The Seriousness of Type 1 Diabetes
One downside of maintaining tight blood glucose control for an extended period of time is the potential for one to forget what a serious disease type 1 diabetes is. Between preparing for pregnancy, conceiving, and being pregnant, I'd kept my blood sugars very steady for a long time. I began to think that I had this disease all figured out and could easily manage it.
I feel that I've been given gentle reminders lately that type 1 diabetes is serious and I shouldn't underestimate the severity of my condition.
Since I am lucky (knock on wood!) to feel my low blood sugars extremely well, I've never had a low that I wasn't able to correct on my own. For me, lows are an occasional frustration, but not something I fear. I know many people experience scary lows, and I'm sure my outlook on the seriousness of having diabetes would be different if my lows were debilitating.
In my experience, prolonged periods of extremely high blood sugar are the thing that reminds me that diabetes can be life-threatening. Particularly my one experience (since diagnosis) of ketoacidosis in 1999 is the memory that haunts me when my blood sugars run unexpectedly high.
It was the summer after my freshman year in college. I was visiting my college campus for the weekend to see my new boyfriend who was working at a summer camp. Being a typical college guy, he wasn't eating his first meal of the day until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Not wanting to admit I needed to eat, I just rearranged my injections and let my blood sugars run a little high. Within a couple days I started feeling sick and vomiting. Trying to be helpful, my boyfriend got me Ginger Ale and saltines which I ate without considering my blood sugar.
Finally, he placed a call to the school nurse and said, "My girlfriend is diabetic and she's been throwing up for a couple days." The nurse insisted that we head to the emergency room immediately.
Ironically, I had been to the same ER a few months early with infected tonsils (actually my doctor later told me that my active infection may have contributed to the ketoacidosis- everything is interconnected!) Since I'd been there recently, all of my insurance information was already in the computer. In contrast to the extended wait I experienced in the ER with my sore throat, I was rushed into an exam room when I showed up that summer. I should have realized then how serious my condition was.
My poor parents were on there way home from their 25th wedding anniversary trip when they got the call that I was in the ICU, 8 hours away. After a long, agonizing drive, my parents arrived at the hospital to see me sleeping with tubes and monitors everywhere.
I spent three days in the hospital, getting my blood sugar under control and rehydrating. They took blood gases from my capillaries every hour and had to give me painful IVs of potassium. I looked like a junkie with all sorts of bruises and needle marks on my arms!
When this event occurred, I had been diabetic for 6 years. My control had been poor through my teenage years, but this was the first serious episode since my diagnosis and it served as a huge wake up call.
I haven't been hospitalized for my diabetes since the summer of 1999, however, when my blood sugars are stubbornly high I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. These are the moments when I don't feel that I've got diabetes all figured out; the disease seems to have a life and a will of its own.