Playing Roulette with Diabetes Isn’t Worth It: Kayleigh’s Warning to Other Diabetics

This article was written exclusively for InformationAboutDiabetes.com by Kayleigh Walsh, a 25-year-old insulin-dependent diabetic who has dealt with several serious health complications as a result of not managing the disease well when she was younger.

I want to share my journey so I can make people aware of the risks and dangers of playing roulette with your diabetes as a teen and young adult.

I was perfectly controlled from the time I was diagnosed at 3 until the age of 17, when I decided that I wanted to be what I thought was normal (not injecting insulin four or more times a day). So I went four days without insulin, and that was the start to how I am now. I became very ill with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). I had a blood sugar level of 47, was riddled with ketones, vomiting, dehydrated and then unconscious. I woke up two days later in intensive care. It wasn’t one of my best ideas.

I carried on, every now and again using my diabetes as an escape – until I took it too far and ended up with my veins buggered from recurrent hospital admissions and needing drips to be put in my femoral artery and my jugular artery and even needing them to drill into my knee just to give me fluid and insulin and then being put on life support numerous times – all because of high blood sugar levels. My highest to date is 78.4mmol. It’s true what they say: As a teen your body will correct damage, but as an adult it can’t.

A Laundry List of Health Complications

I now suffer from peripheral neuropathy in my hands, arms, legs and feet (severe burning agony) due to dead or damaged nerve endings and gastroparesis (damage to emptying of stomach) and an enlarged liver, autonomic neuropathy (damaged nerves in my heart, lungs, liver, kidney, bowel and pancreas). I have ventricular tachycardia – my heart struggles to pace itself at a safe pace, so my heart on a good day goes at 150 or more beats per minute. I struggle with walking, carrying and lifting and getting in and out of the bath due to severe pain. My liver swells to double its size. I retain a lot of fluid in my hands, feet and legs. I also get diabetic hives on my hands, etc. My bladder’s nerve endings are completely damaged, and I can no longer urinate naturally; I self-catheterize four times a day. When ill, I pass my own nasilgastro tubes as vomiting is worsened by gastroparesis.

All of these issues have taken a toll on my immune system; I have nearly died with common colds, contracted meningitis three times, and many other dangerous things. I should not have any of these complications, far less all of them at 25 years old. I am very lucky to be alive with all of hat damaged in 10 years. It is seriously not worth it if you feel low to use your diabetes as an escape and not take your insulin. I have learned the hard way and advise anybody not to do it. No matter what age, you don’t want to end up like me. I wish I had listened and know I can’t fix what I have done – but there are people who can, so make that change now before it’s too late. I am now 25 with the health of an 80-year-old, if not worse, and no chance of having a family as damage has ruined my chances of becoming pregnant. It’s not worth it!

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