I saw 5 doctors before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes
- When I lost weight, became easily tired and had blurry vision, I didn’t know what was going on.
- I went to five health professionals, and they didn’t know what was wrong with me either.
- My husband rushed me to the emergency room, and a blood test showed that I had type 1 diabetes.
I wasn’t surprised when I got sick with a stomach bug during Thanksgiving break in 2005. I had been working non-stop for the past six months to get my master’s degree. In addition to taking two high school classes—both evenings—I taught an introductory writing class to mostly college freshmen. Thanksgiving was the first break I’d had in months.
I thought I would recover quickly, as always. But I didn’t regain the 5 pounds I lost during the illness. Despite eating thousands of calories a day – and consuming most of those calories in the form of juice quench my incredible thirst — I continued to lose weight. I went from a size 6 to a size 00 in about six months.
The symptoms began to add up without seemingly any explanation
I also started getting chronic sinus infections that never completely cleared up, even with strong antibiotics. Every time I went to the doctor with the same diagnosis and a new prescription.
My symptoms progressed. I started feeling depressed about my weight. I bought padded bras to make up for the breast tissue I was losing and layered all my clothes to make me look bigger than I was. My colleagues and students whispered about me, and professors looked at me with growing concern. The strategic wardrobe I started wearing wasn’t fooling anyone.
My general practitioner gave me a referral to a dietitian. I was excited to see her, hoping she would offer me some answers. Instead, she told me to eat more calories, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. Despite being very thin, weighing less than 100 pounds on my 5-foot-8 body, I was usually bloated from all the juice I drank.
Around that time I also had my annual eye exam. The doctor gave me a prescription, and I chose new glasses and ordered contact lenses. However, when I received them, my vision was still blurry. I returned to the doctor several times complaining that I could not see well. He was angry with me, as I was angry with him.
I also decided to see an ear, nose and throat specialist for my sinus infections. This appointment was not only expensive but also pointless. I left without an answer and even more terrified.
I visited 5 medical professionals and got no answers. I started to lose hope.
I became increasingly depressed and wondered what was wrong with me. I remember lying in bed one night looking at my wedding photo. We both looked so happy and healthy and now I was passed out and no one seemed to be able to help me.
My feet were also numb most of the time, but I thought that was from my long walks around campus. I was also weak and had to take daily naps. I also remember several nights when I would wet the bed. I had to urinate often, of course – I was gulping down water and juice.
I visited the general practitioner again. It was my 18th appointment in a year and a half. He said I was either a hypochondriac or anorexic, and sent me on my way.
Then I visited my gynecologist. She looked at me and told me she thought I needed a specialist. I left, exhausted, and took a nap on my couch. My phone was ringing — my husband and I usually have a check-in call during the day — but I didn’t hear it. The next thing I remembered was him putting me in our car and driving me to the emergency room.
There, after several blood draws, I received a diagnosis Type 1 diabetes. My blood sugar was seven times higher than normal and I was in diabetic ketoacidosis. The doctors told me that I was very lucky to be alive, because my body was in a state of poison. I was dying.
I finally got a diagnosis: type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body stops producing insulin, the life-sustaining hormone. Every medical professional I saw judged me based on the scope of their specialty, missing the big picture.
Common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include blurred vision, chronic thirst, problems urinating, weight loss, mood swings, and more. They can be mistaken for symptoms of other common illnesses, such as urinary tract infections, depression or eating disorders.
Undiagnosed type 1 diabetes can quickly become fatal. If my husband hadn’t taken me to the emergency room when he did, I wouldn’t be alive today.
Medical professionals and the general public need to know the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and act on them—and quickly. It might just save someone’s life.