A few weeks ago I become ill. I felt nauseous, had lots of wind and wasn’t able to eat properly. I became worse the 2nd week. I couldn’t eat anything. I kept throwing everything up. I stopped eating. I only drank water for 4 days. My blood sugars were sky high despite taking loads of insulin. I thought it was a bug so didn’t want to waste my GP’s time by making an appointment. I thought it would just pass naturally.
Then one Friday I thought I felt better. That supported my idea that it was just a bug and was passing. Hence I was right not to bother my GP. I ate some jello. That seemed to be okay so 2 hours later I had a bowl of strained chicken broth. The UK version is not what I call chicken broth. The stuff here is thick and has vegetables in it (hence I strained it). It wasn’t nice. I didn’t like it at all. 2 hours later and I was throwing up again.
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I had a big hypo (hypoglycemic) attack. I woke and found my sheets soaked with sweat. I was shaking and dizzy. I felt so weak. I knew I had to get out of the bed since it was so damp and change my pyjamas. I was alone in the house so couldn’t ask for any help. I somehow managed it all the while feeling like I was about to pass out. I slid my way downstairs to the couch so I could rest there. I waited a bit until I could see properly (my vision was blurry by this time) then I tested my blood sugar levels. 3.7 – far too low.
Again not wanting to waste anyone’s time, instead of calling 999, I dialled 111 to ask for advice from the NHS helpline. After explaining everything I was going through, they called an ambulance to come out to me. I thought it wasn’t necessary but now didn’t have a choice really – they’d already called one to come. In the meantime I had to stumble to the kitchen and eat sugar from the jar – absolutely disgusting! – to try and get my levels up.
When they arrived, they took my blood sugar levels and blood pressure. I have a naturally low blood pressure (90/60 -ish) but they didn’t like it. Also I couldn’t gag enough sugar to get my sugars up to a safe level. So they decided I needed to go to hospital. I didn’t like the idea. I thought it would be a few hours and was worried about how I would get back home.
The ride itself was cold and noisy. The whole ambulance seemed to tremble with each little bump in the road. The “bed” was very uncomfortable and during the ride I became scared of what was going to happen. Yet still I didn’t believe it was that serious.
At the hospital, I began to feel worse. I was exhausted. They took blood tests. They took my temperature – using a weird gun shaped gizmo they shone a purple light on you. They moved me from 1 place to another. I was admitted! I was shocked by that. I still didn’t believe I was that ill. They eventually put me on an IV. They called it a sliding scale for insulin. I had 2 tubes going into the one cannula – 1 for insulin and 1 for glucose (sugar).
Left arm – They decided to moved the cannula near my elbow but didn’t take it out straight away!
They brought me food. I ate it (cottage pie) and although I didn’t particularly care for the taste, it was okay. Later they brought me more food (a jacket potato) and I ate that. It was okay too – just a bit on the warm rather than hot side. I was in a room with 3 other women. One was an elderly Scottish woman. She was extremely lonely. She tried to talk to everyone who passed by. She called for the nurse and the HCA (health care assistant) just to talk to someone. She didn’t understand they had other patients to care for. Her son turned up and I heard her saying how lonely she was. She also asked why should she go to a home when she has family? It was so sad and heartbreaking. But I was too ill to be as sympathetic as I could have been. I was waiting for my daughter to visit and overheard the lady talking about me. She said “She’s waiting for someone to come”. I was chilly and put on my dressing gown. She said “She’s going out for a fag”. I lost my patience and swung the curtain far enough closed that she couldn’t see me anymore. I then shamefully stomped out and said “Actually I was waiting for the toilet to be free” and went to the toilet dragging my IV pole with me.
Eventually, my daughter did arrive and brought me things from home I would need. She also bought me a book to read. Her boyfriend complained that she took ages picking it out. It was called The Secrets of Wishtide – A Laetitia Rodd Mystery by Kate Saunders and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it throughout my stay and at home.
Later on, about 8.30pm, the elderly lady began complaining about every little noise. Someone was pushing a noisy cart down the hall and she shouted “Who’s making all that noise?!” Then another sound and she shouted “I’m trying to sleep”. She called the nurse again and complained then asked why the lights weren’t off – she wanted them all off – even the ones above the nurse’s station outside our room. I had been dosing all day so wasn’t really sleepy. I turned my little light on and started reading the book. My vision was still a bit blurry so it was difficult but I managed a few pages before I felt tired again.
Next thing I know, I’m being moved to another ward. WooHoo! No more of the annoying woman. As soon as I arrived, I began throwing up the 2 meals I’d had earlier. Not a good way to make an impression but I couldn’t help it. I was in that ward for 2 days. Most of it is a blurr. I was told I had an infection but they didn’t know where. They started me on an antibiotic via the cannula. They were also coming to test my blood sugars every hour. So I dosed in between those as best I could.
One doctor decided I was dehydrated so she put another IV in my other arm for saline. I was now really hooked up.
Right arm – saline for dehydration
It was in the middle of the night so she used my bed lamp to see by. The rest of the room was dark. It was an odd experience. I was still able to walk (just about) to the toilet and back but every time I did, the IV machine screeched at me until I got back to bed and plugged it back in. I nearly passed out one time trying to go and get back to bed. I literally flopped onto it.
