I know. The title suggests this is NOT the blog post I promised would be next.
Some of you may have been expecting the fourth installment of Banting, ‘Betes & Me, and rightfully so.
Call me a liar. Call me a disappointment.
This is not going to be that post.
Perhaps, it is a not-so-subconscious move on my part. While my Instagram feed and this blog are often riddled with selfies, and talking about myself, the subject of me is actually one that makes this gal really, REALLY uncomfortable.
In fact, all of those pictures and posts cause me great anxiety. I almost nearly barf before I click the button and publish.
Every. Single. Time.
So why do it? To hold myself accountable. To expose my vulnerabilities and work through my fears. To live with honesty.
And it is that honesty that brings us here. Now.
You see, my last post brushed over a pretty major event in not just my ‘Betes journey but my life. And I feel that it doesn’t do any of us any good to have glossed over it.
I think my DKA story was a bit too brief, and I’d like to fix that.
After the doctors in emergency at McMaster confirmed I was in Diabetes Ketoacidosis they sent me to another hospital. Via ambulance.
I have no recollection of that event. None. No fun flashing lights and sirens. Just a blank. But I do have some memory of what happened when I arrived in the ICU at the (then) Hamilton General Hospital.
Once there so many things happened. And quickly.
There were A LOT of doctors and nurses. And a lot of fast talking.
I was in and out of consciousness. They had sent me with IV lines in both of my arms. Once in the ICU the new team added to the collection. There were lines in my hands, they tried for my feet but it didn’t work (I remember the pain and being very vocal about it).
Pretty sure it was more than a yelp but less than a scream.
Next came an arterial IV in my right wrist. I have a very faint scar from it that is mostly concealed by a tattoo. I also received something in my neck, a central line, I believe. Whatever it was, it was inserted twice. I remember waking up and someone telling me I was to have an x-ray done to make sure what they had put in my neck was set correctly.
You put something in my fucking neck?!?!!?
It wasn’t. They ripped it out. And that’s the last thing I remember from that part of the ordeal…
I awoke a few days later, to a nurse brushing my hair. I was in a web of wires and tubes being serenaded by all the machines they were connected to. All the machines I was connected to.
I have a very vivid memory of that nurse. She had dark hair, glasses, a sweet face…oh my god, her face. The poor woman! The look on her face when I opened my eyes was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was like a combination of pleasant surprise, and sheer and utter shock.
It took me several moments to get my bearings. I didn’t have a clear memory of what landed me in my current situation so that was a bit unsettling. So was the enormous lump protruding from the left side of my neck. It turns out I had a reaction to whatever medicine was being pumped in to the right side of my neck.
I was in a very large room divided in two by a set of sliding glass doors. I was sharing it with three older gentlemen. One of whom took to screaming in the middle of the night while ripping out all of his IVs. Eventually, he was strapped down. And sedated. The others were less active. And, unfortunately, I don’t remember much about them.
My waking up caused a big stir, apparently. The doctors had told my folks the odds weren’t good. That when/if I came through it there may/may not be some issues. So we were all pretty grateful when everything seemed okay…
But something was not right. My brain had suffered an injury they could not figure out at first. I was missing a large chunk of my memory. Mostly personal, childhood memories. Things were foggy at best but mostly gone.
My family visited a couple of times. My folks stopped by on their way to and from work. They brought my brothers to see me. I remember my youngest brother, who was only eight at the time, gave me a stuffed frog. It was a sweet gesture, and I have never forgotten it.
I remember the nurses came in one day and told me there was a woman waiting to see me. And I panicked. Like a full blown fit. I thought it was my biological mother and I absolutely did not want to see her. We had not been in touch for several years, at that point, and I was beyond scared of having her come in to see me.
I cannot tell you why I was so scared. So anxious. My father had contacted her to inform her of what happened but she was on a trip and refused to come back. Once the nurses calmed me down, and told me the woman had a young girl with her, I was able to piece it all together and visit with my aunt and cousin.
