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A Journey Through Life With Diabetes

I was 12. Not fat, tubby, plump, portly or any other word you want to use. Nor did I have any immediate family with the condition. I ate well and life was easy. So very very easy. But it was all about to change.
It was Monday 18th November 1996.
One minute I was sleeping, the next I was running to the bathroom. I needed water and quickly. I felt like I could drink the tap dry. I looked at the clock. It was 2.13am. I went back to sleep. It must have been something I'd eaten, a one off.
The next night the same thing happened only this time it was worse. If I didn't make it to the sink I felt my mouth would close up and stop any oxygen from reaching my lungs. It was 2.17am. It couldn't be blamed on what I'd eaten for a second consecutive night, could it? Something was wrong.

I told my mother the following day and a trip to the doctor followed. This was met with the usual jubilation that a 12 year old has when they're told they have a day off school. It was all a bit of a game. A morning off school, sympathy and lots and lots of attention. Where was the problem?
"Mrs Paget, after some initial tests, it looks like your son may have diabetes". Well, to a 12 year old you may as well have said that NASA has just opened up a canteen on Mars. I didn't have a clue what the doctor was on about.
It wasn't until my father met us at the hospital and the nice nurse sat me down I realised things weren't perhaps worth missing school for. Then I was being asked to hold out my finger so the nice nurse could test my blood sugars. This seemed like a fairly straight forward thing to do.
I passed out. The next thing I knew I was on the bed, surrounded by worried faces.
"Its not good news. Your son must go straight away to Worcester hospital for further tests; we're 99% sure he's diabetic".
Things started moving at a million miles an hour, tests, consultants, more tests and more consultants. I would end up being in hospital for 5 days. But the one thing that stays with me from that torrid day was the realisation that something had gone wrong with my body. Now I would need artificially made insulin to keep my blood sugars controlled stopping my organs from drowning in sugar or passing into a coma induced sleep as my body ran out of it.
It's a weird sensation for a 12 year old. Suddenly taken out of school and told to live the biology lesson my teacher would be giving my class. It all seemed so...unimportant.
Then came the needle and the orange. By this point I knew things were seriously wrong. I understood I was very unwell. I'd lost weight. I'd begun to drink like a fish and suddenly didn't seem that interested in that commodity every 12 year old can't get enough of; food.
I remember my father practicing on the orange, then my mother and then me. It was a strange sensation. No one really knowing what to say and everyone in disbelief that this injecting lark would be happening between 2 and 6 times a day for the rest of my life.
The doses of human mixtard 70/30 varied, as did the frequency of trips to the toilet. Family visited and even the local press wanted to talk to me. On day 3 I was allowed to go for a walk to the other end of the hospital and buy a magazine, closely chaperoned by my mother of course.
Day 4 and my father came with good news. He was taking me out for the afternoon to watch Kidderminster Harriers play football. What a treat. I needed it. Even for a positive, happy 12 year old I was becoming depressed in the hospital. Boy was it a breathe of fresh air. Life could go on. I would still enjoy everything I'd enjoyed before. It would just be with a few major changes.
I left the hospital on day 5 and went back to school. What a week!
It's easy to now look back on this time and review what happened but it's only now that I reflect back and think of what was going on. My parents, who were strong throughout, must have had a far worse time than me. They got the serious talks from the doctors. They were told their son would now have a lower life expectancy. That diabetes could cause blindness, organ complications, circulatory problems, increased risk of stroke. They heard about the issues I would face later in life in reference to tolerance to alcohol, sex life, obtaining a driving licence and flying on airplanes with needles.
They understood the seriousness from Day 1. They were unable to control what was happening and could only sit and watch as it rapidly changed the life of their only son. Many parents have been, are going through and will go through the same situation and feelings of helplessness.
It is my hope that articles such as this help more people to understand this dangerous condition and raise the awareness of Diabetes and its management.
This is the first in a series of one off articles about growing up with Diabetes.
Jon Paget has lived with Diabetes for over 10 years.


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