On Sunday I wrote about being force fed glucose in hospital, the day after my admission. I thought that would be the worst of it: being on a glucose drip when my levels were increasing above the healthy range with no intention of stopping; Being offered a sandwich when my levels were steady and in the healthy range: Being offered fruit, toast and cereal, and sugar with every coffee. I thought that would be it. I thought wrong.
On Sunday night my level was still a very stable, very healthy 5.7 mmol/L, and yet the nurse still wanted me to have a sandwich because I wouldn’t be able to eat in the morning, so she bribed me by offering me a coffee with it. I took it but still bolused, not wanting unhealthily high blood sugars unnecessarily, but was woken at 4am and 7am by nurses testing my blood sugar (5.2 and then 5.2). By that stage it was too late for them to make me eat because I was ‘nil by mouth’ (no food or drink). I preferred that because the only breakfast option was toast or cereal. So I spent the morning waiting for a CT scan.
An obviously inexperienced nurse then came to take my blood sugar, pricking my finger on the print side and struggling to get blood out (I squeezed it) – 4.8 on their meter (which takes 20 seconds to give a reading! Can you imagine that during a hypo?!) and she said ‘that’s ok’. By this stage apparently I could have breakfast but I obviously declined, and another nurse asked ‘do you not eat carbs for diet or weight?’ and I said ‘No. It’s because I’m a diabetic and carbohydrates spike my blood sugar too much. If I don’t eat them my blood sugar is always within range.’
My coffee was then dropped off with tinned mandarins in juice. So, pure sugar in a pot.
The new nurse tried to help cater for my needs by calling the kitchen and saying I didn’t eat carbs – I said any green veg would be fine. The meal arrived with extra mashed potato. The nurse came back and asked if it was okay. I don’t know if it was hormones or the fact I hadn’t eaten a meal in 3 days, but I just started crying. I apologised. I was a blubbering wreck. She got the meal replaced – saying she’d already taken the potato off it. I lifted it up and it was carrots, parsnips and chunky steak in gravy. I just had the steak which I had to wash down with water because it was so dry, and left the high carb veg on the side.
Later on I managed to get an hours leave as my boyfriend and housemate had driven down to see me – so we went to Lone Star and I got half a chicken with cabbage and bacon, which was so good, but my stomach hurt a lot and I realised hospital was where I needed to be. We went back and my high carb hospital dinner was on the side waiting for me.
In the morning, it seemed I’d made myself an enemy. The lady doing breakfast asked me what I’d like and I politely declined. She said I was a diabetic so I had to have breakfast (wrong). She also said I had to have it because the nurses hunted her down the day before. I said I’m a diabetic so I don’t eat carbs or sugar to control it. She left me to ‘think’ while she went to see other patients. So I just had a black coffee and water. When she took my mug away, I gave her thanks and she gave me a scowl.
2 hours later somebody dropped me off a Low Fat yoghurt (Low Fat means the fat content has been replaced with sugar)..So It contained a lot of sugar. Excellent.
Come lunch time, I was back on ‘nil by mouth’ but the same lady still brought me lunch. I had the pleasure of informing her, and she scowled again, turning with my tray and saying to the lady making the beds; ‘You know that lunch I was telling you about?’ and then nodded at my tray. So rude. When she came back to clear all the dishes, she cleared everyone in the rooms except my coffee mug.
Later on in the afternoon I had an endoscopy, but because I’d taken NovaRapid just before I was ‘nil by mouth’, my blood sugar had been very slowly falling all afternoon. By the time I got into day surgery, I was 3.6. So what followed was another nightmare – a glucose IV drip. Thankfully I had a very kind endoscopist who ensured me I would be okay and only let through 100mls of the drip before turning it off. The problem came after the endoscopy when the drip continued, despite my sugars being 8.2. When I made it back up to the ward, I was allowed to eat but dinner had been and gone and there was nothing for me. The nurse said the glucose drip couldn’t be removed until I’d got food and taken my insulin (huh?). I started to cry. Again. I kept asking her to remove it. She wouldn’t. She said she was off to wash another patient and come back to me in 10 minutes. I was starting to panic again. I found the device to stop the IV from going into me and so I stopped it, but it alarmed so I released it again. A very lovely lady from another section of the ward saw my breakdown and was nice enough to go and get me some salad and chicken from the fridge. She even got me diabetic friendly jelly. I apologised for my state and thanked her profusely for bringing me my first hospital meal in 4 days. The nurse at this stage came back and upon seeing my food, asked me if I’d taken my insulin before she removed the drip. She didn’t understand that if she hadn’t kept the drip in in the first place I wouldn’t have needed any insulin! I was furious. And my blood sugar was 10.6.
The same nurse came around at bed time for me to check my blood sugar so I could work out how much Lantus I needed… Yes, you read that right. She thought my night time, long acting, background insulin changed in amounts each time. Nooo.
I managed to get my sugars back down by the time I was awoken at 2am for my usual blood sugar check (I don’t know why they feel the need to test me every night), except I was awoken by two voices discussing the fact I didn’t want my sugars testing. Someone said it was okay because my last reading was 10.6. Fab.
In the morning the dietician came to see me, saying ‘we’re a hospital, not a hotel’, and that ‘all the other diabetics would eat the yoghurt and not need to bolus for it’. (What?! I would have seriously high BS levels after eating that thing. Not to mention all diabetics are different in their sensitivity to carbs and insulin, and I’m very sensitive to both) She said they cater for peoples illnesses, not ‘unusual diets’. So apparently catering to keep my chronic illness under control wasn’t on the agenda. Her advice to me was to ‘eat around the carbs’, which I said ‘okay’ to but knowing it was virtually impossible. I’d given up all hope of being fed anything suitable in the hospital, and figured they would have me on an IV drip if need be.
Next to come and see me was the diabetes nurse, who was equally as unhelpful. She tested my ketones which came up at 1.1 mmol/L and she said any higher than 1.5 mmol/L and she’d want me to be in hospital. She said I was messing up the chemicals in my body – that she wouldn’t want my heart to stop. Nutritional ketosis is safe and ketones run up to at least 3.0 mmol/L, they are only an issue for diabetics when they are coupled with high BS levels and a lack of insulin, causing the blood to become toxic.
When my next high carb lunch arrived, it also came with jelly. The regular full sugar kind.
As it happens, that turned out to be my last meal in hospital. 5 days after admission and I was finally discharged, so relieved that I cried when I made it home. I hope to never have similar experiences again, and I hope for no other diabetic to experience what I did either. The sad truth is that they are, now and in the foreseeable future, in countries all around the world. Low carbohydrate consumption to control diabetes is still hugely controversial, despite the glaringly obvious benefits. As a diabetic, life without carbs gives me a new lease of life that I’d hope for all diabetics to experience. It’s going to take a lot more research and educating before the medical boards join us, but I’m confident that it will happen. One day.