Tuesday, November 5, 2019

My Husband's Diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes

     This picture was taken about a month after my husband was diagnosed with Type1 diabetes, I was pregnant with our son Judah and even though we are smiling in this picture we were in the midst of one of the most difficult adjustments of our lives.

     In March of 2015 I was four months pregnant with our child that we had struggled for years to get pregnant with. Brian and I were both trying to enjoy each moment of this pregnancy that we had prayed and waited so long for! I always carried a water bottle around with me to keep hydrated and I noticed Brian started grabbing my water in the car and finishing it off. This seemed a little odd to me but I thought he must have just been thirsty. He also kept coming home from work with snacks like Doritos, and things he didn't normally eat. He kept telling me he was just so hungry all the time. Then the hunger turned into not being hungry at all, I noticed he didn't want to finish meals and also seemed really tired and not able to think clearly. One day when he was in the bathroom getting ready I noticed he looked really skinny and when I asked him if he had lost weight he stepped on the scale and realized he had lost 20 pounds very quickly. Most likely in a matter of weeks. I knew something had to be wrong but I didn't know what. I asked Brian if I could make him a doctors appointment with my doctor and he agreed that he didn't feel great and should probably go in.

     The day before his doctors appointment I was googling his symptoms and realized that they matched the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. I had two students a few years earlier in my third grade class with type 1 diabetes and in my mind you could only be diagnosed with it as a child. I met a few of my friends for coffee that afternoon and told them about Brian's strange symptoms. One of my friends Sarah, who is a nurse, told me he needed to me seen right away and it sounded like diabetes to her. I still wasn't sure, but was starting to think she might be right. Brian text me a picture of a drink he got from Sonic, a lime slushie (he wasn't one to just go get a drink like this) and they had accidentally given him a 44 oz drink! We laugh about it now because we didn't know at the time but Brian's body was in ketoacidosis, a life-threatening state where your body breaks down fat at a much too fast rate and produces ketones, which causes your blood to become acidic. His  body was craving sugar because it was all being flushed out of his system really fast since his pancreas wasn't working.

     On Monday we went to the doctor early in the morning and explained all of Brian's symptoms. I asked for his blood sugar to be taken and the doctor said for someone as tall and thin as Brian is it would be rare for him to have diabetes. I know now the doctor was thinking of type 2 diabetes, which by the way you can also get if you are tall and thin, there can be a genetic component, it's not just lifestyle as many people think. The doctor agreed to take some blood tests and said they would call with the results.

     That night Brian couldn't eat dinner at all, and afterwards he just went and laid in bed. I prayed for some answers soon, I knew he was really sick but just had no idea how sick he was. Around seven we got a call from the doctor who said he got some blood work back and Brian's fasting blood sugar was in the 300's, he for sure had some type of diabetes but we could wait to come into the office until the morning. A few minutes later we got another call from the doctor and he said we needed to go to the nearest emergency room. He got some more bloodwork back and Brian had anti-bodies that showed he had type1 diabetes and was most likely in diabetic ketoacidosis. Type1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where your body attacks your pancreas and so your body cannot produce the insulin it needs to process carbohydrates or to survive. Even if Brian chose to never eat another carb in his life he would still need daily insulin injections in order to live.

     We called our parents and then Brian drove us to the emergency room. I had no idea at the time he shouldn't have been driving, he insisted on driving us and said he was okay. Thankfully we made it there safely. As soon as he got checked in they started him on an IV, he was severely dehydrated. They took some bloodwork and a nurse came and told me his blood sugar was in the 700's! Pretty quickly an ER doctor came and said they were going do some scans to make sure that Brian's organs weren't shutting down. I panicked. I sat in the waiting room with my mother-in-law and prayed and prayed that there would be no permanent damage.

     Brian was transferred to the ICU for a really long night of getting his blood sugar lowered by being on an insulin drip. Because of this process your electrolytes can go out of whack really easily and cause issues with your heart. I laid next to Brian in a chair all night long and listened to alarms go off over and over and nurses run in to check on him to make sure things were okay still. Brian's scans came back and a doctor came to tell us that his organs looked good, we came in just in time. He said if we would have waited another day it could have been a completely different story.

     I'm still in awe of God and his timing in all this. I'm so thankful that the family doctor we went to was at his office late and called us once the bloodwork came in. He saved Brain's life. Sometimes people don't survive their diagnosis of type 1 diabetes or it's misdiagnosed until it's too late and they end up in a coma or with permanent damage.

     The next few days were full of nurses, doctors, and diabetes educators trying to prepare us to go home. We quickly learned that this was a 24/7 job for Brian from now on. He had to understand how to give himself the right amount of insulin for food he ate before we left. If he got too little insulin he could end up back in the hospital with ketoacidosis, if he got too much his blood sugar could go low and he could pass out and end up in a coma. No pressure. We understand now that once you get the hang of it diabetes is something that becomes a part of your family and you can still live your normal life, but just have more to think about. At the time it all seemed so overwhelming and both of us didn't know how we were going to do this all the time.

     I have many stories about those first few months after Brian's diagnosis. I tried to feed him huge salads only to realize he actually needed some carbs right then so we could figure out his carb to insulin ratio for his doctor, so I would throw some gram crackers on the plate next to the salad since he had those in the hospital and we knew the carbs for them. Not the best combination. I also made him set an alarm every few hours at night for the first month or so because I was so afraid his blood sugar would go low in the middle of the night without us knowing it. I would sleep really close to him so I could make sure he was still breathing. It’s really funny to us now that we were worried about his blood sugar going low right when we got home because even after all the insulin in the drip Brian went home with his blood sugar still around 250.

     There were some scary moments later on of dropping sugars down into the 40’s, and Brian having to gulp a juice box through shaking hands. Doing physical activity like mowing the lawn and timing insulin was so difficult for him at first, his blood sugar would get so low while he mowed the lawn we thought he would never be able to exercise again! Thankfully that’s not the case now and he can run as long as he times things right. I also washed dishes like crazy to make sure there weren’t any sugar or carbs left on them that might raise Brian’s blood sugar. In my pregnant mind that made sense. Totally not really a thing.  All of this seems a little ridiculous now and these aren't things I needed to be doing, but I had no idea how things really worked and I was trying to do anything to help him.

A few months later we welcomed our little miracle Judah Elliott Kohrs. It was a very difficult few months of trying to figure out a new normal for our family with Brian's diagnosis but we were both very thankful it happened when it did so we had some time to adjust before the other big adjustment in our life as parents of a newborn!

     Brian got approved through insurance to have an insulin pump and dexcom so things have gotten much easier over the past 4 1/2 years in regards to him managing his blood sugar on a daily basis. We both have learned a lot and hope to share some of that with others to help them, and also to raise awareness to something that is still so misunderstood by most! I also hope that spreading the word about understanding the warning signs of Type 1 Diabetes can help to save a life. Someone can be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at any age in life. Even our ICU nurses were surprised that Brian was just having symptoms for the first time at his age but we have heard of so many people since his diagnosis that also were diagnosed in adulthood.

Warning Signs of Type 1 Diabetes (from beyond type1)

  • unquenchable thirst.
  • frequent urination.
  • in babies and toddlers, heavy diapers.
  • in children with no previous concerns, sudden bedwetting.
  • weight loss (despite an increased appetite)
  • decreased energy level.
  • blurry vision.
  • a fruity smell to the breath.

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