Living with diabetes: Watch out for the 4Ts – tiredness, thirst, thin and toilet
Disneyland Paris is the place where dreams come true – this was what my family and I were told on arrival at our long-awaited holiday. I was 16-years-old at the time and had just completed my GCSEs. After a long, hard struggle to get through my exams I definitely needed a break. I’d lost a stone in weight in just a few weeks and felt broken in every way through tiredness. I’d spent most nights guzzling water and going to the toilet. I had no idea why this was happening to me, no one did.
At the time my only dream, or desperate wish if you’d like, was that I could rest. I was so tired from the journey to Disneyland, although I’d slept the whole way there I was still exhausted. Other than sleep I also wished for fluids. Anything and everything that I could get my hands on, I would drink instantly, never quenching my thirst. I always asked for more.
The symptoms that I was displaying were put down to stress from exams: even a health care professional mistook the signs telling me I had food poisoning, although my mother had suggested diabetes to him. Little did I know that my body was slowly giving up due to undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes.
While on holiday I felt awful, I was thirsty, thin, unhappy and on the last day I wanted nothing more than to go home. I hid my physical pain well, not wanting to spoil anyone’s fun, until the last day when I collapsed a total of three times. Doctors were called, tablets were prescribed, signs were dismissed and my family were left to cope alone.
Hours before we were due to leave (I have fantastic timing) pains set in. Excruciating pains shot through my stomach, I’d never felt anything like it before. Along with the pain, I experienced terrible confusion as my vision seemed to be failing. I couldn’t see any colour, everything was a dull grey and seemed to be slipping away from me. I couldn’t breathe speak or stand. I clung to my mum as I doubled over in pain, desperate for it to end. I would have done anything to make it stop.
I passed out as the paramedics arrived and I was airlifted to hospital, missing the only helicopter ride I’ve ever been on. I was told by my family that with one simple blood glucose test the mystery had been solved. There and then, within seconds, my family were told that I had Type 1 diabetes and that I was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This meant that because my body had stopped producing insulin and it had started using fat a fuel instead. As the fat was broken down acidic ketones were building up in my blood in such high levels that they were effectively poisoning me.
I spent days in intensive care and was then moved to a ward, scared and angry. I know that my diabetes couldn’t have been prevented, there is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, but the way that I was diagnosed could have been. A basic knowledge of the signs and symptoms could have avoided a misdiagnosis. I could have spent that holiday the way most people do, with dreams coming true. Who knows?
Sadly, I have heard stories of misdiagnosis before: signs being missed and emergency situations occurring which aren’t necessary. This doesn’t only cause physical consequences, but could potentially cause long term emotional effects for those involved. It isn’t always the case though and I also know of many people who have had a quick, efficient diagnosis and treatment.
As part of World Diabetes Day, charity Diabetes UK has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the most common signs of Type 1 diabetes. The symptoms are known as the ‘4 Ts’: Tiredness, Thirst, Thinner and Toilet. If you are feeling constantly tired, even after rest, it could be a warning sign. You should also be wary of an unquenchable thirst, frequently going to the toilet and losing weight in a short period of time.
The test for Type 1 diabetes is simple, all it takes is a finger prick that could put someone’s mind at rest and could also save a life. These four symptoms are the ones that really stood out for me in the weeks running up to my diagnosis and I wish they had been spotted sooner.
An in-depth specialist understanding of diabetes is not necessary but knowing the 4 Ts is all it takes. If you recognise any of these signs in yourself or a child then go to your doctor and insist on a test for Type 1 diabetes. Being Type 1 aware could prevent situations like I was in. It could prevent diabetic ketoacidosis and could be the difference between a diagnosis and a life-threatening situation. I want to make sure that more parents, grandparents and carers are aware of the 4 Ts of diabetes. It really could make a huge difference.
To read Laura’s blog visit click herediabetes, World Diabetes Day
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