My hospital experience

Friday 13th January 2017.

Myself and my Mam were due to fly to Glasgow for the crunch game of Munster’s Champions Cup campaign on the Friday and as most people who know me would tell you, I’m a rugby fanatic so going to this game was a big deal. So when I told my mother on Thursday night that I was too unwell to travel she knew that it was very serious. Obviously the signs were there, I wasn’t getting out of bed, I had no energy, I was breathing very heavily, my heart rate was extremely high but the signs of diabetes like frequent urination, poor eyesight etc. were not there so I convinced myself that it was a mental thing. I even said to my Mam that it could be depression, because I couldn’t think of any other logical explanation for the way I was feeling.

The next day I was sitting in the waiting room of my GP’s office naively thinking she’d put me on medication and I’d be home back in bed within the hour. How wrong I was.

The minute she saw me, it was very obvious to her I was in a DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) state with BG levels of 25 (normal levels 4-10) and a ketone level of 6 (should be between 0.0-0.6). You’d think at 19 years of age I’d realise that asking me to leave the room while they discussed the best way to get me to hospital in the quickest time meant that something was up, but no, the penny still hadn’t dropped.

From there it was a blur, Mam got me to hospital in a record time with me in the front seat asking why I needed to pack a bag sure I’d be checked out by that evening. They ran the usual tests, asked the usual questions, and eventually the doctor on call dropped the diabetes bomb accompanied by the harsh words “that’s just the way it is, you’re just going to have to learn to live with it”. Unnecessary.

They wouldn’t allow my mother or brother in to me so I got that news on my own which was a lonely and harrowing experience, something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Then followed the tears, and boy did they flow. By the time they moved me from the MAU (medical assessment unit) to ICU, I couldn’t see out my eyes because they were so swollen from the tears.

You’d think that being diagnosed would be the worst part of the entire experience but it got worse from there. My bloods had to be taken every 3-4 hours, each time lasted at least 20 minutes because of the difficulty they had finding veins. I had 2 drips in my right arm, 1 in my left, I was connected to blood pressure machine which checked that every 30 minutes, and I had wires connected to every other part of my upper body so they could take ECG’s when necessary. So basically I couldn’t move. Friday night was sleepless, thoughts racing through my head, a waterfall of tears and despite being surrounded by a room full of people, it seemed like the loneliest place on earth, knowing that while the support was there it’s something I would have to learn to cope with on my own. It was also made worse by the fact that the doctors attempted to insert a catheter into my blood vessel to make it easier for them accessing my blood. After over an hour of trying on my left wrist he wanted to try my right wrist, I refused.

I cannot describe the pain of this and it’s part of my hospital experience that I’d rather not relive. That left its mark on my wrist and nerve damage in two of my fingers. Looking at it every day is a reminder that if I got through that I’ll get through anything.

Saturday came and went (Munster won, thank god), as did Sunday. On Monday I met my diabetic nurses who thought me how to use all the monitors needed to keep my diabetes under control. Despite the physical pain of Friday, Monday was mentally very tough, all this new information being thrown at me. Everything became very real. I also met my diabetic specialist who claimed it was “a very exciting time to be involved in diabetes”. This has become a long running joke within the family, every time we talk about diabetes the word “exciting” has to be used.

From there it got a little easier day by day. ICU was quite entertaining as was the ward, I was roughly 60 years younger than the patients I was sharing with so I’m sure I was a breath of fresh air for the nurses, to whom I owe a huge amount gratitude. I’m not sure I’ve met a nicer group of individuals who really helped me deal with the diagnosis.

Finally, after a week full of ups and downs, Thursday came and I was discharged. That pit in my stomach leaving the hospital isn’t something I’ll forget easily but it’s something I’ll hopefully never experience again. I suppose you have to go through these things to learn and develop as a person, I certainly did and I hope that people who have been recently diagnosed with T1 try to look at the positives even if it isn’t easy.

“Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you”

Friday 13th – I guess you could say it’s the day my life changed.

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