I was being carried on a makeshift stretcher through the jungles of Northern Thailand and put into the back of a truck. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened…
Twelve years ago, I decided to spend a month in Thailand travelling. I had been diagnosed with diabetes when I was 11 so it was already a big part of my life and I felt confident enough to manage it whilst I was travelling.
I signed up to take part in a group guided jungle trek in Northern Thailand. This would entail a few days of trekking with stop overs in villages and home stays. On the second day of our trek we stopped over in a small village. I remember it being so humid and I was constantly sweating. Looking back, I didn’t adjust my insulin or check my glucose levels enough. I also remember that I didn’t feel like eating much at dinner and only had a small bowl of rice.
What happened next
Now, I don’t remember what happened that night, but this panic fell on the people around me. I was told after that I had experienced a nocturnal hypo and diabetic seizure. I had been quickly put onto a makeshift stretcher and carried through the jungle to a dirt road where I was met by a pickup truck.
Luckily, my partner travelled with me and we went to a small village hospital. There were language barriers and it was very hard to explain what had happened to me and that I needed glucose. But by this point it was too late; I had started being sick and couldn’t keep anything down. I was then transferred to a large hospital in Chiang Mai where I spent 2 nights. I had an MRI scan and CT scan and lots of tests to work out what had happened. This caused a lot of worry and concern for my partner and my family back at home.
I had never experienced a diabetic seizure before and I had never been told that it could happen! I found out that seizures can happen as a result of diabetes if very low sugar levels occur. These are known as non-epileptic seizures. The seizure can cause a diabetic patient to fall into a coma if not treated urgently.
I have travelled many more times since this seizure on my own and I am much more careful about my control and insulin requirements especially when visiting warmer climates.
But it didn’t stop there
However, a few weeks ago I was awoken to two paramedics standing beside my bed.
Again, I didn’t know what had happened. I was told by my partner that I had jumped up in the night screaming and trying to run out of the room. My legs had buckled and I fell to the floor twice. This was then followed by violent convulsions. I went quiet, blue and still. Alarm bells rang and my partner immediately phoned 999. He opened my airways at which point I started gasping for air. The paramedics turned up and I was given an ECG and a blood oxygen test. I was given a glucose drink but started to vomit. They then gave me an anti-emetic injection to stop the vomiting.
This worked and luckily I didn’t need to go to hospital. The shocking thing about this for me is that I have a Dexcom G6 and I had been carefully tracking my glucose levels, carb ratios, diet and exercise. For some reason, The Dexcom alarm didn’t wake me this time like it usually does.
Dexcom and other CGM’s are wonderful but it is important not to rely on them solely. You need to have a backup plan for in case they don’t work. I also now have alerts set up on my Dexcom so that my parents are notified if I have a low blood sugar level.
I decided that it is important to raise awareness of diabetic seizures as although they don’t occur often with hypoglycaemia they can still happen and can have devastating consequences. I have shared my experiences via mine and my partner’s IG @typeonestyle.
Thank you for reading this and I hope it has helped you!
Emma has experienced a lot with her diabetes, and in some cases in extreme environments. Emma has climbed mountains, trekked across the outback in Australia, and even had a diabetic seizure in the middle of a jungle. Emma has had diabetes for over 20 years and is fully aware of the risks that come with it, but Emma lives her life in spite of this and is always pushing for more. She lives life on her terms and just brings diabetes along for the ride.
Emma's story highlights how important it is to prepare for unexpected lows, especially when travelling, but the key take home is that you can do all of these things. You can do extreme sports, solo-hiking, and explore the world. Your diabetes doesn't stop you from doing that; only your fear of the highs and lows.
But you can prepare and plan and avoid these. Your fear of the consequences can be replaced by your self-confidence in your ability to know your body and your trust in yourself that you have backup plans for when things take a turn.
Sometimes we make mistakes and we learn from these. Emma didn't plan on having a hypo in the middle of a jungle or having a seizure in the night a few weeks ago, but she had a support network in place each time she needed one.
Our lives are ours to live and we should not let our freedom be restricted by our diabetes.
Hi I’m Emma and I’ve been Type 1 for 25 years now. Since having a CGM for the past year, I have taken more control of my diabetes. I have always kept my diabetes quite private not wanting to talk about it to others. Last year, I decided to create my own IG: @insulem85 and I now enjoy sharing and engaging with the diabetic community. It is such an amazing thing to have at your fingertips. I only wish I had this when I was growing up with diabetes.