I refuse to be imprisoned by Type 2 diabetes

Published Jun 20, 2017 • By Léa Blaszczynski

After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and chronic pancreatitis, Geoffrey had to choose between living as he was used to and continuing to suffer from the consequencies of his conditions, and completely changing his lifestyle to be able to lead a fuller, longer and happier life.

I refuse to be imprisoned by Type 2 diabetes

image of interviewee

The Need To Change My Life Rapidly

Hi I’m Geoff known to those on Carenity, com as Grundy I’m 62 and have Diabetes and Peripheral neuropathy in my feet and it's now showing in my hands. My profession is a Taxi Operator though at the moment my next challenge is at the planning stage.

I hold a priesthood in the Mormon Church though I went through the conversion stage whilst in a coma more about that later. How long I’ve had diabetes is a moot point that experts cannot pinpoint. My life today is much better than any stage in my life. I’m happy to get out, have a wide circle of friends. When you’ve read my story you will realize there is life after death.

My hobbies are Family History Research. I advise many people both Church Members and none members to make their own family trees, indeed the Church allow me to use their resources even with non church members. They have powerful computers and a library full of information around the World though the one I use is in Huddersfield West Yorkshire. I like watching Football and follow Burnley Fc, I’m also involved in Local Politics and am a member of a political party.

The Diagnosis of Diabetes

During the hot summer of 2008 I was driving my Taxi in Todmorden on the West Yorkshire - Lancashire Boundary, my feet began to feel differently. The government were telling people to stay indoors but if one had to go out, drink plenty of liquid. I began feelings of nausea and was very sick spewing up plenty. My eyes began to give me weird sensations of blurred vision and I began to feel very tired. I was very irresponsible in those days. When I was hungry, I ate, when I was tired, I took strong caffeine tablets, when I was sleepy I took herbal sleeping tablets anyone can buy from Boots.

One Friday night after a day of drinking a gallon of lemonade, water, coca-cola, and Lucozade and urinating regularly, certainly more than every quarter of an hour, I told the boss I couldn’t carry on, I needed to go home and sleep, and hopefully I’d be right for the weekend. So I went home, filled 10 pint glasses with water. Climbing the stairs, I complained to my housemate that the stairs were moving. I felt my body packing up but went to bed, but kept drinking water though couldn’t satisfy my thirst.

My housemate phoned the alternative line to the Emergency line she was told that it sounded like I had renal failure coming on and that they thought I was slipping into a coma; he would get an ambulance to me.

I was taken to Calderdale Royal Hospital Accident and Emergency Department. After discussions with Huddersfield Royal Hospital I was put into the Intensive Care Department and my family was called and told I was seriously ill and visiting times were lifted, they could visit when they wished. The diagnosis of diabetes was made by the consultants and doctors of Huddersfield Royal Hospital over the telephone (led by Dr Burrows). After a discussion in their opinion I might not make it. My blood sugar was the highest recording they had ever known at 50.8 and this had to be reduced very quickly if I had the remotest chance of survival. Drugs would not achieve this and the way to do it was to transfuse blood and take blood at the same rate and clean it of sugar and I must be strengthened and moved to Intensive care at Huddersfield Royal Hospital.

At this point I was comatose. My housemate who was a staunch though not practicing methodist made use of the chapel to pray for me when my family crowded round the bed. About 4 days later a convoy of 3 ambulances: I was in the middle in one, the other 2 carried equipment and notes to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. I was put into my own room with dedicated staff looking only after me. From there I was given many tests to detect cancer and nearly every conceivable illness I might have. From all this I had dodged renal failure but found to have chronic pancreatitis. A condition that 95% of patients had were alcohol drinkers yet they looked at the many blood tests I'd had, had no trace of alcohol however all my family was asked separately if I was a known and obsessive drinker!! They all confirmed I wasn't and from that they thought whilst I was in a very delicate state I was putting up a very strong fight.

Worthy of note, I was told I had an habit of pulling out of my body my life lines.  One night a young male nurse was reconnecting a tube and I had an out of body experience. I floated out of my body and was looking down from the right side of the room. A tube opened up with a bright light at the end and I went into the tube and floated through it at the end there was a lush green lawn with a mansion on it and my dead family was waving to me to go back my life hadn’t been ended.

