December 2015 saw my husband hospitalised and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Although we have come to terms with it now, I will admit at the time it was hard.
For about four weeks prior to going to hospital things weren’t 100 per cent. He went to Bali to play a rugby competition and came back complaining of leg cramps. These eventually got so bad he was waking up numerous times in the middle of the night and having to go for walks and massage them out. I even got called out of bed a few times to help.
After about three weeks he noticed that he had lost quite a bit of weight – which I only noticed towards the end. He went to the GP to see if they could help and when they ran some blood tests they didn’t pick up anything unusual.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until he was on a trip in Brisbane that diabetes started to cross our minds. He visited a Chinese massage therapist to help with the leg cramps, and the therapist asked him if he always had high blood sugar levels.
I had read at one point that those who suffer from hypothyroidism (as he does) are at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. However, like so many people, I just thought it could never happen to us. After some more tests, we got a phone call from his GP at 9:00pm one evening who told us we had better get ourselves to Charles Gardiner Hospital – his blood glucose and ketone levels were through the roof.
Basically he did not have enough insulin in his body to break down his carbohydrates into glucose. His body had begun breaking down the next best thing – fat – and producing acid as a by-product. Hence the leg cramps.
The worst part of it all was leaving him in the emergency ward of the hospital at midnight. I cried the whole way home but then decided I had to get a grip. There are plenty of worse things to be diagnosed with than type 1 diabetes. Over the next day and a half he improved out of sight. Colour came back into his face, he put a bit of fluid weight on and we walked around the wards like we owned the place, insulin bag and drip in tow. He even made me get all the nurses coffees from the coffee shop!
It has been a bit of a change for us – thinking about how much insulin he has to give himself at meals, and making sure we have food accessible if he has a hypo event. But really, it’s not too bad. His endocrinologist in hospital was amazing. He told us that ‘we rule diabetes’. It does not rule us. So that’s our attitude towards it – we still do everything we used to do, and still plan to travel the world. We just have a few packets of jellybeans with us and a few extra needles!
- Keep up to date with the latest type 1 diabetes news, research and events with our e-newsletter The T1DE (external link).
- Read more on Sam’s story in Diabetes Matters Magazine (external link).
- Read more on the symptoms of type 1 diabetes (external link).
Ashling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian.