I was Diagnosed with Type 1 at 28 Years Old
A Coast Guard veteran describes how he ignored the symptoms until it was almost too late.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on September 26, 2015 at 28 years old. This came as a major surprise because I have been pretty healthy my entire life. I grew up on a farm working hard; after college I joined the United States Coast Guard and spent 4 years doing search and rescue and federal law enforcement operations.
After my honorable discharge, I started working at a plant nursery. In late 2013, I noticed that I was starting to lose some weight. It was pretty normal for my weight to fluctuate with the changing seasons because my job involved a lot of manual labor and exposure to the elements.
The weight just kept falling off. I wasn’t trying to lose it, but I didn’t mind too much. I was getting my abs back and I had better muscle definition-some things that I had lost after leaving the military. I didn’t feel bad physically, so I thought nothing was wrong.
Then came the hunger – I was starving all the time and eating everything in sight, so much so that I was receiving dirty looks at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Near the time I was hospitalized I started to recognize how skinny, weak and tired I really was. I had lost 35 pounds, I couldn’t lift things that were normally easy for me and no matter how much I ate and worked out, I couldn’t get stronger.
My father had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in July of 2015, so there was a history of diabetes in my immediate family. I bought a cheap glucose meter from Walgreens and had made an appointment to see a doctor for the first time in five years. I checked my fasting blood sugar that Friday morning and it was 336 mg/dL, but I had no clue how high that was so I just went on with my day.
I talked to my mom that morning and told her what my blood sugar was. She began to tell me over and over again to go see a doctor immediately. I said no I’m fine, I’ll go to my scheduled appointment in a month. All day long, she texted me to tell me to go to the doctor, saying she would pay me for the time I missed at work and she would pay for my urgent care visit. My mom is an LPN so you would think that I would trust her advice, but did I mention I was hardheaded?
She wore me down, and I eventually went to urgent care after I got off work. It turns out she saved my life, because that is where I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was given a piece of paper and told to go straight to the emergency room. I spent 28 hours in ICU and 4 days overall in the hospital. I received 22 IV bags of fluids because I was so dehydrated.
This diagnosis seemed like a death sentence while I was sitting in the hospital; every decision I made about food felt like life or death. My wife and I hugged each other tight and cried for most of the nights in the hospital. I went from riding fast boats protecting America from terrorism to laying in a hospital bed wondering how long I would live.
I know now that I will live a long and happy life with my wife and our future children. I am healthy once again and fish, hunt, camp, and hike. I have my ups and downs, burnouts, and days of pure frustration with this disease, but I take it day by day and use the support system I have formed. I meet with a group of fellow people with Type 1 diabetes, and we talk about our experiences, swap coupons that we snagged from our endocrinologist appointments, help each other learn to count carbs, discuss new diabetes tech, and navigate stupid insurance jargon and deductibles. My wife, my family, and my local Type 1 adult support group help me with my late nights and unpredictable blood sugars.
If you were diagnosed later in life or you have aged out of the term “childhood diabetes,” I would suggest you find a local group, counselor, or a friend that will let you get out your stress and frustration with Type 1 diabetes. You are not alone!
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