Back the male nurse was trying to revive me. He was in a panic, he was sweating profusely so I slipped back in my body and he was happy - breathing had started.

In the following days I awoke if only for a little time an ex partner, the mother of my daughter was holding my hand. I was told she had come every day about 10 in the morning and stayed till mid afternoon. My daughter was there; my mother was at the bottom of the bed in a wheelchair, my niece was there , but my housemate wasn’t. I asked where was she? My daughter said she would go and get her (she was in the chapel praying). By the time she came I was back asleep though the drugs keeping me asleep had been withdrawn.

As the days passed, I was told of my last 3 weeks and given a diary the family and friends had wrote messages in. I still treasure this book. My family had been told to speak to me that I could hear this, I can confirm that my memory had retained much of what they had said.

The following days a group of students regularly came with the Professor from Huddersfield University who was following (and had been from day 1 in Huddersfield) my progress and setbacks. A very thick file was at the bottom of my bed: those were my notes, and doctors consultants, the anaesthetist were all asking very simple questions, many that I got wrong: Do you know where you are? How much is a postage stamp? Who is the Prime Minister? What’s your address? The purpose of this was to judge the state of my retentive memory.

Me Being Told of my condition and my Reaction

Dr Burrows came to see me. He was very blunt: you have been very seriously ill and now I’m going to tell you what’s happened and how it has to change your life. You’ve had chronic pancreatitis. Remarkably you got this despite abstaining from alcohol. About 95% of patients with this are drinkers, so you are in the unlucky 5% but you have had it once and could get it again. Also you have peripheral neuropathy, this is where your nerve ends, and to cap all this you have got Diabetes type II. How you live and keep healthy is up to you, you can carry on as you are doing and die early or live a filler life by having 3 healthy meals a day. If you opt for this I will sent you to see a dietician and they will help you to understand what's good for you and what isn't. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, fish twice a week, preferably oily fish and a bit of meat will do you no harm, but take care of your sugar intake. Get your doctor to give you a blood monitor.

I was totally in the dark but my housemate assured me that it was all in hand and not to worry, we would sort it out. I was concerned about the label Diabetes and the computer came out and researched it and as I got stronger I needed a physiotherapist. I'd been bedridden for a month and I noticed a Zimmer had been put by my bed. I wanted to get rid of that at the earliest opportunity. But a walking stick soon appeared. The morning bowls to wash myself had been withdrawn but I could have a daily shower. The NHS wanted to survey my home to put in things to help me. It was explained these things were not to make life easier but to make life possible but for now work was not possible in the short term.

I had not envisaged this could ever happen but it had and working round the clock is possible once in a while. But I'd made it a lifestyle choice that certainly couldn't go on, my body was protesting.

The Care I had, Could It have been improved?

I can only comment on my care in Huddersfield. It was the best the NHS could offer. If I had to pay for the care it would have taken a lifetime to do it. There was plenty of doctors and caring nurses. I did ​catch a bug that was sweeping the Hospital, however the general standard of care and the method of delivery was excellent and could not fault it in anyway. Fortunately my illness was under a Labour Government.

Near the end of my stay Dr Burrows retired. I believe and always will that he saved my life. Obviously I was grateful to him. He was very much a traditionalist. Sweeping in to take his place was a very much younger man brimming with new ideas. If i'd have been under him would, could he have saved my life? That is a question I cannot answer. But i cannot believe the hospital and its staff could have done any better than they did.

The Changing of my life

When I left ​Huddersfield Hospital I needed to go home and I had to force myself to take up a much healthier lifestyle. Cookery books appeared, my meals took a very new look: 5 vegetables a day is hard to get into, frankly greens are not my favourite sprouts, broccoli, thin beans and broad beans, avocado, pears, asparagus, didn't fare to well so I began to chose salad options and enjoyed them.

