Diabetic Ketoacidosis, even though the sound of it is really quite atrocious…I apologize, but every time I say the words I break in to a make shift Mary Poppins number, but then I remember that the spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down and I’m just beginning to realize that Diabetes could be blamed on Disney…I’ll look in to that later.
This story begins years ago in Austin. Two of my co-workers at the AIDS Service Organization and I decided that we needed to do more to help fight the spread of HIV in Austin. Our divine answer was: ACT UP. There had not been an ACT UP Austin before and we were just the people to get it started. ACT UP is a diverse group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. The group began in New York city in the 1980’s from people who wanted answers, accountability and real help fighting the AIDS crisis. From NYC it spread across the country and across the globe.
So we began ACT UP Austin, and we had a group of 10-15 members who wanted to fight like we did. So we made shirts, had meetings, discussed where we should focus our strength. One major problem we focused on is that there are no condoms allowed in prisons. Although the politicians like to believe the prisoners are not having sex(either mutual or forced) it was happening, and the disease is spreading. We held a number of protest, education sessions and even tried applying to the commission who could do something about it, all to no avail. So we decided that one of our demonstrations should be focused on the governor, who was planning to cut funding from health care, specifically sexual health. Our group grew bigger, we had other staff from our non-profit, as well as others wanting to get involved, city workers, volunteers…we massed quite a number for our all night protest in front of the governor’s mansion in down town Austin.
It was a Wednesday night, and a group of us met downtown at 8PM. We encouraged people to stagger their timing when arriving because we wanted to have loud voices from dusk until dawn. It was an incredible night. We chanted, we had cars honking, we had motivational speakers, religious leaders, volunteers telling stories, getting people upset, like we were. We wanted to make sure that the governor got no sleep that night, thinking about how important sexual health is.
For myself, although I was still just 20 and didn’t have much trouble staying up all night long, I relied heavily on Monster energy drinks to see me through the night. I had only had a couple of Red Bulls in my life before this moment and once I tried the sugar free, it tasted horrible, plus I heard rumors it could give me a heart attack, so I turned to monster. Since then however I was introduced to Vodka & Red Bull, and I have not had a Monster since. I probably should buy stock in sugar free Red Bull though. Invest in my future and all that jazz. I had a total of 8, or possibly 9 Monsters that night. My blood sugar was ok, and I felt incredibly hyper and ready to run around the globe a few times. No real problem.
The next day, I had regular work hours. I wasn’t too tired, although I did feel a little cold coming on, probably from standing outside all night along exposed to the elements. Thursday night I went home and slept like a baby. I was positive that after the good night sleep, I would be back to one hundred percent. Plus I had a date on Friday night with a handsome Spanish model I met a few days before.
The feeling of the cold started to feel more like a flu during the day on Friday. I wasn’t going to miss this date though, he was gorgeous and European with an incredible accent…that’s really all that was required for me back then. I went home and got ready for my date. We went out for dinner and drinks, thanks to a fantastic fake ID I had acquired. When 2AM rolled around, the bars came to a close and we went back to my place. As they say “God doesn’t give with both hands” which sadly was true in this case. I think the entire night we spoke about 100 words to each other, and each time the conversation fell flat. Luckily he was a good kisser, so the lips didn’t go to waste. He suggested we have more to drink when we got back to my place, I always keep a bottle of brown and a bottle of clear in the house, you know for emergencies. (Thank you Victoria!).
We started mixing vodka and orange juice, and then he noticed I had a jar of maraschino cherries in the fridge too and wanted to make me one of his favorite drinks. It was disgusting, basically its a screw driver with maraschino cherry juice mixed in to it. Although it tasted worst than anything I had ever had at that point in my life, I drank it and continued the make out session.
The next day…I was near death. The flu like feeling had turned into a horrible sickness. I woke up, threw up about 5 times, drank about a gallon of water and went back to bed. I was supposed to go to my father’s house for dinner that night. I called my sister Kristina who was driving up to his place, and asked her if she would mind picking me up on the way as I wasn’t up to it. She picked me up, and after feeling so sick before, during and after dinner, I didn’t have the energy to leave my dads house.
