I've spoken to some people about this before, but I've yet to come across anyone else that's had a similar experience to mine. Most people weren't overseas when they were diagnosed, or they had some idea that diabetes was a possibility for them. I was wondering if anyone here also discovered they were diabetic while they were overseas or knows of someone who did.
Here's what happened to me:
I arrived in Seville, Spain in mid-January for a four-month-long study abroad program. Everything was new and exciting for me, and I didn't feel any different than how I'd always felt. My only issues then were the normal issues of adjusting to a foreign culture and language. Everyone spoke too fast, making me think I'd been studying a completely different language for ten years. There was some sort of invisible sign over my head that read "AMERICAN STUDENT: USE SIMPLE WORDS" - that I never did figure out how to get rid of and caused most of the locals I interacted with to need a reminder that I was there to perfect my grasp on their language and I NEEDED them to correct me, not coddle me.
For about a month and a half - to the beginning of March - my only issue was a very persistent head-cold. I'd caught it in February some time, and couldn't seem to get it to completely disappear. The medicine that worked one week wouldn't work the next, and it would come back even more persistent than the last time. But since it didn't impair my ability to function very much at all, I ignored it for the most part.
I'd been walking everywhere, as my classes, dorm and the study center were all in a comfortable half-hour range of each other. I lost enough weight doing all this - so I thought, anyway - that I had to actually buy new pants by the second week of March. I almost always had some type of drink with me, but I attributed that to all the extra walking being thirsty work. After all, I drove most places in the States.
Then, in the two or three days leading up to midterms in March, the head cold came back with a vengeance. I was tired. I was sore. It was all I could do to focus on my classes and put together projects for midterms. I sneezed in the computer lab hard enough to double myself over the keyboard, causing a sharp pain to stab through my ribs on my left side. A pain that settled in as a constant ache for the next few days.
The next day I was even more exhausted and sore, and at one point, I was on the floor of the study center, light-headed and confused. One of my classmates sat with me and kept me talking to her while a staff member got me a small glass of juice. It was enough to give me the energy to get up and arrange with my professors to make up the work I'd miss, because I had to go back to the dorm and try to sleep off this cold.
My family doesn't have a history of diabetes, otherwise the juice revitalizing my energy would probably have been the final straw and gotten me to go to a doctor that day to have it checked out. As it was, I went back to my dorm and slept until my roommates got back from dinner at somewhere around 9:30 PM. We discussed whether my cold was severe enough to warrant the emergency room, as all the pharmacies were closed by then, and decided it could wait until the morning.
That night, I made the climb out of the top bunk where I slept to the bathroom no less than six times. About once every hour. At around four I gave up getting back in bed - both from the futility of it and the fact that I could not physically make the climb again - and pulled my blanket and pillow onto the floor and made a make-shift bed in the little space between the bunk-beds and the bathroom door. That was where my roommate Jess found me two hours later, when she woke to get ready for her classes.
It was Thursday, March 17.
By this point, I was not only exhausted from getting next to no sleep, I was also in quite a bit of pain from my ribs. I only recall the conversation we had vaguely, but I know she got our other roommate up, encouraged me to dress, and made the decision that I was going to the hospital emergency room right then.
Jess had to help me down the stairs to the ground floor. It was a total of maybe fifteen steps separated into two mini-flights and I'd done it countless times on my own before then. I would have fallen down all of them that morning except for Jess holding me up. I don't know how long we waited in the dorm's common area for some sort of transportation, but I do remember that I couldn't seem to breathe without pain whether I was sitting up or laying down. Jess got in touch with my program director, who came and drove us to the nearest hospital.
I do not remember Caro arriving, or getting in her car. My next clear memory is of being on what I assume was a gurney, with at least two people in white coats - one on either side of me - talking at me in what seemed to be gibberish while the walls did an odd wavering dance. One of them had a tight hold on my right arm, and I managed to focus on that and his words enough to realize he wanted me to lay still.
All I could say was "No puedo, no puedo" over and over again. It hurt too much to lay on my back, but all I could force myself to say was "I can't, I can't."
I'm told Caro and my roommates kept telling me I could speak in English; they would translate for me. I don't remember them saying that. I'm very sure that I forgot I spoke English.
I have fragmentary memories of the rest of that day and more complete ones of the day after. Most of which involve arguing with the nurses over wanting to get out of bed and use the bathroom.
On Saturday, the doctor told me why I was in the hospital - my diagnosis as a Type 1 Diabetic - and Caro told me my father was flying in and would be with me on Sunday.
