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My type 1 diabetes diagnosis: How I live and why I'm taking part in the Tough Mudder.

by Suzie Lemons

In December 2022, Tom Batchelor, Scrum Master at Aiimi, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. From this, his colleague and close friend, Ben Jackson, thought it would be a great opportunity to raise money for Diabetes UK – a leading charity paving the way for people living with diabetes. To learn about Tom’s diagnosis and why he’s challenged himself to take part in this year’s Tough Mudder, read his story below.

So, tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 24-year-old Scum Master at Aiimi who is training to become a data engineer, and when I’m not working, I’m a DJ and I produce music with my mate.

When did you first notice something wasn’t right?

At the beginning of November - my family and I got ill with the flu that was going around, and we were ill for a week. Then I stopped being ill for a week and then started to feel ill again. In my mind, I thought the flu was coming back again as it was coming up to winter and everyone around me was getting ill. So, I brushed it off, thinking I’d feel better in a couple of days.

What symptoms did you experience first?

It was really weird actually – the first symptom I experienced was a really dry mouth. I can only relate it back to when you go out drinking and the next morning you wake up with a dry mouth. So, it was like that, but 10 times worse, and I was getting a dry mouth when I hadn’t been drinking alcohol and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is weird.’

That happened for about two weeks. It was driving me insane because I couldn’t work out why I had a dry mouth, even though I was drinking four pints of squash.

How long were you experiencing symptoms?

Three weeks.

The other symptoms started kicking in quickly after the first two weeks of dry mouth. I was going to raves with my friends and I remember not being able to see their faces for a bit. My eyesight started to blur, and I turned around to my friends and said, ‘Something is wrong with my eyes. I can’t really see you.’

In the third week, England was playing in the World Cup on Friday, and I went to my mate's house. I tried to have a beer and it tasted horrible. It felt as if my body was rejecting the drink. So, I didn’t drink, and stuck to water instead.

In the same week, I was going to the toilet to wee in the middle of the night, and I’d never done that before – getting up in the night to go toilet. On top of having a really dry mouth, and chest pains too. The next day after England played the World Cup, I went to my friend’s house to watch the football and I felt really hungover. But I couldn’t be hungover as I didn’t drink alcohol.

On Saturday I went to a family gathering and I couldn’t function. I had no energy, and a dry mouth, and food started to taste weird too. The next day was the worst - my body felt rotten.

I couldn’t even go to work on Monday. I felt so ill – it felt like I had the flu, and all my sinuses were blocked. Tuesday came along and I still couldn’t leave my bed. I felt terrible. When I woke up on Wednesday, I knew it was the worse I’d ever felt in my life. It felt as though I was on my deathbed – that’s how serious the symptoms were. The pains in my chest were expanding to the same place in my back and I kept being sick. I knew something was wrong as I couldn’t breathe.

The only thing I could do was inhale smaller breaths, and it caused the most pain I’ve ever been in. Breathing hurt.

That’s when I got rushed to A&E – I couldn’t walk out of my parent's car as my legs felt like jelly.

When I got inside A&E, I told the receptionist my symptoms and they saw me straight away.

Everything happened so fast. The next thing I knew I was sitting in the room and the Crash Team were beside me – making sure I didn’t die. I wasn’t aware of how serious things were until I spent the next six days in intensive care. I got told that if I’d left it another night, I would have died in my sleep.

I never thought what I was eating and drinking could be raising my blood sugar. But when I look back and think about the Lucozade, Kit Kat, ice cream, and other sugary stuff I was consuming, it makes sense.

How long did it take for you to get diagnosed – and how did you get diagnosed?

When the nurses took me in, they had suspicions but knew for definite by the time I was in intensive care. They knew by the symptoms I was showing, but my blood sugar levels gave it away.

The normal blood sugar level ranges from 4 and 10, and the average person usually functions on blood sugar levels between 6 and 7. Anything over 15 is dangerous, and my blood sugar levels were unreadable.

When I was in the room with Crash Team, the nurse kept on asking me questions like. ‘Have you been going to the toilet more often than usual? Does your chest hurt? Have you got pain in your back? Are you extremely thirsty all the time? I answered yes to all of them, that’s how they knew I had diabetes.

It wasn’t until the second day of intensive care they decided to tell me I had type 1 diabetes. I kind of knew at that point.

A couple of weeks before I was showing my mate the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and I said to him, ‘I think I’ve got it.’ But I didn’t take it seriously as I was only experiencing a dry mouth. So, we both brushed it off.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is when your blood glucose levels are too high because your body can no longer produce insulin or is producing a very little amount. Our bodies need insulin as it allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies with energy.

What do you do to help with your type 1 diabetes?

Every day (morning and night) I check my glucose levels - I use an app called Freestyle LibreLink that monitors my blood sugar through a small white patch on my arm. It looks like a nicotine patch. The patch lasts for 15 days, and then I need to change it. The app is cool and super easy to use. It shows me what my glucose levels are throughout the day.

Once I’ve checked my sugar levels, I inject myself with long-acting insulin at 10am (gradually released throughout the day), and again at 10pm. Each injection has to be 12 hours apart.

If I plan on eating a meal with carbohydrates, I need to do three things:

  1. Count how many units of carbs there are in the meal
  2. Use a different pen to inject myself with the same unit of carbs (short-acting insulin injection)
  3. Inject myself 10 minutes before I eat

If the meal doesn’t include carbs, I don’t need to inject myself.

Why are you taking part in the Tough Mudder?

I want to show people that even with my condition, I can still accomplish anything I want to in life, and so can you. This condition doesn’t stop you from living. I still go out, eat whatever I want, and DJ. The only thing I can’t do is eat a bag of sweets. The only difference is that I have to monitor my glucose levels when I wake up and before I go to sleep.

I also want people to understand how serious things can get if you don’t get the help you need, what the symptoms are, and to gain a better understanding of diabetes.

Taking part in the Tough Mudder is a great way to prove to myself, and to show others that diabetes doesn’t stop you. Plus, it’s a great way to raise money for the charity Diabetes UK.

Want to get involved? Join the fight and donate to Diabetes UK

To support our Tough Llamas and raise money for Diabetes UK, click here to donate.

Facts about diabetes you should know

How many of these facts do you know? We've compiled some of the most important facts about diabetes you should know about. So, why don't you test yourself to see how well you do?

Figure 1 - Here's a summary of the most important diabetes facts you should know.

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