- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Hyperglycemia: The Disease Called Diabetes; My Story
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Diabetes: Let the Battle Begin!!
It can't happen to you until it does. I have no idea why my body after 74 years of hard living with no apparent effect, decided to let me down this June past; nearly finish me all together and, as the street walker said, "Condemn me to a life of little pricks!" Well, she might have said it.
I had been ill for a month, or perhaps much longer. As I always know best, I had been eating more and more fruit; drinking more and more fluids containing sugar. I couldn't understand why I felt so bad; was vomiting regularly and couldn't stand without feeling dizzy and on the edge of collapse. I was vomiting black fluid and for a while brainstrust thought it had cholera!
After about 10 days of this I did partially collapse and called an ambulance. The paramedics took one look at me, listened to my galloping heart and made my lie down with oxygen, eventually racing me off with full bells and whistles to the emergency at Princess Alexander Hospital. My blood sugar was 43! Normal is around 5. My pulse was over 200!
You have a different system in the USA. (We, and most of the world, use "millimoles per litre, the USA use "milligrams per 100 milliliters" but the US is coming round to the general system, slightly more simple). For example 4 in the UK, a low reading, is 72 in the US and my horrendous level of 43 is 774 in the US!). I should have been dead! Very sweet, but very dead!
By then I was in a sorry state, everyone thought I had had a heart attack and I may have done, although the evidence for that turned out to be controversial, with the medics who would benefit from a positive result (by stenting, etc) in conflict with two who said my heart showed no damage. I do suffer with arrythmia and the PVC's had run together into one awful irregularity which was mimicking shutdown possibly. (I have seen cardiac specialists since who gave me the green light).
A bed was soon found for me and I was soon on all sorts of fluids dripping into my body night and day...In all I had more than 20 antibiotics to cure infections of one organ and another that were suspected. I could not eat for nearly the whole time I was in hospital - over two weeks, and was drip fed nutrition some of the time and on a catheter to pee (awful things!). Eventually, I managed to force down some "ReddiBrek Porridge" which became my life line and all I could eat for a month.
Nurses came and took blood day and night and I was checked by doctors specializing in all the organs which suffer from poisonous elevated blood sugar. They thought I had been diabetic for some time, perhaps as much as 2 years or more before my emergency. Slight people do OK in hospital: fatties do not! So uncomfortable, you feel like you're in the Gulag! I won't go on about it; our beleagured NHS does its best, but it's socialized medicine, and a more exquisite form of torture could not be devised: some of the nurses (most were angels) could have come straight from Belsen-Belsen. One bitch, who always woke me by vigorously shaking me and shouting, "Mr. C., Mr C!". She was lucky, as I had intended to pretend to be having a nightmare and back-hand her hard the next time she did it! I think she had a premonition and quit!
In time, I was shown how to inject myself with a "Flex Pen," somewhat easier than a normal syringe, containing insulin- 30% insulin aspart, and a mix of aspart and Protamine SC...this provides slow and fast acting insulin. I was set a dose of 19 in the AM and 11 in the PM on the dial of the Pen. Since being home in late June, I have reset this to three injections daily of just 8 each...you are allowed to tinker with your dosage as you realise what's going on, and there are quite a few insulin types and combinations available to your doctor and you. I am diabetic 2, the one also known as "Adult Onset Diabetes." Type 1, one, is that which you usually have all your life, or which starts before age 40, where the body's pancreas does not produce insulin at all. With 2, the body usually produces insulin, but the body loses the ability to use it properly, (although some may still be effective along with the insulin you inject).
I hardly modified my diet (the one before the idiocy of earlier in the year), just cut out most sugar and ate less all round. The insulin worked well, injected 15 minutes before eating, it takes care of the huge spikes of elevated blood sugar common with all diabetics after eating and which are so dangerous to the body if they stay high. This poisonous sugar, which on the one hand we cannot live without, on the other, can also kill us by degrees as it attacks heart, kidneys, eyes and circulation, etc. The object is to keep the blood sugar between safe levels, some where between 4 and 7 millimoles; you have to keep records of amounts before and after meals, etc; also starvation levels first thing in the morning. An associated danger is the blood sugar going too low and causing Hypoglycemia, (known as "Hypos" by sufferers) below 4 - which can cause collapse and earlier unpleasant symptoms...as is going too high - over, say, 15, can cause unpleasant symptoms as well, it's worth the effort to keep the beast within safe levels - still somethingt of a juggling act with food intake and insulin amounts.
It's important to exercise, I walk a lot when the weather is kind, or use a stationary bike when confined by the British rain and blasts. As exercise can cause the blood sugar to drop, it's best to cover this by having a little food before you exercise and checking the level before and afterwards.
In the UK, you also have to notify your vehicle insurers of your illness; if you don't, and you have to claim, they might refuse to pay in the case of an accident...embarrasing if you have hurt a third party and might involve jail. You also have to notify the DMV Driving License governent department who write to your doctor to ask if there is any impediment to your ability to drive. What they look for is if you have had emergency Hypoglycemic Events - hypos where you have needed help...so careful, Brits, when you fill the forms out! Maybe it's the same in the USA?
Probably, checking the level of your blood sugar is the most unpleasant chore associated with this malaise. You have a little device which is spring- loaded with a lancet and is fired into the finger tip, (ouch!); the drop of blood which ensues is added to a test strip already loaded into a blood-glucose (sugar) meter and a reading is quickly obtained. This is done from about 4, to a high of 10 times a day, while the patient is trying to adjust insulin, diet, exercise to keep to appropriate levels of blood sugar. Between 5 and 7 mmo1/L (millimoles), or so is ideal, so there's not much room for mistakes!
It's important to keep a daily record of your blood sugar results to show your doctor who should do a three-monthly check to ascertain your average levels and other things.(all chemists and diabetes-care helplines supply printed record books as well as other supplies). I don't know how people without the NHS umbrella pay for all the insulin injections (up to 4 a day), these are the Pens and Needles; the pricking device and the Lancets, as well as the test strips and device to check sugar levels; the visits to the clinic and hospitals, etc., etc
Diabetes is becoming a serious, world-wide problem, with the UK alone having more than 3 million registered sufferers, as well as a multi-billion dollar business supplying all the stuff diabetics need. Drinking alcohol, smoking, bad diet, stress, a sedentary lifestyle - all are linked to genetic makeup and other factors causing the epidemic.
This nasty poisonous elevated sugar can also cause neuropathy and pain in places all around the body, especially in the feet and legs where circulation can become compromised sometimes leading to amputation, so it is in your interests to face the problem head-on and slow down or even negate the symptoms....as I write, I have an ache in my left shoulder which is related I'm sure. If you are older, as I am, you will often confuse symptoms of other woes, such as artheritis, etc., with pain caused by elevated sugar...it's a bit of a challenge to say the least! But I actually feel much better than before I was diagnosed.
I am still learning about this incurable, but eminently treatable brute menacing my comfortable old age: many type 1 people have been suffering all their lives, or contact type 2 much earlier in life. There is lots of research being done at present, especially with the types of, and provision of, insulin. Cell stem research is opening interesting possibilities of repairing the damaged pancreas. Many patients are now getting their insulin from "pumps" attached to the body which regulate better the insulin and require much less puncturing of our poor bods.
As this article is getting too long, I will wrap it up for now: I would like to hear from diabetics in the US, etc., with information I have missed or any enquire I will attempt to answer. Screeds on the Internet, of course, which will fill in any info I have missed.
"Don't let all those little pricks get you down!"