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Saturday, 9 November 2013

My Diabetes - My Diabetic Diagnosis

From 1977 - 1980, I trained as a Registered Mental Nurse, and had come into contact with people with diabetes, I had learned something of the history and I knew a little about the signs and symptoms. In September 1980 I became an undergraduate of Behavioural Sciences at a UK Polytechnic.

The summer of 1981 was warm, and therefore I did not immediately notice that I was drinking more than usual.  However, as the summer turned to Autumn I realised that I was beginning to look thinner than normal after having a flu jab and was drinking a lot.  I'd also found a local store that sold 'Cream Soda' a sweet drink from my youth and had begun drinking it in the summer heat to quell my thirst, but it appeared to make it worse.

By early October I really felt like I was 'dying of thirst' and it came to a head when I was in a local cafe that specialised in very large pots of tea. Shortly after it arrived on the table and without thinking I picked up the milk jug tipped it into the pot and started drinking from the pot. Debbie my partner was with me, and she looked at me and asked what was I doing and was I going to leave any for her?

I looked at the jug, looked at her and said, I have no idea what I am doing but I think I have must have diabetes mellitus.  Suddenly it all made sense.

In the school of nursing we'd been told that in the old days before urine test reagents (tablets), certain nurses and patients would taste a sample of the diabetics urine, and the sweeter it tasted the more severe was the patients hyperglycaemia 'excessive sugar in the urine'.  Knowing this trinket of knowledge, I excused myself and went off to the bathroom placed my finger it my stream of urine and tasted it. It was sweeter than the sweetest Honey and smelt heavily of the sugar puffs breakfast cereal.

I came back to the table and told Debbie I have diabetes. It was a Friday and we went straight to the Polytechnic doctor and told him what had happened and said I have diabetes mellitus.  He was polite but dismissive and said it was most likely an infection or reaction to a recent flu jab.  After some discussion he agreed to take blood or urine sample and said I was to come back the following week, and it was nothing to worry about.

By time we got back home I had urinated an embarrassing number of times and I noticed my legs felt literally like they were filled with treacle and my eyes were a little out of focus.  I said to Debbie, I don't like this I need to flush the sugars out of my bloodstream and so ate very little in the way of carbohydrates over the weekend and drank lots of water.

By Monday I was still urinating a lot, due to the large quantity of water I was drinking.  As I had very little in the way of carbohydrate intake, my urine was tasting less of sugar. When I went into the Behavioural Sciences department there seemed to be a bit of a panic on and asked a member of staff what was going on.  She informed me that they had been looking for me since Friday, that they didn't have my address and the doctor needed to see me urgently.

In the Doctors surgery, he informed me that my blood sugar on the Friday was way past coma levels and he was amazed I hadn't collapsed into coma.  I explained to him that I'd eaten virtually no carbohydrates all weekend, that I'd drank nothing but water and it was a three hike up hill from the surgery to my residence.

He took some more blood and urine, and arrange for a nurse to visit me that afternoon to give me Insulin.

My Learning Points:

1) My excessive urination without excessive drinking was an early warning sign that me kidneys were trying to flush something out of my body.

2) My excessive thirst on a cold day when I hadn't eaten lots of salty things or taken any anti-histamine tablets meant my body needed the fluid.  As my thirst was accompanied by excessive urination then it told indicated to me that I may have diabetes.

3) Tasting my urine is a quick, simple and not at all unpleasant test.  Urine is mostly sterile unless you have urine infection.  Also due to the sensitivity of the tongue to salt and sugar you need only the tiniest amount.  Normally urine is salty and insipid and never sweet if its sweet it shows the presence of sugar.

4) Had I not taken immediate action of reducing my carbohydrates to virtually nothing and drinking water, my blood sugar when have continued to rise causing me serious problems.

5) My prompt action prevented me from needing to be hospitalised with the condition.


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