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Diagnosed Abroad

Discussion in 'Newly Diagnosed' started by Swarfiga, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. Swarfiga

    Swarfiga Type 1 · Newbie

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    Hi everyone, first time posting!

    I'm a 24 year old UK national currently living and working in Athens. I moved here at the end of October and my symptoms developed around the exact same time. I noticed I was more thirsty than usual, urinating more frequently (especially at night) and was losing weight rapidly. I felt that each of these symptoms could be justified with the change in food and tap water, the stresses of a new job and exercising in the sun - I run 15 to 20km per week and have around 3 gym sessions per week. Over the past 2 months however I started to get regular bouts of cramp in the calves and feet, developed a rash on my torso, became fatigued during the day and had periods of blurred vision, so I decided to finally visit a pharmacist on Wednesday night (10/01) to have a blood glucose test performed.

    The result was 338mg/dl or 18.8mmol/l. The pharmacist told me I must seek medical attention immediately and after visiting A&E I was admitted straight away. I was attached to an IV saline drip for rehydration and gave blood and urine samples, recieved an ECG, X-X-Ray, ultrasound, CT scan and several insulin injections within the first 24 hours. Yesterday (Friday) I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I am still im hospital and expect to be discharged on Monday and fly back to the UK on Tuesday. I am still attached to an IV and receive regular blood glucose tests and insulin injections. Yesterday I had 5 injections in total on a reactive basis rather than proactively injecting before meals. So far today (now 0940) I have recieved one injection on waking and a second before breakfast, only 35 mins apart. I expect to see a specialist today who will explain how to monitor and self administer insulin injections.

    Because of the unfortunate coincidence of my symptoms developing at the same time that I moved country and started a new job, I am afraid that I may have caused permanent nerve damage by waiting so long to be tested. I would be interested to learn how long other diabetics showed symptoms before receiving treatment?

    Once I am repatriated I intend to join the NHS program for newly diagnosed diabetics, I'd be grateful to hear of other people's experience of such programs.

    Also, as part of my job, I will be regularly relocating around the world for periods of 6 months at a time. I also fly regularly on business trips. If anyone has any experience or tips regarding flying as a diabetic please share! Also, there will be times when I am away from the UK for 6 full months, does anyone have experience of storing or transporting such a long term supply of insulin, sharps, etc?

    I feel physically very well, despite being overwhelmed by the diagnosis of a lifelong condition and all of the learning and adaptation that will be necessary. Any general advice for a newly diagnosed Type 1 is much appreciated!

    Sorry for the rather long post but I'd love to receive any relevant feedback!

    Thanks for reading ☺
  2. Krowsnest

    Krowsnest Type 1 · Newbie

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    Hi Swarfiga,

    It sounds like you have had a stressful few months! I am an American living and working in East Asia. Although I was diagnosed more than 20 years ago, it was under similar circumstances. I had been living in SE Asia and just moved back to the USA. The typical symptoms (extreme thirst, weight-lost, frequent urination, multiple infections, etc.) were getting worse and worse until a nurse-practitioner finally did a blood test to "rule out" diabetes. My sugar was around 480 mg/dl or 26.7 mmol. Moving across cultures is stressful, and some of my doctors at the time felt that the stress may have had something to do with the increase of symptoms. They also thought I could have had it gradually coming on for as long as two years when they examined my medical history.

    To make matters worse, because of my age (over 40 at the time), they wrongly diagnosed me as Type 2. It wasn't until a year or so later, when I was maxed out on type 2 drugs without any improvement that they realized I was an adult-onset Type 1. Hooray for insulin! It made a big difference! I tended to be "brittle" (blood-sugar down-and-up-and-down a lot) because I was striving for tight control. About 4 years after that, I got an insulin pump, which has really helped to stabilize my blood sugar readings.

    When travelling back and forth to Asia, I pack supplies for a few of days in my carry-on bag, and the majority of my supplies (up to about 6 months worth) in a checked bag. I now have expat health insurance and have been able to buy supplies when I am in Hong Kong. I also travel a lot for work and I do not have any trouble with this method of bringing supplies. If I am carrying several months worth of insulin vials, I always pack them in a cooler bag inside my checked bag. I believe we are allowed to bring them in a carry on in most countries, but I have never had trouble with them in a checked bag.

    I have to keep a very close eye on my blood-sugar when I am crossing time zones. I test more often and eat or adjust as needed. Seems that I have more lows than highs when travelling, but sometimes an incredibly high reading will stubbornly hang in there making life difficult.

    The travelling expat lifestyle is challenging, but not impossible with diabetes. Hope this helps a little!
  3. Bluetit1802

    Bluetit1802 Type 2 · Guru

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    Hi and welcome aboard,

    I cannot give you any T1 advice as I am T2 and on diet only. However, if I were you I would ensure that you have copies of all your medical file during your hospital stay before you leave. It may well be "all Greek" to you, but can be translated once back in the UK if necessary. You do need to know what tests you have had, what the results were, and details of your treatments. Otherwise, all this information may be lost to you, and it really is important. I say this because a similar thing happened to my friend. It wasn't diabetes related, but was a serious disease. Her GP and care team back in the UK were able to base further treatment etc on these reports, otherwise may have been working blind.

    Good luck and keep posting!
  4. TheBigNewt

    TheBigNewt Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    There won't be any permanent damage to anything, I'm sure you got put on insulin soon after you got the disease. As I was told by my dad (a doctor too) when I got it at age 32: "it's just going to be more or less a PIA for you". And he was right. You'll probably get put on Lantus once a day and Novorapid with meals to start with. Sounds like you eat pretty sensibly and exercise regularly. The thing you'll have to watch out for is getting hypo, especially at night. I'll PM you what I use for that over the years and it works really well. Last night I went to bed at 80mg/dl and woke up at 120. The traveling will be OK you can bring everything you need with you from the UK for 6 months. Basically you'll need a bunch of insulin pens and glucose strips/meter. I have one called Dario that plugs into my Samsung smartphone, it has the strips and finger pricker all in a little plastic case I keep in my pants pocket. I also have a different meter in my bathroom and at work (different strips I buy online for 20 cents each).
  5. Chowie

    Chowie Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    Disclaimer I'm from the Land of Oz, you have a much better health system and your government departments are far better organised and run.

    I managed to fight the symptoms for almost a month, before I went to the Dr. I was very sick by then, but no damage done.

    You are almost guaranteed you have not caused any long term damage.

    For the last 18 months I have been home a total of 28 days. I fly at least once a week frequently twice, although all travel is domestic. Apart from the rare exception of an over important Gorilla, stuffed into a Uniform, I have had no issues travelling. Keeping up the exercise is my only problem.

    Overwhelmed is normal. In a years time you will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. By the sound of it you are getting excellent care. Over time things will become much easier and you will become much faster. I can do my morning D stuff in less than 15 seconds. It used to be a 5min drama when I first started.

    You best place to ask questions is over in the T1 forum. Just don't take advice from some random threads you read until you are comfortable and experienced. You have a lot of adventures to go on. Although yours is very unique to you, as mine is to me, there are a lot of very close similarities and there is a large army that has done this before you and plenty that will follow you. Most of us have the attitude we have Diabetes, Diabetes doesn't have us and we continue on with life. You seem to have the right attitude from the start and you will do just fine, just a lot to take in both information and emotionally. A lot of appointments and time wasted in waiting rooms. I have my time wastage down to 3 - 4 medical visits a year and 4 - 6 pharmacy visits a year.

    Welcome to our exclusive club.
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