment my boyfriend got, being admitted to hospital eased me into things.
Compare this to events last month. It was a Friday evening, and therefore out of hours of the Diabetic Clinic. The Diabetic Registrar met us at the hospital, reluctantly broke the news that Type 1 Diabetes was the conclusion he had come to, and set about explaining blood glucose and ketone testing, and injecting. An hour later we were on our way home. It is a lot to take in in the space of an hour and I felt like I took on the role of Diabetic Specialist Nurse over the weekend. I tried to help by doing tests and injections at the same time, but the thought occurred to me again and again; if I had been sent home on the same evening that I discovered I was a diabetic, would I have coped as well as I did? If I had been handed two insulin pens and then sent home to do my first injection, would I have been confident that I knew what I was doing? The answer is undoubtedly “No”.
I understand that my boyfriend was allowed home knowing that I would be able to answer a lot of his questions and give advice, and I would hope that newly diagnosed diabetics who don’t have someone close to them who has gone through the same thing receive more support initially. I still feel that my six day stint was too long, but one hour certainly isn’t long enough to allow the new information to sink in properly. There should surely be a happy medium, where patients are discharged only when they are comfortable that they understand the information they have been given and can cope with their new routine of testing and injecting.