My Diabetic Story: Part Five

So yes, it’s been a while since I’ve last written. I wish I could say I was sick, but I was just being lazy.

SO, let me continue my diabetic journey

It was announced that I would be leaving the ICU! To me that meant I was going home, that I was done with all of these finger prickings and IVs and tubes and wires and all that jazz. I was done feeling sick, feeling that awful feeling of death by my side. Everything was ok!

Ha Ha Ha, how naïve was I!

Definition of “Leaving the ICU”: Being moved down to the third floor and being put into a regular hospital room with a curtain divider that separates you from your roommate who moans every three seconds in pain. Synonyms: disappointment, Hell, hoodwinked. Antonyms: Going home, hope, excitement. Used in a sentence: Kate was still sick, but not as sick as before, so she is leaving the ICU.

So there I was, hangin out in my new room. My roommate was in terrible pain (I think he was recovering from a car accident) and was, in my 15 year old head, annoying. I still had an IV, but only one! And all I had to have hooked up to me was one of those little “ET phone home” things they put on your finger to check your heart beat. It was much nicer. I even got to shower! But I still didn’t quite know what was going on.

My parents were there every now and then, but I was independent and didn’t need them! So I sent them home. I was scared, but so were they, and I didn’t want them to continue to see me like this. It’s weird, but that was my thought process. I would watch TV and my “annoying” roommate moved out and a new one moved in. She was a little girl, probably about 7 or 8 who had been shot in the neck by her 10 year old brother who had found a gun lying around his meth head parents house. It was so sad, but she gave me some company. We would color together and watch movies and talk. I loved that little girl and I hope she is doing well. It was nice to have someone around. I would sometimes get extremely sad because however much texting I did, it wasn’t the same as seeing friends in person. I remember to this day how completely crushed I was when I called my one “true” best friend and we talked for about two minutes before he was too busy and had to go. I had asked him to visit, but he never showed. But at least I had that cute little girl by my side.

I would, however, like to do a little shout out at this point. I had some wonderful family friends visit me in the ICU, they brought me carrots because they couldn’t bring candy or sugary stuff, or so they thought. It was so cute. And when I was in my regular room, two of my dear church leaders came and visited with balloons and magazines and funny stories. I love them both, still to this day. I’m even best friends with one of them. She’s amazing.

Back to the story —

Finally an endocrinologist (for me, a diabetes specialist) came in with another doctor and a nurse and a nutritionist. They began explaining to me what diabetes was. I had something called type one diabetes. They told me my pancreas was dead, didn’t work and would never work again. So to keep me healthy, I would use something called a glucometer to test how much sugar was in my blood before every meal, when I woke up, when I went to bed, and a few other times during the day. THAT’S what that finger poking was all about! I was a bit sad to hear I would have to continue using the device that hurt my fingers, but was reassured that I’d grow calluses and that I would get used to them. (And I have, but they are still so unbelievably annoying and it still does hurt every now and again).

I was then taught about counting carbs. I had to practice, which was really silly because I was actually good at math up to that point in my life and the nutritionist was acting like I was in third grade math. So annoying. I was taught that whenever I ate something, I would have to see how many carbohydrates were in the thing I was eating and then use my super advanced math skills to figure out how much insulin I had to give myself. So what number do I divide it by? It’s the amount of insulin I get for every somewhat carbs. So say I give myself 1 unit for every 10 carbs and I eat a meal worth 100 carbs (SO MANY CARBS!) I’d give myself 10 units of insulin. So my insulin ration would be 1:10

I hope that makes a bit of sense.

I then had to learn how to give myself insulin. I was dreading it! The nurses had been doing it for me, but before I could leave the hospital, I would have to do it myself, along with my parents (because I was an adolescent). I practice on the weird foam thing. I would fill the needle with the right amount of insulin, tap all the bubbles out, and then stick the needle into the weird foam thing and shoot the insulin in. It was so easy, but that was because I wasn’t doing it to myself.

The time had come. I now had to stick a needle into my own skin. They said you had to inject it into your fat, and I had PLENTY of that, so it wasn’t hard to find a spot. I decided to just use my dang arm and I just went for it. I slabbed some alcohol sawabage on the chosen fat surface and then boop, the needle made contact and I injected the insulin.

It was so easy. I have no idea why I was so nervous. I mean, I wasn’t nervous to do it myself, and I wasn’t nervous for my dad to inject me, but my mom…I don’t know why…and she still holds this against me…I was so scared to let her even come close with a needle. But after tons of prying and being threatened that I couldn’t leave until my mom knew how to inject me as well, I gave in and let her stick it to me. Get it? Stick it? Ha ha ha.

