DKA, anyone?

Most diabetics are familiar with DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis, from warnings they’ve received from their doctors.  If you haven’t been given the definition and the explanation, ask your doctor, the next time you see him or her.  It’s important to know.

At college in October, 1978, I felt fat and lonely, so I decided not to take my insulin.  And I watched the pounds melting away.  I thought, if this is available to diabetics, why don’t they encourage it?

I stayed off insulin for the rest of that school year, and through the following summer.  By June, I was slim.  By August, I was emaciated.  Before everything crashed, I still believed that I looked terrific in a bikini – the only time in my life I’ve ever worn one.  I was completely out of control – dying, in fact.

Starting one Friday, I stayed in bed for the weekend.  The only time I ventured out was to crawl to the bathroom, pee, fill a gallon jug of water, drink about half, and then crawl back to bed.  By Monday, my boss grew concerned, and called my Dad.  I only remember bits and pieces of that night, but I know both of my parents were scared almost to death.

This is what had happened.  When I stopped taking insulin, my body could no longer use the carbs I ate for energy.  So first went the fat, (I started this at 200 lbs.,) and then my body started eating its own muscles in an effort to fuel itself.  I was in DKA:  burning those muscles lowers the body’s pH, and mine was dangerously low by then.  In addition to the weight loss, the body also attempts to wash the sugar out of the system with water.  Many people experience this thirst as one primary symptom of diabetes.  Drinking that enormous amount of water was that part of DKA working on my system.

I was extremely lucky to have survived all of those long months without my insulin.  Obviously, this is not the way to lose weight, or even to survive.  Thank goodness I’ve lived this long, so I can look back at that year without horror.  I hope this never occurs in my readers’ lives.  I already care more about you than I did about myself, that whole awful time.


4 responses to “DKA, anyone?

  1. Wow, this must have been such a difficult time to look back on and write about – but I applaud you for doing it anyway!! I know reading about your experience will help others. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thanks, Karen. This story is finally in its place in my life. For decades, this was my only story, as though I needed to prove to anyone who listened that I really was sick. I know my friends and family got very tired of hearing that awful description. So now, I’ve finally written it down, and processed it, and marked it up to experience, from which others may draw inspiration. I have a feeling that, since starting this blog, I will have different stories to tell. That is a blessing!

  2. I hope this post gets read widely.

    The more people who have been there, done that share this sort of stuff the better.

    I have nursed people with a combination of mental illness and diabetes. I could have done with this sort of post back then!!!

    Keep sharing


    • Thanks so much, David. I’ve told this story over the years, but always with a “poor-little-me” attitude. One of the bright spots about feeling better is a bit of detachment.

      I have dozens of incidents like this in my life — you’ll see more. Again, thanks!

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