I'm sure that many people have read or heard of the novel 50 Shades Of Grey... If you haven't then here's a very short summary (close your eyes if you don't want to know what happens).
Girl meets guy... guy is dangerous for girl... girl can see the danger but doesn't know how to stop... girl keeps going back for more...
When I think about DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) that is how I see my experience, a dangerous pattern which sucked me in time and time again. DKA broke me so many times and in so many ways, and after I fixed myself and picked myself back up I would allow my diabetes to chip away at me until I was too weak to fight it again.
For those who haven't experienced or don't know what DKA is here's a short blurb to explain more...
"Diabetic Ketoacidosis occurs when the body cannot use sugar (glucose) as a fuel source because there is little or no insulin. Fat is used as fuel instead. As fats are broken down, acids called ketones build up in the blood. In high levels, ketones are poisonous.
The signs and symptoms of DKA are: Deep rapid breathing, dry mouth, flushed face, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, decreased consciousness, dulled senses, frequent urination and increased thirst."
Recently a fellow ninjabetic, Danie, experienced DKA for the first time since being diagnoses 15 years ago. Danie had been ill for a while and unfortunately this had lead to her being admitted to hospital with DKA. I remembered that we had briefly spoken 1-2 months ago about what it felt like to go through it and I hoped that she never would. I felt instant guilt at the fact that Danie had been through this terrible experience when she had taken measures to prevent it, yet I had openly exposed myself to it on a number of occasions.
In previous blogs I have explained that it was a 6 monthly occurrence for me... a bit of a routine in my diabetes life. The agonising pains and confusion, being unable to breathe or even walk were all quickly forgotten about within a few short weeks and the build up would start over again.
So the DKA was that guy... aggressive unstable and menacing. My problem was that I didn't know how to escape the vicious circle that I seemed to be trapped in, I didn't know how to stop. My consultants would visit me while I was in hospital and ask why it had happened. "I forgot to take my insulin" I would tell them innocently. "I promise I won't do it again" hoping that my big puppy dog eyes would work. They would then make me an appointment a few days later to discuss ways of preventing it and I would sit in that appointment completely numb with an invisible barrier around myself.
For me accepting help from someone who didn't understand and showing that I needed to lean on someone else was frightening! So frightening that I would put myself in a position which could have cost me my life.
The thing about DKA is that it isn't only the "there and then" that affects a person, it's the weeks and months after that creep up slowly and sometimes silently which need to be looked out for. It's all very well having an appointment after an admission but what happens to the person who feels unable to connect with their HCPs? What happens when GP and clinic appointments start to feel generic? What happens when the advice given seems to be turned out from a book with no feeling or empathy behind it? Is that when people start unknowingly and unwillingly going back for more?
I realise that most people who experience DKA do not purposely subject themselves to it. Was I naive and ignorant to go through it so many times? Was I selfish to add myself to the NHS statistics? Yes but at the same time was I scared and withdrawn because I thought that no one could help me? Did I feel like a lost cause because between those appointments I felt that I was alone and was struggling to cope? Yes again! There are always reasons for why these things happen and just because I wasn't shouting it from the rooftops and symptoms weren't always visible, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and shouldn't be addressed.
When my consultant suggested I start a diabetes forum I thought it would be great for me to share my experiences with other people and to prevent them from making the same mistakes that I have, but there was nothing that could be done for me. I had accepted that I was destined for another DKA in 6 months time but maybe I could stop others from having that same destiny. After going through 9 years of hospital admissions I feel like I've found the missing piece to the puzzle! I had no idea that the diabetes online community would give me so much hope and positivity.
Recently another Ninjabetic, Hannah, told me that she'd had a dream that I was taken into hospital with DKA. I thought back to when that had last happened and realised that it was 15 months ago. When I spoke to Danie about her admission I said that it would be interesting to compare our outpatient care following an admission. Thinking about it has made me come to the conclusion that combined with the medical advice that I recieve, speaking to people who completely understand is one of the most effective outpatient treatments that I could wish for. Every day that I'm speaking to people with diabetes and their famlies is another step away from putting my body and mind through another DKA and I can hopefully do the same for others.
I had an email from a young girl with type 1 diabetes recently saying that she wished I could be there to hold her hand in appointments because even though she is surrounded by HCPs constantly she still feels very alone and misunderstood. I know what she means, I really do, and I plan to email this blog to her as I know how she enjoys the 50 Shades trilogy... but also to remind her that after the second instalment (50 Shades Darker) comes the finale... 50 Shades Freed.