I was finally getting released from the hospital.

So that was sort of the short way of telling you what I think four days of “leaving the ICU” was, and learning all of this. But I just had to get to the best part:

The first meal I had after leaving the hospital was In ‘N Out. Dang that was good.

My final installment will be up soon.
It’s the dearest part to me. So if anything, just read the part to come.

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My Diabetic Story: Part Four

Ok, I was and am a very feisty person. But I was nothing but terrified and speechless at this point. I was also extremely innocent. Now, those who know me may not believe that about me, because I sure am not as innocent now, but I was. I was like a little fifth grader in Sex Ed who would giggle at words like “testicles” and “ovaries” and feel extremely uncomfortable if anyone brought up the word sex or talked about it.

I’ve always been heavyset. I look back and I’ve always been chubby and that made the whole talking about anything sexual even more awkward because I was so uncomfortable with my body. So everything that happened next was just as scary as the situation I was in.

I was completely naked under the hospital gown, but that didn’t matter to any of the doctors or nurses. They again hooked up even more IVs, some with saline to flush out my system and others with medicine to help me not be in pain or nauseous. Then they took about ten wires and stuck them onto my legs, my arms and then my stomach and chest. I was completely exposed. It was so awkward, the first person to see my breasts (excluding everyone when I was a little shirtless toddler) was a big ‘ol man nurse. It was humiliating, and again, that’s all I could think about, not the fact that I was still on the brink of death, but of how insecure I was and that I had been seen naked.

Why am I telling you this? Because humiliation was the only feeling that could overpower my feelings of hopelessness and fear. And I’m grateful for that.

After being hooked up to more machines, the kind nurse, let’s call her Amy, came up to me and asked for a urine sample. They were checking for something called Ketones. I had no idea what that was, but I didn’t complain about urinating in a cup. All that saline running thru me needed to get the heck out of my bladder.

When the urine was tested, they saw I was in DKA, Diabetic Ketoacidosis and that I would most definitely need to stay in the ICU to be constantly monitored.

I’ll explain Ketones briefly so that you understand how terrible they really are. Ketone bodies are acids made when your body begins using fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. When fat is broken down, ketone bodies are made and can accumulate in the body. High levels of ketones are toxic to the body. This condition is called ketoacidosis (DKA). Ketones are very dangerous and even poisonous and if left untreated can lead to diabetic coma or even death.

So, basically, I had acid in my bloodstream. No wonder I hurt everywhere and was throwing up constantly! I was poisoned by my own body!

That night was the worst. I still had thrush (the yeast infection in my mouth) and they still couldn’t let me eat or drink, but nurse Amy would bring me a sponge like device that was soaked in water and let me suck on it. She would even sneak in some ice chips. I loved her.

I was so, so tired. All I wanted was to sleep, but that wasn’t going to happen. Monitors beeped every few minutes, my chest wires would come loose and ring this loud, obnoxious sound, so nurse Amy would run over to see if I was dead and thankfully would only have to reattach them to a living body, creating that humiliating, uncomfortable feeling yet again. That happened only once every two hours, but it was awful. The IVs in my arms and hands made it hard to move around. They hurt, they were causing my veins to throb. There was also one other patient in the big open room, but he was a child, couldn’t be older than three, who would cry and wail all night long. I hurt for him, but hurt for myself more. I was in a web of tubes and wires and every time I found a semi comfortable position, nurse Amy would wake me up and prick my delicate fingers.

It hurt, I would tear up and she would apologize over and over. She told me she had to wake me up every 30 minutes to test my blood sugar and that she was extremely sorry for making me hurt. I couldn’t be mad at her, it was her job, and she was so kind. I hope someday she reads this and sees what a huge difference she made in my time of death and despair.

Anyway, somehow I survived a night in the ICU. It was a blur, but the things I described are etched into my memory forever. I’m sure so much more happened, but again, it was a blur.

I woke up the next morning with another finger prick and saw my mom and dad. They stared at me with concern, but hope. Their daughter wasn’t completely crazy, she was just completely sick and was finally getting better. I mean, I was just diagnosed with a chronic disease, but I was getting better.

The first words I can remember my mother saying were “Nurse! Hurry! Her face is red! Something is happening!”

The nurse ran over and checked everything and checked my temperature and it was normal. My blood sugars were coming down and the ketones were lessening. The nurse said I was fine. And then my mother realized what was happening. I had color in my face fort the first time in at least a year!