I made a doctor’s appointment first thing on Monday morning. Over the last two days I threw up almost every hour. I was drinking so much water, but could not keep any of it down. My sister Kamara and I walked in to the doctor’s office, signed in and sat down. I felt I was going to be sick again, and excused myself to the bathroom. I did throw up again, almost like clock work, and as I was so thirsty, began to cup my hands together and drink the water from the sink. Drinking the water offered very little relief as I felt so bad on the inside, and the knowing it would be coming back out soon enough.
I went out and sat down beside my sister, and then the nursed called my name. The nurse, a younger woman, probably recently graduated from school, looked at me in horror. She moved me to the room and gave me a medical bag if I was going to be sick again. She didn’t even weigh me or take my temperature. about twenty seconds later the doctor rushed in to the room with the nurse following behind him. I passed out a little and awoke laying on the bed. The doctor told me he called the EMS and I was being taken to the hospital. I protested as I know how expensive a ride in an ambulance is, plus my sister could drive me there. But during my protests, I again passed out.
I woke up in an ER crying and screaming for a glass of water. It was one long room with curtains hung every 10 feet to provide a small feeling of privacy. I looked forward and saw Kamara and Kristina standing a few feet in front of my bed. I started yelling and a nurse came over to me and told me to quiet down. I begged for water, I needed it. I felt so parched, I didn’t know if I was dying. When I want something, I get it. As I noticed that the nurse hated it most when I cursed, I started yelling profanities to get her to get me a glass of water. My consciousness came and went during this process and most of it is still quite sketchy in my memory. My sisters both looked helpless, and told me later that the nurses had asked them to quiet me down, but they knew I wasn’t going to stop until I got some water. The nurse finally brought mea small paper cup of ice chips, and instructed me not to swallow them, but to only moisten my lips with them. The moment she walked away I popped as many in my mouth as I could. I’m told the reason I couldn’t have water is that I was dehydrated and would throw it up again. I didn’t care, my body was telling me that I wanted a glass of water.
I held the cup of ice chips in my hand so firmly, hoping my body heat would melt them and I could have a drink. Then I again passed out.
I awoke in a very large and private hospital room a few days later. The doctor had explained to me that I had suffered from Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Basically my blood sugar got so high (Over 700) I got dehydrated and my blood was turning in to acid. Freaky stuff huh!?
The nurses and rotating doctors all told me I was lucky to be alive, and that this could have killed me. Thanks for scaring the shit out of me. Now could someone explain to me, why this happened? Basically, the Monsters were the first part of the downfall, followed by the fact I wasn’t hungry the days after, and ate very little, but also took very little insulin. Then adding insult to injury, the sugar in all the alcohol and maraschino cherries specifically, I over loaded on sugar and was not giving myself the insulin my body required. So basically a type on diabetic can die in 48 hours without insulin. Good to know. When the apocalypse happens you’ll see me running from CVS to Walgreens breaking in and grabbing as much insulin as I can carry.
All of my family and friends came to see me while I was in the hospital, and I was feeling a million times better already, so I got to enjoy the time. Vicky even took me for a fun trip in a wheel chair around the hospital. My ex-boyfriend David, such a sweetheart, asked one of his friends to drive him all the way up to see me. My coworkers had all signed a gigantic card, and got me a goody bag of activities and toys to help me recuperate. It was kind of a mini vacation after being so close to death.
In all reality, it was a terrifying and horrible situation. I never want to experience that form of hell again, and never want to scare my family like that ever again as well. My love of water which was pretty non-existent before this incident, went sky rocketing, and now I always carry water on me, and keep an emergency reserve in my fridge.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis, for short is called DKA, but it’s not an enjoyable experience, and should be avoided at all cost, unless you’re near a hospital with exceptionally cute doctors and nurses, in which case, I understand.