My Journey as a Very Fragile Type 1 Diabetic: Shelly's Story

This article was written exclusively for InformationAboutDiabetes.com by Shelly Hicks. Shelly developed gestational diabetes while pregnant with her first child, later being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In this two-part article, she writes about her multiple hospital stays and the various complications she's had to endure over the years.

My journey with diabetes began in 1984, when I was pregnant with my oldest son. My mom and I found out I was a gestational diabetic and had to eat a special diet and had to exercise. The doctors had told us that I would end up being a type 1 diabetic later in life. Once my son was born, I was no longer a diabetic and went on to have two more children without any problems.

Twenty years went by, and on Jan. 9, 2003, I went to the doctor for a problem I was having with my bladder and having accidents while I was sleeping. The doctors took blood and urine samples only to come back into the exam room and ask me if I was a diabetic. I told them, “No.” The doctors then told me that I was. They did two blood sugar checks with a meter, and the results came back as high. The ketones in my urine were in the 2,000s. A nurse then came in with a syringe full of insulin and gave me a shot. From then on, I started taking shots daily.

A Very Brittle Type 1 Diabetic

Since 2003, I have been on a roller coaster ride with my blood sugars. In 2007, I was hospitalized with a blood sugar of 1,056. I was on an insulin pump, and the tubing that goes into me was bent, so I was not getting any insulin. I was in for three days. Once I came home and saw my doctor, I was taken off the pump and started on insulin shots.

Things were going okay with my health except for my blood sugars; they were staying in the 400s, 500s or over 600. My doctors could not get them down under 200, despite adjusting my insulin on a weekly basis. One time my mom and I came back from seeing the doctor and were at a gas station and I had collapsed from my blood sugar being really low. From then on, I was classified as a very brittle type 1 diabetic.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis: A Recurring Problem

I continued on my roller coaster ride with my blood sugars. I was stressed out and frustrated, and there was a time when I wanted to give up. When I was in the hospital, I was told that I was in DKA. At the time, I did not know what that meant. It is diabetic ketoacidosis, and that is very bad. I was discharged after three days, continued to monitor my sugars and went from there. I still tried to cope with my diabetes the best I could. I had my parents for support and that was all. I had been to diabetes education about three times, where I learned how to eat right and take better care of myself.

As the year went by, I had gotten a job answering phones after hours. In May of 2008, I took a vacation and went to Florida to a friend’s place for a week. On the way back home, I had gotten sick. Once home, I worked my three days and went home after my shift was done. One day, I called a friend of mine to come get me as I could not walk any further. He came and got me and took me home.

After that I don't remember anything until I woke up in the hospital five days later in the critical care unit. My mom and dad told me that they found me on my living room floor unresponsive 15 hours after my shift. I had a body temperature of 34.4 and was in severe DKA, with my blood sugar in the 1,000s again. I was in the hospital for 12 days on all kinds of IV's, one of them being an insulin drip. I also found out that I had bacterial phenomena.

Stressed and Frustrated

Once I was discharged, I stayed with my parents for two weeks. In July, I met my now husband and we went to diabetic education together so he could learn what to do and what had to be done. I had taught him how to give me my shots and check my blood sugars.

I went back to work and worked for three more months before I was let go due to my sleeping on the job – when it was my blood sugars going either high or low that was causing me to sleep. I was really stressed and frustrated beyond belief.

Click here to read Part II.

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