Monday, 5 May 2014

My very first low blood sugar

I had what I now know to be my very first blood sugar a few months before I was actually diagnosed with type one diabetes.

I don't remember the exact month but it was at some point early in the year in 2009. We were driving down to Clacton to see relatives on my dad's side of the family, and the journey is about one and a half hours. I started to feel what I thought as "really weird" towards the end of the journey- I knew that something just wasn't right. However, I didn't think much of it because I had no reason to; I put it down to sitting in the car for so long that I felt so weak. When I got out of the car my legs felt like jelly and I could honestly just about walk so when we got inside I sat down the whole time hoping whatever I was feeling would just go away.

All I can say is thank goodness it was lunch time, because if I hadn't eaten something quickly that day then I most probably would have passed out. I felt so hungry and ate very fast, immediately I began to feel better again and the feeling went away. My body knew my blood sugar was low; however I didn't- and this incredible urge to eat was so strong, my body was screaming "feed me or you'll pass out!" Yet I was unaware; I was unaware of the diagnosis that was to come a few months later, I was unaware of the battle that was raging on inside my body.

I find it mad how my body even developed a low blood sugar with what was to come- the eventual failure of the insulin-producing beta-cells in my pancreas. I wonder if at this point the auto-immune attack had begun, or if it hadn't started at all? I really don't know, but what I do know is that I had not been diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the time, nor had the words "type 1 diabetes" even been spoken to me before. This occurred at a time that I think, my body appeared to be "fine", I can't remember if I even had any symptoms of type 1 by this point either. What I now know to be my first low blood sugar was an unnerving experience for me; I had no idea what was going on with my body and I just tried my best to carry on as normal despite the symptoms that I was experiencing that day and despite being quite concerned I didn't think much of it after the event had passed. I went back to being normal, however it didn't last long.

Shortly after that day the symptoms of type 1 diabetes would become even more prevalent, the auto-immune response would be in full attack against my pancreas and there would be nothing I could do to stop it, yet I had no idea. The symptoms of a low blood sugar would not come back until the day after I was diagnosed; sitting in my hospital bed the nurse tested my blood sugars and they came back at a perfect 5.5 mmol.

Although it was nearly five years ago I still remember this moment very clearly; I suppose because it was the moment that it truly hit me...I realised the effectiveness of the insulin, and I realised just how much my blood sugars had come down, I was experiencing something other than thirst and lethargy for the first time in a long time.

I was sitting at the end of the bed; I felt very shaky and weak but I did my best to ignore it and carry on with whatever I was doing; I didn't want to mention it because once again, I thought nothing of it. However, my mind was racing with thoughts, an 11 year old me sat at the end of her bed wondering what on earth was going on with her body. The nurse looked at me and I suppose I just couldn't hide the look of concern on my face and she said to me "Hold out your hands?" and so I put them out in front of me, barely managing to keep them up. And my hands were shaking, they were trembling.

The nurse explained to me this was normal and what I was experiencing were actually the symptoms of a low blood sugar, I know I wasn't low at 5.5 but this was low for my body at this time. My blood sugar was 45 at diagnosis the day before and so a 5.5 was probably a bit of a shock to the system; having been accustomed to high blood sugars for so long. It's bizarre but it's just what happens, because 5 mmol of sugar in the blood isn't much to a body that was used to having 20+.

Even now I still experience this, if my blood sugars have been high for a little while, once my blood sugars get down to a normal range again I experience the symptoms of a low blood sugar, and/or the first low blood sugar that I have after being high for a long time is worse than it would be if my blood sugars had been in good control prior to it.

Obviously in five years I have experienced many many low blood sugars; and although they were scary and unfamiliar to me at first- unfortunately they have become a part of my everyday life now. I know what it feels like to experience a low blood sugar as a non-diabetic and so to think that I have almost become "used" to the feeling is very strange to think about. That first time that I experienced low blood sugar whilst in Clacton is a time that I will never forget, just because of how unnerving that it was; and if anyone asked me back then if I could ever get used to that, or if I could handle experiencing those symptoms again I would have said no. I had no clue that I would experience what I now know to be low blood sugar even just once again, let alone as many times as I have done and will continue to, until there is a cure for type one diabetes and my life will no longer depend on insulin.

-Ellie

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