“Good morning Carolina. I need you to come back for a shot of insulin and IV fluids immediately. Did you know you were diabetic?”
That was the unwanted wake-up call I received the morning of Friday, February 26, 2016. I had been feeling terrible for weeks and just spent the night drinking water and using the bathroom almost every hour. I was confused, nauseous and beyond exhausted. Little did I know I had been experiencing all of the horrible symptoms that could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). I lost about 25lbs, my eyes were sunken, I refused to eat, was extremely irritable and I was fighting a horrible infection from an unhealed wound. Napping a few times a day had become my new normal. The only knowledge I had about diabetes, however, was what I learned about ten years ago in my 8th grade biology class.
Insulin, blood sugar, syringes, etc. were all foreign terms that were about to become a part of me.
“How could this be happening to me?” I thought. Just two months ago I was in the best physical shape I had ever been. I was a CrossFitter 5-6 times a week and I generally ate very healthy –even counted calories and sometimes carbs (ironic, I know). I was also an MBA student, a graduate assistant, a babysitter, and a CPA candidate. Stress had become a part of everyday life, and although I refused to let it take control over me, that wasn’t my choice to make and my body wasn’t taking it anymore. It was slowly but surely flipping a switch on me.
On February 27, 2016 I was admitted into the ER with a blood sugar of 373 mg/dL, shortness of breath, and the chills—I was FREEZING. Within the first few hours of my first hospital stay, I had X-rays taken of both my chest and my shin, IV lines placed in both arms, a bacterial culture was taken of the unhealed wound on my shin, and best of all I was told I was going into DKA –a brand new term which I refused to learn more about at the moment because I didn’t want to freak out and make the situation worse.
I heard the doctors and nurses throwing around terms I had never even heard of and it felt like I was on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, except I felt like total crap and I wasn’t getting paid to act.
After spending about 36 hours as an ICU patient and three days in a regular hospital room I was finally released into the real world where I now had control my own blood sugar by giving myself shots of insulin. In the beginning I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that after 22 glorious “normal” years, my life now depended on tiny amounts of this weird smelling clear liquid, which I had to inject with a needle.
The first few weeks I refused to research the topic because I was scared that WebMD would tell me I was dying, and to add to that I had a visiting nurse who further instilled fear by telling me I should no longer get my nails done at the nail salon or that I could no longer wear my favorite pair of heals anymore because I had to take care of my feet. I was emotionally drained and just wanted to go back and live at the hospital so my diabetes could be taken care of for me.
Thankfully those days didn’t last too long. As I began to get the hang of having to give insulin to control my blood sugars, I began to research the topic more and follow other diabetics on social media. I was able to get on an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor after only a month and lowered my A1C to a healthy level a few months later. Diabetes was extremely scary and discouraging in the beginning but over the past year this full time job has taught me a lifetime of knowledge.
I’ve learned that my perfectionist ways of the past won’t work with diabetes.
It’s a disease that is affected by so many factors which makes it nearly impossible to manage perfectly. You kind of just have to go with the flow, roll with the punches, and keep living as if it hasn’t made a dent in your life.
I was lucky to have found the JDRF Young Leadership Committee, a group of diabetics that are in my age group in New York City. Some of these people have become my “diabesties” and have truly helped me feel like I’m not in this alone. I’ve also started my own Instagram page with the hopes of inspiring and supporting others in the t1d community. In addition, I recently rejoined CrossFit with the goal of becoming even stronger than I was before I was diabetic.
Having diabetes has become my new normal and although I wish I didn’t have it, it’s taught me to take each day as it comes and to look for the silver lining in absolutely everything. I only got one life to live and I will NEVER let diabetes bring me down.
Follow Carolina on Instagram: @beatinbetes