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My Type 1 diabetes story:

I wanted to share my diabetes diagnosis story with the Sweet Life community, in the hopes that it might help other people recognise the symptoms…

Three months ago my Mom decided to take myself and her on a ‘girls’ weekend in Cape Town. I havn’t been to Cape Town since I was 2 years old, so I was extremely excited about the trip. We left Durbs on the Friday after work. The trip to the airport, and in flight I felt strange. I had a kind of heart burn / indigestion sensation in my chest which would just not go away. I put it to the back of my mind and focused on our trip.

The Saturday was spent doing the whole Tourist thing around The Mother City, and throughout the day I was finding it difficult to keep any food down, due to the indigestion I felt in my chest. After returning to the flat, I asked my Mom if we could take a walk to the Dischem around the corner to get some Gaviscon or Rennies or anything that might take the horrible feeling away. I have never suffered from heartburn or anything like that before, so it was a very uncommon feeling. After purchasing the Gaviscon, and walking back up the hill, everything changed.
I was battling to breath, and breathing at a very heavy and fast rate.
My mom decided to take me to the Doctor first thing in the morning.

That whole night was a bit of a blur, I now realise I was probably floating in and out of consciousness. I just remember being extremely thirsty, and no matter how much water I drank, I was unable to quench my thirst.

I awoke in the morning to an excruciating pain in my lower back, either side of my spine. It felt like two metal rods were stabbing me in my Kidneys. I couldn’t breath, and started to panic. The more my mom panicked. It was terrible, but in a blink of an eye I was thrown into the car, raced to the emergency unit at Blouberg Hospital and admitted into I.C.U with Diabetes KetoAcidosis. Being a private patient I had to quickly find a huge amount of money to be admitted. If my angel’s hadn’t been on my side, and I was turned away to a Government Hospital, I wouldn’t have made it. It’s so extremely scary how quick my condition worsened.

A quick background, my Dad was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1 while he was in the Army. He unfortunately underwent extreme dehydration, went into the Army a perfectly healthy young man, and came out of the army 20kg’s lighter and full blown Type 1 Diabetic. His body unfortunately rejected the insulin, and it took him 3 years to stabilise his blood sugar levels. Back then he was flown from hospital to hospital, from province to province, trying to get his sugar levels stabilised. Today he still battles.

I was an average healthy person, maybe a few kg’s overweight, but I never ate excessively unhealthy. I was maybe stupid never to have my sugar levels tested, but I was ignorant to how hereditary the disease can be. I was so blind.

I was kept in I.C.U for three days, to bring all levels back to normality, or as much as possible at the time. The staff at the hospital were amazing, and the specialist who tended to me – Dr. Alex Kistan, was awesome aswell.

I was discharged on taking 8 Short Acting, and 22 Long Acting insulin. I have been so strict with my diet, eating only healthy foods, no sugar, marg, cheese, sauces, salt, and the list goes on. I am proud to say that I have halved my insulin intake since I was released from hospital, now taking 4 units short acting and 12 units long acting at  most times. I’m still learning, but have pretty much plateaued my sugar levels, and am within necessary readings at most times. I have started exercising every day.

I have accepted Diabetes, and have taken a complete positive spin on the whole disease, and what it has brought to my life. It’s not a bad thing. I think for most of it, you have to be right upstairs. Similar to quitting smoking. You have to be in the right frame of mind. Of course you’ll get your bad days, but I focus on what goodness it’s brought into my life – my good health. Being aware of everything I put into my body, and how it affects me. One thing is for sure, I had no idea so many thing’s had sugar in them. It’s frightening to say the least.

When the medical Rep lady from Sanofi Avntis came to see me in the Hospital, it was like she light a small light at the end of the tunnel. I fortunately knew a few details of the disease, with my Dad having it, but if I didn’t I would have been 10 times more frightened. When she came to see me, and the nutritionist, they just gave me that little glimmer of hope, and made everything in retrospect, a tiny bit better. I’d love to get involved in something like that, being able to help someone who’s just been diagnosed.

I’ve managed to find a support group in my area, and managed to get a bunch of friends and family members to attend the Walk for Diabetes in Durbs on 6 Nov.

I’m looking forward to your first publication!
Have a fantastic week.

– Taryn Fitz-Gerald

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.