Again, those who don’t know me need to know that I am as white as a glass of milk. But when I was this sick, it was like I was transparent. I was somehow whiter…it was crazy. I’d put on pounds of blush, but was still white. I’ll include a photo so you can see how sickly I looked.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 2.40.21 PM

Anyway, I was looking healthier. And I was feeling so much better. I no longer saw the grim reaper beside me. I was even getting my witty sense of humor back. I had my dad bring his laptop and I had a “The Office” marathon in the ICU, where nurses would join and slyly watch as they helped me continue to feel better.

But I was still scared. What was diabetes and what was going to happen to me. How would I treat it? Would I have to do something like Chemotherapy? What was up with all of the finger pricks?

You’ll find out what happens next in the following installment of my story.

My Diabetic Story: Part Three

I had no idea what diabetes was before any of this. I don’t ever remember talking about diabetes with anyone or learning about it or anything. It was a foreign word to me, it had no meaning to me. That’s why what happened to me next was even scarier than it already was.

They rushed me into a hospital room, got me into one of those atrocious hospital gowns and hooked me up to several IVs. It was a bit of a blur, but there had to have been five nurses in there trying to get me all hooked up to IVs and machines. I remember staring at the TV, SpongeBob was on and I was completely fixated on it. I didn’t want to hear what everyone was telling me:

“You have diabetes!” “How are you still conscious?!” “Make sure you take care of your feet! You don’t want them to remove your toes!” “I know a woman who had her leg cut off because of diabetes! Be careful!” – That was probably the worst one of them all in that moment (I heard worse later on). Who tells a frightened, extremely sick 15 year old that she may loose her leg!?

My thirst continued to overwhelm me. And they wouldn’t give me anything to drink or eat because they were monitoring something. I don’t know what because I was too busy watching an idiotic TV show and wondering when I would go home.  It seemed so cruel. I was still in extreme pain, my insides still felt like they would explode at any moment but the vomiting had subsided.

I remember someone of some sort of authority talking to my parents (my dad had finally arrived) while I sat there helpless. After what seemed like hours, I finally asked if I was going to go home soon. I thought I was just sick, like I had some bad strain of the flu, not H1N1, but something called diabetes. I still didn’t understand that I had a chronic disease. My mom looked at me and just shook her head and said I was very sick and that I was going to go to a different hospital to get better.

Moments later, the EMTs came into the room and got me onto a gurney and took me to the ambulance. I was so embarrassed because they were so dang hot and I looked terrible! Ridiculous, right? That’s what I cared about – how I looked to these 20 something year olds. Not the fact that I was extremely ill. It’s funny how I felt so so sick but the teenage girl inside of me took over and I was ok for a few minutes.

Anyway, we finally got going. There was awkward small talk to take my mind off of what was happening. I hated it. It made everything even worse. My parents were following us in their car (I guess, I can’t remember at all, I just knew neither of them were with me).

It took about 30 minutes to get to UC Davis and my parents were nowhere in sight. The EMTs rolled me into the ER and took me to the elevator. The EMTs didn’t really know where they were going…so we ended up getting off on the wrong floor…and we passed a family that was both angry and grieving. I overheard them as they spoke of a shooting and they didn’t know if the guy was going to make it. It scared me, more than the fact that I could slip into a coma at any moment.

I was finally rolled into the right room on the right floor. It was huge and open and was full of nurses. The doctor came in and began talking to the nurses. He was very cynical. My blood sugar couldn’t be that high. I was coherent and awake and flat out alive. The last hospital must have messed up, they did the tests wrong. But the doctor ran the tests again, and BOOM, still in the 800’s.

I was rushed into the corner area of the room and was moved from the gurney to an actual hospital bed. I was then hooked up to more IVs and my blood was drawn and I had wires attached to my body. I had people telling me that I should be dead. They seriously told me I should be dead. Now THAT was worse than telling me about your friend getting her leg cut off.

There was one nurse though, I wish I could remember her name, that made everything ok. She would talk to me with a kind voice and reassure me that everything would be fine, that I would be fine. She told me that I might not have to stay in this giant room (that I later learned was the ICU). I was excited because I thought I would be going home soon! I mean, the IV bags were almost empty and the pain wasn’t there anymore. I was cured!

But I wasn’t. I can’t be cured. I have a chronic disease that will follow me around for the rest of my life. And again, I still couldn’t wrap my head around that.

Ok. I’ll admit it, that was all pretty boring. But part four is where it will pick up again. This was just setting everything up.

