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How I Coped With Coronavirus As a Type 1 Diabetic

Coronavirus and diabetes, two seemingly scary words, particularly together. Read about guest author Lee Kettle’s experiences of catching Covid-19 as a type one diabetic.

When I tested positive for Covid-19, my first thought was:

Am I going to die?

It sounds over dramatic I know, but I’m sure it’s a thought that goes through most people’s minds — whether living with an underlying condition like Type 1 diabetes or not. I work in media and just weeks before my diagnosis, I’d been reading a news story about how the risk
of dying of Coronavirus is higher for people living with diabetes than people without the condition.

This had scared me silly and gave me more reason to do everything I could to prevent getting it. Yet despite my efforts, I still managed to catch coronavirus. Luckily for me, my experience wasn’t as scary as I expected it to be.

type one diabetes and coronavirus

High Blood Sugar Was The First Sign

I came down with Covid-19 symptoms in July. The first sign something was wrong was a period of high blood sugar. It had been my birthday and I’d eaten my fair share of carbs and drank a bit too much Jack Daniels and wine, so I assumed that had caused it. But my blood sugars weren’t going down, and I spent the whole weekend way above range.

Two days later, I lost my sense of taste and smell. I woke up one morning to a tasteless breakfast – a cup of sweetened tropical juice tasted like tap water and I couldn’t smell my morning coffee. I even tried sniffing jars of curry paste and garlic to make sure, but all I felt was a burning sensation in the back of my nose.

That’s when I knew I needed to get a Covid-19 test.

Within an hour, I’d booked a test and was at a local testing site – in my case, on the car park of a local university campus. The test was pretty easy – uncomfortable, yes, but nothing compared to injecting yourself four times a day. It was done within five minutes and I was back home within 15.

corona and t1d

The Internet Didn’t Reassure Me

I remember that day being pretty worrying, waiting for the inevitable. I was almost 100% sure the test would come back positive, so I wanted to know what would happen next. I didn’t have a temperature and hadn’t developed a cough, and other than the loss of taste and smell and a slight feeling of tiredness, I wouldn’t know that anything was wrong with me.

I began scouring the internet for answers, mainly to try and find blogs of a Type 1 diabetic who had tested positive for Covid-19. I felt like I needed that reassurance, but it was a real struggle to find them, and I remember going down a rabbit hole reading real life accounts of people who were seriously ill in hospital.

I convinced myself that I would be going on a ventilator.

I had just got into bed when I received a text confirming that I had tested positive for Covid-19. The shock and worry hit me again, but in a way it felt like I could move on as I had confirmation of what I already knew.

coronavirus and type one diabetes

My Covid Symptoms Didn’t Get Any Worse

The next day I’d developed a cough and rang my diabetes nurse to see if there was anything they could advise. I was prescribed a week of amoxicillin – an antibiotic usually used to treat chest infections – and given the advice of social distancing from other members of my household, drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest. By this time, thankfully my blood sugars were back to their normal range and seemed to be stable.

As the week progressed, my symptoms luckily didn’t get any worse. In fact, my cough got better. I felt well enough to continue working from home – possibly against doctors’ orders but I needed the distraction. Eating was difficult, though, as everything tasted plain.

My taste started to return around a week later and I began getting my sense of smell back a few days after. It took around three weeks to return to normal and I remember rejoicing when I could taste a curry again!

The Mental Health Impact Was The Toughest

The hardest part was the psychological impact. I’d read stories and even spoken to people in my line of work whose health declined much later on. Each night, I’d go to bed and wonder how I’d feel when I woke up, and getting to sleep was a challenge. I was also trying to work out how I contracted Covid-19, because I’d been so careful.

Like everyone, I was worried about getting the virus.

I hadn’t even stepped foot in a supermarket since March and had abided by all the government guidance. Lockdown had lifted by this time, so I’d seen family and friends during my birthday weekend, but mainly outside and we all kept our distance, and no-one else had any symptoms.

I know I’m very lucky to have only suffered mild symptoms. A combination of factors may have helped – I’m lucky not to have any complications caused by diabetes, my blood sugars are normally in control (my HBA1C is usually around 52-54), I exercise regularly and I’m also
relatively young.

I honestly felt like I had suffered much worse colds

I was bed bound after contracting ‘freshers flu’ in my first year of university and had to take a week off work after the dreaded ‘festival flu’ I picked up from Glastonbury Festival.

This isn’t me downplaying Covid-19 at all, though. I know how devastating it can be as my Grandad, who also had Type 1 diabetes, sadly died from the virus in April. That was another reason why I felt so worried.

But, Grandad had also suffered pneumonia the year before which had scarred his lungs, so that combination of factors unfortunately limited his chances of survival.

It’s just heart-breaking that he, like tens of thousands of others, is a statistic in those that have sadly lost their life to this cruel virus.

covid 19 and diabetes uk

Looking Forward To The Future

Hopefully soon we’ll be learning to live with Covid-19. There’s so much hope out there with vaccines and I do think life will return to some sort of normal. Who knows when that will be, but for now, I’m continuing to be careful.

For those with Type 1 who are worried about catching Covid-19, hopefully it’s reassuring to know that you’re not more likely to catch it
than anyone else and that the majority of people have mild symptoms like I did. My top tips if you do test positive, though:

  • Try not to think of the worst-case scenario
  • Get the support you need if your symptoms worsen
  • And most of all, do not turn to Google!

Where To Turn To

These good, up to date resources can help you feel reassured or answer any questions about coronavirus and Type 1 diabetes:

Lee Kettle
Lee Kettle

Lee was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 20, during his final year of university. He has been living with Type 1 for nine years and manages his condition with four insulin injections a day. Lee is a former journalist who now works in charity communications.

One reply on “How I Coped With Coronavirus As a Type 1 Diabetic”

Great story and captures the ups and downs of this deadly virus as we all know as we were part of the journey with both Lee and my dad (lee’s Grandad) glad Lee made it through x

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