I began to end meals at dinner with cheese and biscuits. Fruit had its problems: orangers were very acid like bananas, apples, particularly red, delicious. I had grapefruit for breakfast but that had to be dropped because it clashed with my statins. Drinking lots of water didn't suit until we started buying Harrogate spring water or Scottish spring water, and chilled it in the fridge. Without lots of sugar I get weary but I just tell myself for me it's a killer and the diets I'm on are doing me well. And you are what you eat. Looking at it that way I'm a salad.

Lifestyle changes

Obviously working around the clock has gone. Instead I spend a lot of time with people doing family research. I eat out more than I ever did. Meeting people. I attend church and I never did before and this is where I have real friends. Watch Football at Burnley football club, never had that before. Life is much pleasanter, friendlier and I’m more happy in myself as a result.

Changing Habits is it difficult?

Adjusting completely to a new regime is difficult of course. It is not nipping into a petrol station for a cornish pasty when hungry and preparing a meal instead. It is rather a wake up call. Often when out shopping and feel hungry I am tempted to go and buy a sandwich to eat at the bus stop. Such temptation is hard to break. Drinking lots of water is good for one. Drinking lots of coca-cola can wreck kidneys, and if mothers knew how much sugar was in canned drinks, kids would be a lot fitter. Sugar isn't completely swept from life: a treat of an occasional chocolate bar is allowed and an Emergency supply of chocolate is kept in the fridge in case there is a blood sugar drop to 4. This supply is changed every month. The bar coming out of the fridge is given to a child.

The Most Difficult things to manage

For the last 18 months (Touch wood) I’ve had no management problems but earlier in the programme I have had big challenges and the challenges have been too much blood sugar. As a result, tablets have been changed, and at one point I was told that if my blood sugars did not improve by the next appointment they would put me on insulin injections. I did not fancy that prospect one little bit. Chocolate treats were cancelled, monitoring was changed to 3 times a day; and a massive household upheaval took place to regulate my intake.

It was successful and insulin never took place of metformin, though metformin is no dream drug, it has its side effects: it can cause diarrhea and you can have kidney problems. Prescription drugs for Diabetes don’t come in a single packet. There are a few in the morning, many at dinner time and only 3 at lunchtime and a few at bedtime. Drug companies must make a fortune on diabetics.

Complications with Diabetes

Diabetes is the umbrella of a number of potential threats. Mine are nephropathy and kidney problems which give me backache, but there are potential threats including strokes, high blood pressure, heart problems as well as others, so I take statins to ward off strokes, and statins can give pain in the shoulder region. Peripheral neuropathy means often pain killers and for kidney problems which leaks protein which I take (Ramipril).

Diabetes condition management

Diabetes needs discipline to manage. I went to my doctor years ago and he said I’m supposed to take my tablets at the same time every day. To do a normal life regime we need to manage this. It often means taking tablets when out. Doctors can only do so much, but the condition is mine and I have to follow both the doctor's code as well as the consultant's code from the hospital. The days when I took tablets around the time I was told I had to change to taking them at the time I was told to.

My Message to my fellow Diabetes Sufferers

As I was told at the beginning, you can carry on your lifestyle or change and have a new lifestyle, but this means regulating your sugar and alcohol (because alcohol is a product wholly created from sugar) and it's necessary to change your life. Some people can wholly control their diet and need no drugs at all, that means cutting out alcohol entirely.

If you live on your own, and you take alcohol you are taking risks with your life. There's no one with you to help you if you have a stroke. Diabetes is yours and you need to know the risks you are taking. Your doctor can tell you. Better still the internet can.

Sugary drinks, are not good news, alcohol is not good either. Get to know the risks diabetes has for you. It's a problem that's rapidly growing in the United Kingdom, particularly type 2. Don't let the condition control you, it's your job to control your health. And you can live a normal life if that’s your choice, you can work, you can play and have happy times with other people. I refuse to be imprisoned by my condition, I also refuse to let it run riot.


avatar Léa Blaszczynski

Author: Léa Blaszczynski, Health Writer, Communication Expert

At Carenity since 2013, writing health articles holds no secrets for Léa. She has a particular interest in the fields of psychology, nutrition, and physical activity.

Léa holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more


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