Stay tuned.

My Diabetic Story: Part Two

The day of the ICU: I had been up all night, puking my brains out, drinking gallons of liquids, and then immediately peeing them out. The pain became a part of me, I was beginning to get used to it.

It was a Saturday. The day of one of the biggest sales at my fathers store. And I was needed. I begged and begged him to let me stay home, but I was his daughter, I was a McKenzie and I was needed. And I am grateful he had me go. Not at the time, but looking back I am because I was hours away from a coma or death and sleeping on the couch all day would have hastened the work of one of these terrible events.

I drove to work with my dad, still complaining, still thirsty and still nauseous. I got to the front counter where I worked as a cashier and helped one customer and then I fell and I sat flat on the ground behind the counter and began to just help my fellow coworkers bag customers items. I knew I needed to work, but I couldn’t muster the strength to stand up and play the petty cashier talk game:

Me: “How are you doin’ today, sir?”

Old Man: “Good, you?”

Me: “I’m doin’ great! Well, actually, I’m extremely sick. I keep puking and my muscels are on fire and I feel like I’m dying. But no, I’m great!”

My dad came up front and I saw the anger on his face as he told me to come with him to the back. That was never a good sign. He was frustrated. He told me I was waste and that I needed to go home.

Now, I don’t want you to think my parents are these awful people, because they aren’t. They are amazing and strong and good examples to my brothers and I, but at the time, they had no idea what to do with me. My mood was all over the place because of how sick I was and I wasn’t getting any better, so of course they were frustrated. I would be too.

Anyway, I was 15 and without a license, so I waited for my mother to arrive. Once again, I saw death by my side as I sat at the employee picnic bench, praying for my mother to hurry and get me so I could go home and sleep.

She finally got there and I climbed into the car. I needed something to drink, so we ran to the gas station and I grabbed a few sodas. As I drank them, I began to complain of my tongue. My mom saw it first. It was white and crusty and just plain ol disgusting. No wonder I hated water! I had thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth. I didn’t know how big of a deal that was, but my mom knew I was seriously ill.

This is where I interject in my own story to tell you about my mother in this situation. She knew for months that something was wrong. It couldn’t just be depression and angst. She took me to several doctor appointments and begged them to run blood tests. They ran test after test, but only the basic blood panel, and nothing looked out of the ordinary. After the third appointment, my doctor began to ask me if I was using drugs, if I had some sort of addiction and thought that that was causing all of this madness. But I had never done anything like that, never! My mom was so frustrated with the doctors’ responses and so was I, because I was “fine”. She saw the warning signs of diabetes, the thirst mainly, and made an appointment to see a different doctor, but that appointment wouldn’t be for another week.

My body didn’t make it to that appointment.

What I’m trying to get at is: Mothers really do have those motherly instincts. It’s amazing. My mom saved my life.

We got home after a painful car drive and she ran to the computer and researched thrush. Only babies get it and old folks because their immune systems are torn apart or not developed. Also, people suffering from AIDS or something like untreated diabetes had it. My mom knew I needed to get to a doctor immediately.

She took me to the after hour clinic and we sat there among snott nosed kids and old folks with face masks. My mom tried getting me to the top of the list to be seen, but the woman behind the window wouldn’t have it.

After 45 minutes, my name was called.

I went into an all too familiar doctors examination room and sat there. I honestly don’t remember much after that. I mean, I do, but I was so out of it that I couldn’t process everything that was happening.

My mom had been whispering to the nurse, I looked towards them and the nurse grabbed a weird device where she stuck my finger with a needle and took a drop of blood and put it on a weird stick thing that was connected to a medical device. It hurt. But the machine was broken, so she had to do it again. This time she said it had worked and she sent me out of the room to give a urine sample.

Little did I know that as I was taking my 20th bladder excretion of the day, the nurse was telling my mom that my blood sugar was so high that their glucometer (the device that tests your blood sugar) couldn’t read it and that I needed to get to an emergency room as soon as possible. She told my mom that driving would be faster than an ambulance and that the triage nurse would be there, ready for me.

I got out of the bathroom and my mom told me we had to go to the emergency room to be treated. I didn’t think anything of it. But as we were getting closer to the emergency room, I could see tears in her eyes and I knew something terrible was wrong. I just couldn’t process it because the fog surrounding my brain wouldn’t allow it.

We pulled up to the ER and the nurse was outside waiting for me. She rushed me into the ER and she pricked my finger. I was getting a little tired of that! HA! She was completely in shock. She couldn’t believe her eyes, and neither could any of her co-workers.

