The reference to bananas everywhere on my blog is because I had an experience with a banana at diagnosis that would change my relationship with the high protein fruit for years to come. But first we need to start at the beginning of the story, bear with me.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the fine age of 25 on 23rd March 2012. This date is a little unfortunate, and annoying, as it’s also my dad’s birthday so he steals all the attention. Actually it might be the other way around.
I was in Thailand in the weeks prior to being diagnosed but the symptoms were pretty bad for the whole holiday. I thought I’d caught something or got food poisoning. I couldn’t get enough of the Thai orange juice, it was so sweet and fresh, I even brought a couple bottles home. I was craving apples all the time too, which I noted as weird at the time.
After landing on UK soil in a bit of a mess with the usual 4T symptoms of thirst, thin, toilet and tired, I could no longer ignore the fact my body was shutting down. I’d actually had mild symptoms for months but put it down to stress related to my business taking off and demanding a lot of me. Something should have clicked when I drank water direct from the bathroom tap because I was so thirsty or when I nearly p***ed myself stuck in traffic.
Time to book an GP appointment, I couldn’t get one for five days but took it anyway and planned to wait it out. I’d already had an obscene amount of food but I couldn’t satisfy my hunger or quench my thirst. My fourth meal of the day was a jacket potato the size of my head, loaded with beans and cheese. Still hungry and craving sugar, I devoured a bar of Dairy Milk and a whole bag of Haribo on the sofa while watching TV. Next thing I know, I wake up at 4am on the sofa feeling pretty groggy. In hindsight I think I passed out with high blood sugar. On stumbling to bed to catch a few more hours sleep before work, I see an email from my sister following up from a chat we had earlier about the severe dry mouth I was experiencing. She’d Googled it and sent me the list demanding I go to the walk-in centre the next day. It wasn’t a nice list but diabetes was on there. Not that I noticed diabetes when it was in-between cancer, parkinsons and AIDs – enough to scare me to take her advice and go the next day.
Getting up the next morning was like trying to carry 100kg on my back. Got myself into my car and drove to the GP. In hindsight I shouldn’t have drove, turning the steering wheel was like driving without power steering. I thought I’ll get some antibiotics and be on my way, it ended up being a day that I would later blog about on a site about bananas?!?
After explaining my symptoms to a nurse she immediately suspected diabetes. I was losing concentration at this point and it didn’t really register as something serious. Like most people, I didn’t know anything about diabetes, nor that there were two types. After testing my blood numerous times and it registering as too high, a reading of 31.1 came through and it seemed to confirm the nurse’s suspicions.
Within an hour I was in an ambulance going to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle and I was hooked up to a saline and insulin drip for the next six hours. Various professionals came and went and eventually I was told it is most probably type 1 diabetes, due to the symptoms I was experiencing. My body was producing a lot of ketones and I was to spend two nights in hospital under observation. I was told that if I had left it for a few more days, I would have probably gone into a diabetic coma and may not have woken up. I thank my sister for getting me to go to the hospital on that day and potentially saving my life.
New sweeter life
My time in hospital was an experience. I was put in a ward with two guys in their 50’s, both with type 2 and another two older guys with dementia. I didn’t know anything about the two types so they gave me some of the basics and reassured me. They weren’t exactly encouraging though as both were in for operations on their feet due to diabetic neuropathy. They were a good laugh though and helped pass the time. The guys with dementia would shout all sorts of racist slurs about the war and woke up to one of them over my bed, holding my trousers, accusing me of stealing his trousers.
Anyway, once my levels were stable the doctors were happy for me to leave in a few hours. One of the type 2 guys gave me a banana just before I was about to leave and not having a clue about carbs yet, I didn’t think I needed insulin for fruit!?! This sent my levels through the roof again and I had to stay another night in hospital. I didn’t eat another banana for two years, but I’ve made up for it since the banana nightmares stopped 😉 The guy who gave it to me only bloody laughed when he found out what had happened so I got my revenge by doing my insulin shots in front of him as he had a phobia of needles. Too cruel? Naaa. I left hospital either forgetting I was told (which I doubt but to be fair I wasn’t 100%) or actually not being told that it was definitely type 1 diabetes. This caused a bit of doubt and denial for a while. I thought it might be type 2 or just an episode and I just need to rest and improve my diet.
Following weeks and months
The following weeks I stayed at my parents house to adjust to all the things new in my life as a type 1 diabetic. I spent a lot of that time learning about type 1, it’s current treatments and where we are with the cure etc as well as building a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet to record my levels etc, as the books you are given by the NHS were something out of the 1980’s. This then led me to the idea of developing an app and started working on a business plan to develop something that would do a much better job than the basic competition in 2012. Went back to work and that plan was shelved. I went on a couple NHS carb counting courses, watered down versions of DAFNE and also got involved with the local Diabetes UK group. I was the youngest one by about 40 years and massively outnumbered to type 2’s. I soon realised this wasn’t my scene. I wanted something type 1 specific but there’s wasn’t much locally. JDRF had the odd event. I then started my second business plan to start a type 1 diabetes charity in the North East. I got a bit of traction but it never really got off the ground. At this point I was realising I needed to do something relevant to type 1 to feel like I’m winning at this rubbish game. I wasn’t going to have perfect levels every day but if I can do something to contribute to a day when type 1 is gone then it keep me optimistic and positive. This led me to taking part in clinical trials, working for a great type 1 diabetes charity and climbing Kilimanjaro – you can read about them in the blog section.