Well, this is my first post. I have tried to start blogs before but always realized that I had no purpose or intention in my writing. Having been a student of English and Writing I just found it unacceptable to write with no purpose. Within the last year I have gone through a long list of earth shattering changes in my life, but none more shocking or shaking then getting diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 25.
About a year before being diagnosed l experienced some sudden blindness (approx. 70% vision loss at it’s worst). After a few days with no improvement I went to a walk in clinic and paid nearly $200 to be told “You need to contact a doctor, you have diabetes”. So I made an appointment at ANOTHER clinic (with a sliding fee scale) and they told me I had type 2 diabetes and they prescribed me Metformin and I saw a diabetes educator who spoke with me about diet. I took my medicine (which made me sick) and changed my eating habits. The weight began to melt away (yahoo!) and I checked my sugar every few days (as they recommended and it always seemed too high but I hadn’t been given actual numbers that it should be or tricks to reduce it. As a year passed I was down about 80 pounds and people started getting concerned.
After much persuasion from my parents and my boyfriend (and my mother getting me onto her health insurance for a few months before I turned 26) I went to the doctor. I really went to the doctor because my hands were bothering me. I assumed I had tendinitis, at the time I was working long hours at a horse farm as a barn manager and I figured the recent increase in work had produced the pain in my hands. Upon seeing the doctor, describing my symptoms and medical history he thought that my back (I have several herniated disks in m back and degenerative disk disease) was causing the problems. He was so concerned that I was rushed in for an MRI and has the results within an hour or so after getting out of the machine. While he DID think that my back was in bad shape (I knew that, it’s been that way for a long time) it didn’t explain all my symptoms with where the pressure on my spine and nerves is. The next culprit he wanted to test was my blood sugar, and when he came back into the room he had a concerned and surprised look on his face.
“I can’t let you leave.” Was the first thing he said to me, now keep in mind I had been at the office since before 11 o’clock and it was now well after 4 PM. “Excuse me?” Was all I could manage for an answer. “Emilie, your blood sugar is over 600. You have to go to the emergency room and they will give you IV insulin. We will have to get you back on Metformin and then we can get you out of here.” (I had stopped taking my Metformin a little while before this appointment, I was broke, not in a great living situation and it just fell back on the list of things to worry about behind eating and having a place to sleep) So I was ushered down to the ER where they hooked me up to multiple bags of fluids (insulin, saline etc.). After several hours they determined that I was experiencing severe ketoacidosis and that I would need to stay at the hospital overnight. I made a phone call to my mother (who works down the street) and she came over to my room and let me use her cell phone to call my boyfriend. Marshall and I had been dating for less than a year at this point and had just moved into a house less than a month. He was utterly surprised and worried. He was at a friends house practicing with his band, he dropped everything and jumped in the car. It wasn’t long and both my parents and Marshall were standing in my room. After some time and visits from several nurses and 1 doctor my parents went home for the night.
Marshall spent the night and most of the next day with me. He slept uncomfortably in my bed making sure that I was comfortable and he was always in reach. I was woken up every few hours and someone would prick my finger and give a tsk tsk tsk and tell me the number. I couldn’t help feeling like they thought I was a diabetic that had just decided not to take care of myself anymore, but that wasn’t true at all! I was a diabetic who is one tough bitch, therefore was able to bull through a lot of things that other people wouldn’t (Please don’t think that I think I am tougher or better than anyone else, in fact I don’t think this is a good trait that I have at all). Not only that but I was convinced they were trying to starve me to death! For the months leading up to this point I was eating absurdly high amounts of calories everyday. At one point I sat down and counted out all the calories I had consumed in a day and came out right around 6,000! So these small measured meals were killing me when I was used to eating two breakfasts three sandwiches, granola bars, crackers and peanut butter, dinner, snacks etc. I know most people would think, “Hey I’m eating more than ever, having pain in my legs and arms, and peeing ALL the time… This must be bad, to the doctor!” I have a long medical history and was able to discount most of my symptoms as symptoms of something else (mostly my back issue) and I was working LONG hours of manual labor, of course I was hungry and tired all the time! Plus, denial can be a powerful drug all it’s own…
After that first night a doctor came into my room and told me that he thought he was going to see a coma patient, that’s what the information in my chart suggested. My A1c was 15 (off the chart so to speak, I’ll explain this later) and the toxins built up in my body were at very dangerous levels. My reaction to his opening statement, “Nope, no coma here. I’ve been working, when can I go home?” Needless to say everyone was surprised by my response. He explained to me that it was either my type 2 had gotten so out of control that I would need insulin to get it back under control and then return to diet and Metformin as treatment OR I had been misdiagnosed the first time and I was actually a type 1 diabetic, in which case no amount of Metformin, diet and exercise would have changed my situation. With that he told me that I would definitely be in the hospital for at least one more night, he really wanted to make sure that my sugar was at least at a manageable level before I was sent off to fend for myself essentially.
