My experience with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can kill you.

I have experienced diabetic ketoacidosis only once in my life time. You can find many stories about type 1 diabetics who die from ketoacidosis. Fortunately I survived the experience and learned an important lesson.

I started taking insulin when I was 11 years old.  I remember being about 14 years old when I became ill and would throw up everything I tried to eat. At the time, both my parents were on a one week vacation.  They arranged for a sitter to take of me and my siblings at our home.  I thought that since I could not keep my food down, I should not take any insulin.  BIG mistake.

When my parents returned I was so sick they immediately took me to the hospital.  I spent about a week there recovering from diabetic ketoacidosis.

Lesson Learned.

The pancreas of a true type 1 diabetic doesn’t produce any insulin.  Even if you cannot eat any food, a type 1 still needs some insulin to prevent the occurrence of diabetic ketoacidosis.  It’s critical that all type 1 diabetics have a plan for when their primary source of insulin becomes unavailable.

Murphy’s Law.

I use an insulin pump to manage my type 1.  Keeping an extra pump on hand would cost me about $6000.  A waste of money since I’ve never had a pump go bad?  Have you ever dropped a bottle of insulin on a tile floor?  Was it the last one you had on hand?  Did it happen on a weekend?  Was the prescription out of refills?  Murphy’s law  says “anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.   You need a backup plan just it case you might need it someday.

My backup Plan.

I know from experience that I can turn off my pump for up to 4 hours without my BG level going sky high.  Beyond that period, I need a way get insulin into my body sooner rather than later.  A replacement pump could take 24 hours or more to arrive.  You could use Lantus insulin to manage your basal insulin levels but you need a prescription.  Hard to get one on a weekend.  The only option left is NPH insulin.  You can get NPH at most pharmacies without a prescription for about $25.  In most states you can also get diabetic syringes without a prescription.  Please make sure to speak with a qualified endocrinologist to find a backup plan that will work for you just in case what can go wrong DOES go wrong.


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