My grandfather also stopped by to see me, and casually but sternly said to me, “Becky, you should be grateful, God saved you. He must have great things planned for you.”
And that statement terrified me. I grew up in a mildly religious family. We went to church when possible. I did all the Sunday schooling. Religion intrigued me enough to study it in university but I hold my own beliefs that are not necessarily in tune with which I was raised. Anyways, my grandfather’s remark was scary because not only did it make me question whether or not I was in control of my own destiny, it made me worry that I might owe something.
I spent several days in ICU. The nurses were fantastic, I remember that. They found an old television and wheeled it in my room. They brought me magazines to read and would sit with me and chat. Especially the nurse who had been combing my hair. I also remember a night when the doctor overseeing me brought a bowl of popcorn. He sat with me and watched a movie. He was a lovely, mountain of a man.
The memories of my time there are patchy at best but the feelings remain. And I can tell you that all of those people made a horrible situation a lot less so. As the days passed, machines were taken away and IV lines removed, until all I had left was one IV line my arm and my arterial line in my wrist.
While I was in the ICU several different doctors came by to see me. A doctor for my heart. They did a lot of tests to make sure there was no damage. Same went for all my other organs. I am sure I was visited by an endocrinologist but I can’t seem to recall that particular detail.
Then came the parade of psychologists and psychiatrists. And a barrage of questions.
So. Many. Questions.
Word arose that I would be leaving ICU. But not to go home. Not yet. Instead, I was transferred to the geriatric ward.
At the time of my DKA episode I was 19 years old, so that made perfect sense. Right? Ahem. Anyways, my bed was closest to the window, at least, but also the washroom. Which my roommate used about a dozen or so times every night. With the door open.
I cannot remember exactly why I was sent to that ward. Likely a lack of rooms.
When I left ICU the medical doctor visits slowed but a psychologist still checked in several times during each day.
Once I was settled in to my new room I received a visit from Diabetes Bob. I may have a fucked up and patchy memory but there is nothing that will ever make me forget that man. Or his name.
Diabetes Bob was an educator. He was in his fifties with grey hair pulled back in a ponytail. He had one earring dangling from an ear and denim vest. Clearly Bob had enjoyed the fashion of the 80s and early 90s and wasn’t giving it up.
He came in with a clipboard and a bunch of brochures. His job was to make sure I understood Type 1 Diabetes. To re-educate me. Bob was a lovely guy. Not condescending in any way. He visited twice a day. We chatted while I filled out worksheets, sharing laughs a long the way.
I was ready to go home. The ward doctors were not ready to release me. And that caused some grief. I wasn’t allowed to walk around the ward. I had been confined to that room for several days now (with the pee-er, who also cried in her sleep all night long) and I simply couldn’t take it anymore.
There was a bit of a verbal tussle between myself and the doctor, but I got my way and dear old Dad picked me up around dinner time. I was heading home…
The trauma that occurred – during my DKA and as a result of it – altered something in me. From what I can gather my general personality did not change but other things did. Some things apparent to others and some things only I keep to myself (well, until now).
Like my anxiety, and mental health struggles. Those intensified. I have since been diagnosed with more than one anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses.
Certain food likes and dislikes. Pre-DKA there was no way in hell I would ever eat sour cream and now there’s no way my baked potato can be consumed without it.
My drive and ambition abandoned me. While I still have hopes and dreams (like wanting to be a more prominent figure in the Diabetes community to help raise awareness and educate, like fuck, Banting is my cousin and that would certainly help get some traction, but no one seems to care), I do not push myself as I once did.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I know it was a lot to get through. And maybe not all of it was a gruesome as promised.
In the very least it is a more detailed, honest telling of my DKA story.
*** If you or someone you know may be experiencing DKA go to the nearest emergency room. For more information, please visit Beyond Type 1’s resource here: https://beyondtype1.org/dka/ ***
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