Near the end of day 2 Marshall headed home to shower and tend to all our animals (dogs, ferrets, turtle) and take a shower. My mom and Dad (Who both work in town, very near to the hospital) came and hung out with me for a little while. I’m still very glad that I really didn’t spend very much time alone at the hospital, I’m really not built for confinement (a lot like my dog). Being stuck in one place for too long with not enough freedom and distraction is very difficult for me, never mind that the “naughty diabetic” looks and tongue clucking never really stopped… After my parents headed home Marshall of course came back to spend some more time with me :). He did ask is it was alright if he slept at home, the night sleeping half on my hospital bed and half suspended in air had taken a toll on his back. Of course I didn’t really want to spend the night by myself in this cold and sterile place but with everything that Marshall has done for me and how supportive he ALWAYS is I figured it was the least I can do. So he got permission to take me for a walk outside and then tucked me in and headed home. I spent most of that night watching the clock and betting against myself as to when the nurses would come in to prick my finger and scold me.
By the morning of day 3 I was emotionally spent. It is certainly not an easy thing to be sick, ever, especially receiving such a diagnosis (or possible diagnosis at that point) but being in the hospital was REALLY affecting me. After seeing the “diabetes lady” (as I came to call her) again and watching some videos that she showed me. She taught me how to inject insulin and gave me a practice pillow and syringe. After not seeing a doctor all day I hit my limit. I was tired of being ignored and not being informed on what was going on. I am an intelligent woman that deserves to have the whole story. Finally late in the afternoon after seeing the doctor walk by my room several times I let out a loud (but not rude) “Excuse me, can I go home now?” I heard some whispering out in the hall and then a nurse poked her head in and told me they would go find the doctor. When the doctor finally made his way in he told me that he really wanted to get my glucose under 300mg/dl before they sent me home, this is when it is important that you know yourself and take control of your care. “There is no way you are going to get a reasonable glucose from me while I am stuck here.” The look on his face was SO priceless, shock, surprise and a little amusement I think. “Oh yeah?” he smirked. “Yes. I am very famous for emotional stress affecting my body GREATLY and that is before diabetes.” Well he thought on this for a minute and then told me as long as they could get me appointments with my doctor, the diabetes center and an eye doctor and he would try to get me out of there. YAY! So after another nearly two hours and multiple visits from the doctor and the “diabetes lady” I was set up with insulin pens, needles, a meter, test strips, lots of paper work and oodles of information.
Marshall came to pick me up and I couldn’t wait to get home to all my creatures! When I opened the car door I thought my dog was going to explode. I’ve never been without him for more than 12 hours, so needless to say he was pretty excited to see me. He spent the entire ride home with his head over the back of my seat on my shoulder. That’s my boy! Well it was nice to be home but I had appointments with doctors every business day for the next two weeks. My truck wasn’t running at the time so this meant hitching rides into town with my parents and then using one of their vehicles to get around town. So began my journey into diabetes, a rough and stunning change in my everyday life. This is the purely medical version of my experience, in the midst of all this I had to leave my job and soon after was forced to sell my truck to cover the costs of living and travel to and from the doctor’s office.
I think I have finally finished this tail of diagnosis and beginning treatment, now that this is out of the way I can move on with our stories!