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DKA Mood: The Ty Bellinger Story

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Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA for short) is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes. If not treated immediately, it can lead to serious long-term complications, including: brain swelling and coma And potentially even life-threatening.

Despite its seriousness, many people do not know the signs and symptoms of DKA.

We spoke with Ty Bellinger, who has had type 1 diabetes for 28 years and lives just outside Fayetteville, Arkansas. He experienced this situation firsthand.

Ty Bellinger smiles for the camera

Key Point:

  • After living with type 1 diabetes for years, Bellinger faced a severe DKA episode due to insulin rationing. This was further exacerbated by a lack of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and access to adequate medical resources.
  • Common signs include nausea, extreme thirst, frequent urination, and fruity-smelling breath. Bellinger emphasizes that these symptoms are difficult to detect if you’re already managing your diabetes on a daily basis.
  • Bellinger advocates for increased awareness and access to diabetes management tools such as CGM to prevent DKA, and shares how community support can be a critical help to those in similar situations. Masu.

table of contents

What led to your DKA experience?

DKA occurs when blood sugar levels remain dangerously high for an extended period of time.

This condition is often worsened by dehydration, which causes acidic and toxic substances to build up in the blood. Once DKA begins, it becomes difficult to lower blood sugar levels to safe levels.

People can experience DKA for a variety of reasons. Almost half of people with type 1 diabetes have DKA at the time of diagnosisHowever, acute situations such as infections, illnesses, or even gaps in health insurance coverage (which can lead to insulin rationing) can cause high blood sugar levels and, therefore, DKA.

See below for more information. What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

Beringer vividly highlights these issues.

“My DKA experience was a direct result of the high price of insulin. I didn’t know there was such a term at the time, but I started lightly rationing insulin in college. After about a year, the rationing got worse.I was working alone, so I was scared of running out of insulin, and I was also scared of hypoglycemia.”

He continues:

“These things, and the fact that my insurance company continued to deny me access to continuous blood glucose monitoring, mean I have no idea how much damage I’m doing to my body. I ended up getting sick and spending several nights in the hospital.”

Have you experienced any signs of DKA?

While the signs and symptoms of high blood sugar are well-known, such as thirst, frequent urination, and weight loss, it can be difficult to detect the onset of DKA, especially if you are already feeling weak and unwell due to elevated blood sugar levels. It can be difficult. .

Learn more about the symptoms of high blood sugar below. Symptoms of hyperglycemia (hyperglycemia).

Bellinger agrees that not everyone can see or feel it coming.

“The red flags of DKA are very similar to those of someone who is intentionally not using enough insulin, so those who are rationing may not see it coming. I remember feeling thirsty and nauseous the day before I went to the hospital, and the next morning I knew I needed to go to the hospital because I couldn’t hold anything back.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)signs of DKA include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fast and deep breathing
  • dry skin and mouth
  • flushed face
  • extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • rapid weight loss
  • fruity scented breath
  • blurred vision
  • headache
  • Exhausted
  • muscle pain

If any of the above symptoms do not improve for several days or weeks, seek emergency medical care or call 911 immediately.

How were you treated?

Treatment of DKA usually involves a combination of insulin administration and intravenous fluids. Patients must be closely monitored to ensure that their blood sugar levels are falling at a controlled rate to avoid further complications.

Bellinger shares his personal experience with treatment:

“Hospitals are notorious for not knowing how to handle patients with type 1 diabetes. But I got lucky. I was admitted to the ICU, and my nurse happened to be quite knowledgeable about T1D. He was a knowledgeable person. My memories of being in the hospital are a little hazy, but I do know that I was given a lot of tests and given an IV. I don’t know what else they did, but I was pretty disgusted.”

Balancing type 1 diabetes can be very difficult, especially for young people. Some people with Type 1 experience DKA several times or even many times.

Bellinger says:

“To be honest, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had DKA. I think I went to the hospital a few times when I was a kid. In those days, especially before today’s technology was available, It was just because it was difficult to manage my child’s T1D. I also admittedly went into DKA a few times during my college years, but I managed to get through it without going to the hospital, which is a shame. I cannot recommend it.”

(If you think you may have DKA, seek emergency medical care immediately.)

What do you know now that you wish you had known then?

Bellinger said:

“I wish I had known about diabetes online communities. Since then, I have seen other diabetics helping people in the same situation as me online. We do everything from providing advice to providing direct mutual aid. At the time, I wasn’t interested in the diabetes community, so I cut off the resources available to me.”

How did this affect you emotionally? How did you cope?

Having diabetes can be an emotional roller coaster.of CDC estimates People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience depression and 20% more likely to develop anxiety over their lifetime. DKA threats may contribute to that. ”

Bellinger says:

“For a long time I was hard on myself, but since then I have accepted that I am in survival mode and just doing my best to survive within my circumstances. Take things more seriously and don’t put your health at risk.”

He continues:

“But the biggest impact is that my experience at DKA inspired me to become an advocate. If someone has as much privilege as I do: straight, white, If you are a man of still The health system can fail, none of us will be safe, and we need to do something about it. There should be no DKA due to rationing. I reflect on my experience at DKA every day and hope that it will ultimately allow me to make a positive impact on the world through my advocacy work. ”

Have you had any long-term physical effects from DKA?

In Beringer’s memo,

“It’s hard to say what the results of DKA are, or if they’re just the result of nearly 30 years with T1D. After the DKA experience, I built my act, got a CGM, cut my A1c. did [a measure of glucose control over the previous 2 to 3 months] In half. I had some temporary negative side effects because I lowered my A1c so quickly, but those have gone away. ”

Do you have any advice for others to avoid DKA?

Bellinger hopes her advocacy work will help prevent others from suffering from DKA like she did.

he says,

“The best prevention method is simply awareness. Get and use a continuous blood glucose monitor. If you have difficulty accessing people with diabetes, ask other people with diabetes for help. We’re all in this together, and please do everything you can to avoid rationing insulin. There are options and resources out there for you.”

Learn more about preventing DKA below. How to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

final thoughts

Bellinger’s story highlights the importance of accessible health care. While diabetes is an individual condition, it is clear that it is also a collective challenge that requires community support, advocacy, and improved health policy.

Diabetes Strong has strict attribution and citation guidelines outlined in our Editorial Policy. We use only reliable sources of information, including peer-reviewed research, medical associations, government agencies, academic research institutions, board-certified medical professionals, and experienced patients.

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