Once a nurse came to help me wash. I fell in love with Hibiscrub – it was the smell that got me. The nurse washed my back and it felt so good. She was firm but not rough and I felt like a little girl being pampered. She left the rest for me to do which I was totally okay with.
Then one doctor seemed to finally listen to what I had been saying and diagnosed a gastric problem. I was started on more meds (for my stomach issues) and felt better (mentally) that things were finally on the right track. However, my haemoglobin level had dropped from 100 to 70 (should be at least 120). That worried them as I hadn’t been bleeding and they couldn’t understand what was causing it to drop so much.
I liked that ward. It was quiet. My bed faced the nurse’s station so I didn’t have anyone lying in a bed staring at me. But then it all changed. I had to have an endoscopy so was moved to an upstairs ward (D7). Again at some ridiculously late hour (all I know is it was dark). I tried my best to sleep and eventually drifted off. Then I was awoken by the lady in the bed to my right shouting for help and Roy. The nurse came eventually and calmed her down. I drifted back off to sleep. I awoke to her shouting again that she needed to go to the toilet. Someone came and said they’d be with her as soon as they could but another patient had fallen and they were busy trying to help them. I felt sorry for her. But she started shouting again when they didn’t get back to her as quickly as she wanted. There was 6 of us in the room and I think she woke all but 1 of us (the lady who snored and gargled in her sleep).
Morning came and I discovered that my bed faced 3 other women. I couldn’t handle it so shut my curtains. One woman was loud and never seemed to shut up.She talked on the phone, talked to the lady next to me who’d been shouting in the night, she talked to a lady 2 beds down from her, her visitors came and she talked with them, she talked to the nurses. She even talked to the shouty lady’s visitors! I put my headphones on and tried to block her out as best I could.
The good thing was I was taken off the IVs and allowed to take my insulin as normal. I began going for walks outside and having a smoke. It was really sunny one day and I enjoyed just sitting outside in it. But the idea of another night of shouting was one I couldn’t handle so I asked my daughter to smuggle in my sleeping pills. They worked a treat! At last I had a decent night’s sleep.
The endoscopy was a terrifying prospect. I was really scared and didn’t want to do it. They offered me sedation so I quickly said “Yes please!”. I was wheeled to the room in my bed. Now what I didn’t like was that they spray the back of your throat with an anesthetic before the sedation. It’s very hard to breathe when your throat is numb. Someone put a small round tube in my mouth – only about 1″ in length so it didn’t go far into my mouth but it was unexpected and made me begin to panic. I was trying to breathe but struggling. Then the sedation kicked in and I was blissfully unaware of anything. When I woke, my throat was a bit sore but nothing too bad. It was over and I was glad.
Unfortunately, the endoscopy showed nothing wrong. Well, fortunately I should say but I was frustrated that they weren’t finding an answer for my illness beyond the infection. My haemoglobin level was still too low so they wouldn’t discharge me. I was grateful for the sleeping pills that night as well.
Then the next day and another blood test. I was eating fine by this point though the menu was dreadful. Not even a hot breakfast! Just cereal and bread (not even toasted!).
Breakfast – um I’ll pass thanks
But I was told if the blood test was good I could go home that day. I was excited but running out of cigarettes so desperate to get the all clear. The result came back and my haemoglobin was up to 80 so headed in the right direction. They determined that I was okay to go home. I was referred to the community diabetic team (whom I have yet to hear from 2 weeks later) for re-training. I had 1 cigarette left so anxiously awaited for my medicines to be given and I could officially leave. It was early evening.
Carrying the bag of stuff my daughter had brought through the hospital was a bit hard. I was still weak and a bit lightheaded. But I managed. I sat outside and smoked my last cigarette then called a taxi to take me home. I had him stop at the shop on the way so in total it cost me £18 to get home. Luckily I had enough to pay for it.
Being home felt odd. I was still weak and lightheaded. I had to rest and recover. For the first week that was all I did – rest. I didn’t even really go online that week which worried a few friends. The first day home I had to go online though – I needed food in the house. I ordered from Tesco as usual but had to pay for delivery on a Saturday (the next day). I felt very dizzy by the time I got the order together and paid for it. But it was worth it to me.
I have been slowly getting my strength back and focusing on managing my diabetes. I’m testing more than usual (which was never!) and trying my best to take the right amount of insulin. I’m also trying to avoid injecting in the same place too often. This is difficult when I can’t inject into my thighs. It feels seriously freaky when I try. I may just be hitting the wrong spot when I do it so may have to learn more about where exactly to inject. It’s definitely something I need to work on.
I have also been teaching myself how to count carbs for each meal and work out how much insulin to take based on that. Back when I was diagnosed, they didn’t do that so I was never taught. It is confusing and I haven’t quite worked it out yet. But I am trying. Having to go into hospital woke me up a bit about my diabetes management. For too long my depression won and I ignored it. I didn’t have the energy for all this complicated stuff and didn’t really care enough about myself to do it properly.
But now I am trying my best and also trying to eat a better diet. I’m back to cooking again instead of relying on ping meals. And not just when my daughter is home but for myself. This morning I made a 2 egg omelette with cheese and fresh spinach and had a small glass of orange juice to wash it down. Now if I could just get this carb counting thing right and quit smoking! It’s too expensive and not good for me but one thing at a time. One thing at a time.