I was in too much of a daze still to really understand what the words "type 1 diabetic" meant. I did understand that my dad was coming, and that made me glad. Caro spent as much time as she could with me, but she still had her job to do, and my roommates and classmates all had midterms that had to be taken. I was in the hospital in a foreign country for something I hadn't fully processed yet and I was mostly alone.
I spent nine days total in the hospital. Four of them in the ICU. I was given excellent care and the hospital connected me with a leading diabetes expert to teach me the basics of caring for myself and to coach me through my remaining time in Spain.
What happened after I was discharged from the hospital isn't as exciting. I moved in with a host family. I got to show my dad all the places I'd been Skype-ing him about for two and a half months,and I finished my program. My friends were a little confused about how to deal with this, but visibly relieved I was okay again and able to stay. I finished my program. I made the flights home without major complications relating to diabetes, though there were an unnecessary amount of gate changes for my final flight out of O'Hare. I tackled my sister when I landed in Indy and had my first meal back in the States at a Bob Evans.
I didn't actually realize - completely and fully - what a life-changing event had occurred until I was back in the States, and nearly eight months had passed since that eventful day in March. I still feel like I'm only just realizing how much has changed most days.
I'd like to know. Do you know anyone who was overseas when they were diagnosed? I don't even particularly care if that's the only similarity there is between our stories. It'd just be nice to know I'm not the odd ball here.
I do not have time to read all of this right now, but the title caught my eye. I had just returned from over seas, having had complications while there, even a trip to the hospital with no clue until 4 weeks after my return to the states, to ill to do anything but go to Doctor. I will read yours fully, thank you for now.
I had been living in South Korea for five years. I came back to the states to get my masters for a year and then I was back. I hadn't been back for 3 months when I got a horrible cough. I attributed it to everyone being smokers and continued with work. About a month into the cold I coughed so hard I pulled a muscle and had to hold myself everytime I coughed. I had to update my visa and so traveled to Japan 4 months into coming back. I was in the hotel and could hardly move I was so sick. Coming back to Korea I had to go to the doc because my head hurt so bad. They diagnosed me with viral bronchitus, gave me lots of meds and I was on my way. That was December. Starting in January I consistantly was loosing weight and bruising really easy. I was in training for my 3rd degree black belt in Hapkido during this time and every little thing would cause huge painful looking bruises. I was thirsty constantly and just thought it was because I was working up a sweat. My urine looked like beer foam and in the morning I had to peel my eyes open. I WebMD'd myself as having Shogrens (sp) disease and my mother send me eye drops and moisturizing mouth spray. It never even occured to me to go to the doctor. On a Saturday in May we had a tournament and a 280lb man landed on my head. I didn't black out but I had horrible headaches and was told to have bedrest until Monday. By this time I had lost about 50 lbs, and my second day into bedrest I went to take my dogs for a walk and couldn't finish. I laid down on the sidewalk until my boyfriend came and carried me home. We sat down and made a list of everything that had been going on (dehydration, weight loss, "mysterious feelings of sadness", inability to climb the stairs etc) and on Monday I went to the doctor. They did a cat skan for my head and I had bruising on my brain, and when I listed all of my issues I'd been blowing off, they took a blood sample. I went back to work that day and about 2 hours later my boss came downstairs and told me the doctor called and said I had diabetes and I needed to go to the hospital, but in the meantime to eat potato chips for the sodium (there had to be a translation issue there). We all assumed I had Type 2 (my sister called it the fat kids disease) and the next day I was in the hospital. The doctor I was seeing was an endocrine specialist but I didn't know that. He told me I needed to be admitted and I said no. I had a huge fear of the wards in South Korea. He said I had two weeks to live if I didn't do something about myself and my blood sugar was 900+. I decided to get 4 more doctors opinions. One of the doctors said I was just fat and needed to work out. Another doctor said she would quit being a doctor before she gave me insuin. The third doctor told me I just needed to golf, "Have you ever golfed?". The fourth doctor gave me insulin. After that first shot I had so much energy (my bs was 204, down from 900+) and I just bounded up stairs and ran what seemed miles.
My mother (who was a CDE when we were kids) was beside herself with worry that I was now a Type 1 diabetic, convinced I was going to go blind, shoot up too much insulin, go braindead and loose my feet. She insisted I come home, and I did.
I've been on the Omnipod since 5 months of being home, and while I still travel overseas, I don't know if I could move back.