2015-01-15

Because I Didn't Blog It When It Happened

I never really blogged about what it was like receiving a diagnosis of "type 1 diabetes" after being a health nut for years. Because the question came up elsewhere, I went back into my email archives to see what I had written about it before. What follows are re-worked excerpts of those emails.

What It's Like "Coming Down" With Diabetes

On the list of weirdest things that happen to people, getting Type 1 diabetes at age 30 has to be right at the top. Results from my... blood test at the Ottawa Hospital reveal that my blood sugar [had] been in the 20s for months. To put that in perspective, the normal blood sugar range for non-diabetic people is 4-6. Diabetics usually target 4-7. My blood sugar test on [that] Tuesday morning was 37, which was essentially an emergency situation.

I was rushed into an appointment at the endocrine clinic. There I was interviewed by the medical staff, and all at once was surrounded by doctors. They filled my head full of so many prognoses, instructions, and bits of information that my head was reeling. One of the bits of information was, "This is going to sound like we're rushing into things, but we're going to start your insulin regimen tonight." My wha...? What about...? Um...?

It was quite a shock.

I was then introduced to a number of people in the endocrine clinic, one of whom will be my nurse for the foreseeable future. She taught me how to operate a Lantus SoloStar long-acting insulin auto-injector. I injected my first dose of insulin myself - the staff acted like this was a big achievement. I will admit that I was really upset when I did it, but I've got to get used to it sooner or later. Then it was down to the lab for more blood tests and I went home. [My wife, then girlfriend] did a good job of consoling me, as did [my parents] when they called [on the phone later].

At about 3am I woke up drenched in sweat and obviously in pretty severe shock. At the advice of a dial-a-nurse hotline, I drank a cup of milk and ate a slice of bread. That took me out of shock, and then I went to the emergency room. There they tested my blood sugar at 14.5. The good news is my pulse had actually returned to normal, thanks to the Lantus insulin, so I'm back in the 55bpm range!

[I] went back to the endocrine clinic at 8am this morning, and the doctors advised me that I probably went into shock not because my blood sugar was low, but because it was much lower than it had been for months. Next the nurse gave me thorough instructions on injecting myself with Lantus and Humalog, testing and monitoring my blood glucose levels, etc. After that, I went to the dietitian, and she helped me figure out how to count carbohydrates and dose my Humalog accordingly. She [was] also a marathon runner, and we talked at length about how to train safely and run with diabetes. [As it turned] out, it is totally do-able, so that made me happy. I asked her a lot of tough questions, and she was able to answer me.

Then we went home for my first lunch as a diabetic. [My girlfriend] was a saint. She took all my papers and injectors and devices and stuff, and organized them all in a file for me, with tabs and labels and stuff. Then she made me some tea and some lunch. She helped me figure out how much insulin to take and when to take it, and helped me make sure I did it right.

[At that point, I felt that things were going so] far, so good. I [felt] a lot better having taken some insulin. My mouth [was] no longer dry, and my body [felt] a bit more energetic. I [had] a headache, but [it went] away soon...

Last thing is: Why did this happen? Well, as it turns out as [much] as 5% of the population has what's called Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA). This is also known as "Diabetes Type 1.5" or "late-onset Type 1 diabetes." Basically your body develops an allergy to the beta cells in your pancreas and systematically annihilates them. It has nothing to do with genetics, diet, lifestyle, etc. It is just dumb luck. It's not genetic, so I don't have to worry about passing this on to my children. That much is pretty good. I guess I will have to get serious about maintaining an amazingly healthy lifestyle to avoid complications later in life.