Hi, I’m Amelia! A first year French and German student and this article is about my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, and the support I’ve had while at university.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on 5 December 2022, having been admitted into hospital with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (a serious complication of diabetes that can be life-threatening!).
The initial symptoms started a few weeks before this. I lost quite a lot of weight, and I was really tired easily. But I didn’t think anything of these symptoms because I was busy and there were ‘logical explanations’.
When it all came to a head
On 25 November, I went to Pizza Hut with some of my flatmates and I had a lovely time. But by the end of the meal, I was feeling extremely sick. This is when the symptoms started to get progressively worse.
The sickness went away over the weekend and I did ‘normal’ things, including the Christmas Market in York. However, by Monday I felt really nauseous, and left one of my seminars early because I felt so ill. I don’t think I managed to go to any of my seminars the rest of that week, as I was feeling more and more sick. I had terrible headaches, and on the Thursday I was feeling dizzy and faint.
By this point, I was craving anything sweet or salty, and even water was making me feel sick, so I was drinking a lot of juice and milkshake, and eating noodles with a lot of soy sauce! On the Thursday, I went out for our society end of term meal. I actually didn’t feel too sick while I was out. But, when I got back to my flat, I felt so ill and facetimed my parents.
Being told I have diabetes
After the society meal, my dad drove up to York straight away to pick me up because I felt so ill. I don’t really remember the days that followed. But I know I was in bed almost constantly, and continuing to drink a lot of sugary drinks. By the following Monday, I wasn’t getting any better, so we went to the doctors, where my blood sugars were tested. They read as ‘HI’ (meaning they were at least 30 mmol/l). This was when they told me that I had type 1 diabetes, and was sent straight to the hospital.
They tested my sugars again, and I was attached to an insulin drip. My sugars were monitored by a nurse every hour until they started to come down. I stayed in hospital for a few days while they brought my sugar and ketone levels down. They then explained to me how my insulin injections would work and what I needed to be careful of.
Support through the diagnosis
My family were extremely supportive, and my parents took it in turns visiting me while I was in hospital, as well as doing everything they could to make it easier for me when I got home. Because of the timing, I was at home for 3 weeks over Christmas before coming back to university. This meant I had time to adjust to my diagnosis with my parents there for me all the time.
My friends have also been super supportive, especially my friendship group from YBLS (York Ballroom and Latin dance society) here at university. When I came back in January, I was scared about how everything would affect me, and whether I’d be able to get back to how I was before, both in dance and in life in general.
I was having to stop several times during each dance lesson to check my blood sugars. But all my friends were amazing at checking how I was doing, and doing what they could to help me. 3 months later, they are still being amazing, and helping me manage to do the things I love while keeping myself safe.
The first thing I did in terms of contacting the University after my diagnosis was to email my supervisor. They advised me to email disability services, as diabetes is classed as a disability.
As it was Christmas, it took a little longer than usual to get everything sorted with disability services. But together we worked out what support I would need for my seminars and lectures, and for exams and assignments. By the middle of February, I had my Student Support Plan (SSP) in place. My plan allows me to have my diabetes kit with me in exams, and I can ask for extensions on deadlines if my blood sugars have been really out of control.
Everyone I spoke to at disability services was really helpful and kind. They also helped me to do my application for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). So soon I’ll have access to software and equipment that could help with concentration when my blood sugars are all over the place.
Where I am now?
A diagnosis as big as Type 1 diabetes is always going to take a while to adjust to, but with the support of my family and friends, I would definitely say I’m getting there. One of my close friends at home also has type 1 diabetes, as does one of my friends here at university. I’m very grateful to have this support network around me. My lecturers and seminar leaders have really accommodated my condition, and I’ve not felt judged or been treated unfairly because of it.
Educate the people around you (friends, flatmates, lecturers etc.) so that everyone understands what you are having to deal with. It can be a lot more than people realise. By helping them understand your disability, they can help you if you are struggling, either physically or mentally. But don’t be worried, there are plenty of people out there in a similar situation to you, and you don’t have to deal with it all by yourself.
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