My blood sugar was reading at 850.

If you aren’t familiar with diabetes, I’ll let you know that that is incredibly unheard of. I mean, it happens, but usually the patient is in a coma or dead. But I was alive, barely. Your blood sugar should run between 80-120. Anything above that can make you sick. When people hit 300, they get extremely sick. When they hit 500 or above, that is coma territory.

I was being spared once again.

My Diabetic Story: Part One

It’s Diabetes Awareness Month and I’d like to share my diabetic story.  Please read, and share.  This is very close to my heart and is something people should be aware of.  Type One Diabetes is a Chronic Illness that will never go away, unless a cure is found.  This is my story, Part One:

According to my parents, I was completely pleasant and then once I downed a few bon-bons, I exploded. It was Christmas of 2008 and I was a mess. And not even a hot mess. Just a complete mess. After the bon-bon incident, things escaladed…quickly.

I had been “sick” for a very long time, but it got worse around the holidays of that year. My parents thought I was in deep crisis and needed to see a therapist. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me at the time. I was just an angsty teen and I completely despised them for even thinking I was going to sit on a couch and share my non-existent feelings.

A few days after the holidays ended, I decided to go on the South-Beach Diet to shed a few pounds. That’s the one where you don’t eat carbohydrates for two weeks and then you do something…I never got past the two weeks. A few days into the diet, I began feeling somewhat better, it was weird. This feeling lasted two weeks … two weeks until my sweet grandmother (I hope that doesn’t sound sarcastic, because she truly is one of the best people in the whole world) brought over some red velvet cupcakes … and it was back to square one.

I ate a whole cupcake, it’s mountain of frosting and pure sugar decorations included. I became violently ill. I thought it was because I hadn’t had sugar or carbs in two weeks and my body wasn’t used to it. That was semi-correct I suppose. But it was also a huge warning sign that I missed.

I was that kid that was “sick” all the time. But in my head, I wasn’t sick. I just didn’t want to go to that hellhole they called high school. I hated my teachers, I hated my so-called friends, and I thought I was too smart for any of those classes. I was a total punk. I would wake up in the morning and put on my acting voice (soft and quivering) and say that I had thrown up all night and didn’t sleep and I just couldn’t go to class. I don’t think my parents actually bought it, they just thought I was extremely depressed, causing the whole therapist situation to become worst. Well, all of that was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

In February more warning signs began to appear. Warning signs that I completely missed. I would go into my morning scripture study class with four water bottles and come out an hour later with nothing left in them and still be extremely parched. My thirst could not be quenched. Not even the Gatorade helped.

I became legitimately sick, but after all of the crying wolf I had previously done, I was forced to go to school. I had to pee during every class, and I’m sure my teachers thought I was just going into the restroom to escape their class work and get high or something. So eventually they began to say no to my requests as well.

When I would get home from school I would pass out on the couch and sleep the day away. When I woke up, I’d be so thirsty that I’d drink an entire gallon of milk, right there on the spot and I’d still be thirsty.

The two days leading up to my ICU stay were complete hell. I can’t explain it to you fully. I literally felt death by my side. I’m serious. He or whatever death is was waiting to snatch me up.

Day two before the ICU: I remember sitting down and seeing the blackness start to surround me as I almost passed out. I don’t know how it didn’t consume me, but I managed to stay awake and not slip into that coma. It was one of the many, many miracles I can look back at and feel complete gratitude towards.

I stood up and went to the fridge and drank as much as I could. But the water was beginning to taste stale and vile so I decided to let myself become consumed by my thirst instead.

Day one before the ICU: I slept off and on once I got home from school. I would only get off of the couch to grab another gallon of milk, then a gallon of apple juice, and then I would beg my dad to run to 7/11 and get me as much Gatorade as he could because I “had the flu” and Gatorade has electrolytes and that would make things better.

It was Friday night and while everyone was out having fun, I was on the couch, yet again, sleeping, drinking anything I could get my hands on, excluding that vile water, and throwing up. I never throw up, but at that time I would upchuck every twenty minutes or so. My bones ached, my stomach felt completely twisted. I felt as if my muscles had been torn off of my bones. I just laid there, withering in pain. Death was upon me. I saw him. And at that point, I was ready to go.

This may seem dramatic to you, because I am such a dramatic person, but this was and is so real. I wanted to die. I wanted the thirst to end, the vomiting to subside, the pain to disappear.

But for some reason, I was spared.