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Hello. My name is Julia. I am 21 years old, and I am from Cape Town, South-Africa. I’m going to share my story of how I became a type 1 diabetic. About a month before I was hospitalized, I started feeling different. I was thirsty all the time, and even if I wasn’t, I had to drink something because I would feel dehydrated. Because of all the liquids I was taking in I literally used the toilet at least every 15-30 minutes. I started losing a lot of weight, and at some point, I started losing my appetite. I had no energy and felt nauseous all the time. I also vomited a lot.
At that stage, we knew nothing about diabetes, so we didn’t realize I had all the symptoms. About a week before I got hospitalized, I went on holiday with a friend and her family to a very well-known place, 4 hours from my hometown. Luckily my grandparents live in the town where I had gone with my friend. Every day I felt more and more sick until the fifth day when I phoned my mom and said I feel sick and that I wanted to stay with my grandparents until I feel better.
As a concerned mom would do, she phoned her dad to take me to the doctor to make sure I’m alright. He took me there, and the doctor’s asked about my medical history, so my grandparents told him that I have slight kidney problems. The doctor said it could be my kidney, but he doesn’t see anything wrong with it and that I must drink a lot of fluids. That’s the last thing I remember from before I was hospitalized. I was told that after the visit to the doctor, I kind of “went crazy.”
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I would walk or crawl because I became so weak and I stopped eating and vomited every time I drank anything. Morning of day 7, my mom phoned her dad to make sure he had given me the medication I got from the doctor for my kidney. My grandfather couldn’t wake me up, and my mom’s sixth sense just told her to tell him to rush me to the hospital and so he did. I was in a coma – DKA. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. The condition develops when your body can’t produce enough insulin.
My mom had phoned the hospital about every 5 minutes to find out what’s going on because my grandfather had told her I’m in a coma. After about an hour of calling they asked her if I’m diabetic and she answered no because I wasn’t. As they were driving, rushing to Mosselbay, the town where I went for a holiday and where my grandparents stay, the doctor explained to her that I was in an extreme DKA coma and he also explained to her what that was. A none diabetic person’s pancreas produces insulin, where a type 1 diabetics pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin.
Insulin is what controls anybody’s blood sugar levels. Now, a normal and healthy blood sugar level is +- 6. Some people go into a coma, die or end up with brain damage. My counting was 84. The doctors were shocked. They have never heard of counting so high. After a while, they had told my parents that they’ve done all they could and that it was up to me whether I’d wake up or not. They explained that if I do, I might have serious brain damage or many health issues.
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My mom and stepdad arrived there and spoke to the doctors and saw me in ICU. They slowly started contacting family and friends to notify them about what had happened. My father and his wife at that time also drove through to come to see me, and so did my best friend and her family. Everybody was heartbroken knowing I might not wake up or I might never be the same Julia again. I had so many people praying for me.
After six days of being in a coma, a miracle happened – I woke up. The doctors did tests on me, and my parents received the most amazing news that I had no damage and I’m still perfectly fine except that I had become a type 1 diabetic. I was sent to the normal ward once my sugar was stabilized after a few days. I remember when my parents gave me my phone I had so many messages and Facebook messages from family and friends. A few people visited me in the hospital too.
My mom, stepdad and I spent Christmas in the hospital, but we couldn’t care less because at least I was alive and still myself. The hardest part for me was learning to inject myself four times a day, and I had to stay an extra few days in the hospital because I couldn’t leave until I could inject myself. When I managed to do it, I could go home. We spent a few days extra at my grandparents’ then we went back home where everyone was so happy to see me.
It has been eight long years later. I’ve been in and out of the hospital so many times because I hated being diabetic. Some days all I did was cry and ask why me. My blood sugar levels weren’t controlled, so I felt sick pretty much all the time.
March 2018 – I was hospitalized in ICU. Same story as every other time I was hospitalized. I had just dodged another coma, but I had a DKA. There was a boy in ICU with Motor neuron diseases (MND) which is a group of conditions that affect the nerve cells that send messages to the brain. There is a progressive weakening of all the muscles in the body, which eventually affects the ability to breathe.
I then realized that I could have had MND or something just as bad, but I can still walk around without anyone suspecting that there’s something wrong with me, that I have diabetes and that I’m fighting a battle every day of my life. He can’t even walk or feed himself or speak properly, and the list goes on. I can still live a perfectly normal life. From that day on, I decided that I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself and that I’m going to start taking care of myself.
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August 2018 – I’ve been taking such good care of myself. I did pick up a terrible virus in March which is still making life difficult for me, but I’m 90% better – that’s a story for another day. My blood sugar levels have been so well controlled. Every day I have to inject myself three times (before every meal), and I have to prick my fingertips, so I can get blood to test my blood sugar levels. It’s not easy even if it seems easy. I can’t just drink and eat what I want and when I want. I have to do carb counting and have to check my sugar levels to know whether I should inject or not and if I do, how many units I must inject.
I feel so much better, and I look healthier. I’m just currently still not completely well because of the virus, but soon I’ll be right back at doing what I had to put aside while recovering. There will always be some days where I won’t feel well or have a high or low blood sugar counts. Trust me, you do not want to be close to me at those times, but at least I’m alive, able to keep it as controlled as possible and most important of all – staying out of the hospital!
I’m sharing my story because I know everyone fights some battle at some stage. It doesn’t matter if mine is worse than yours or yours is worse than someone else’s. At the end of the day, it’s still a battle that has to be fought. I want to be an inspiration to everyone who’s suffering and feels alone. Know that you are not alone. Stop counting all the bad things and start being grateful for the good things. You only get one life, interact with the good and avoid the bad. You have people who love you even if you feel like no one does. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I really hope it touched your heart in some good way.