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May 2024
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What did I feel about being diagnosed?

When you are sick, things happen to you and around you. I’d been to the doctor’s recently and went back home in a slightly worse state than I’d gone in because I still hadn’t been diagnosed. The locum GP thought I “didn’t look diabetic to [them]”.

Some people think you’re too young to remember what happened. This is what I remember.


I’d got sick in the summer, after finishing my second term at nursey school. School was great. I got sick very soon after the hoiday began. I spent a few days wrapped in blankets propped up on the sofa with my favourite rag doll. Part of me liked being that cocooned, though it was a bit boring.

By the time I went back after the summer, I was quieter and thirsty. The nursery assistant noticed I was now drinking the free milk – before the summer, I hadn’t touched it with a 10′ barge pole, now I was finishing it faster than anyone, even though I’d puked it back up shortly later a few times – I have never liked milk.

The walk to school was getting harder. Christmas was approaching. Father Christmases and mince pies. Sitting down as much as I could. Being asked to hurry up and mum putting me in my brother’s pram because that was quicker on longer walks.

I never wet the bed, I’m pretty good in the dark and the seat was down on the bathroom toilet, but the lid was up. Not a problem. We had a downstairs loo, so at home everything was dandy. A loo was never far away.

I remember sitting quietly a lot of the time but not sleeping. I’ve never been able to sleep when my blood sugar is high. The level where it is possible to sleep is now really quite low since I am in range so long. Over those weeks, the level must have been quite high.

We walked to the GPs. I remember the waiting room from visits for my family. There was a toy room with a rocking horse. That seemed like a lot of faff. I just sat on the big chair with mum while my kid brother played, we watched.

The lady was dark haired not Dr Smith. But the fish tank was there, tropical fish. I felt a bit brighter, a good sit down always helped. I watched the fish with my brother while mum spoke to the doctor. Mum was upset she wouldn’t test me.

Saturday and mum went to work as normal. I played with my brother in my room and went to bed after tea. The next morning, I peed into the beaker. Mum let me watch the colour change in the test tube when my urine was added, 15 drops and the big tablet was added. Then I was allowed to drink something. We had beef for lunch, when we visited my gran we’d get some of the beef my gran and granddad didn’t eat. No potato. Lot’s of gravy. Water only. I don’t remember tea. Normally it would be eggs and bread – my grandparents kept chickens, we ate a lot of boiled eggs for Sunday tea but I don’t remember that. I was hungry and ached, even walking across the lounge seemed like an awful lot of effort. Dad carried me to bed: I’d already had my bath.

The day.

Mum wanted me to wear the green dress I didn’t really like. We were taking dad to work. Then we drove out, away from home.

We parked and walked into the hospital. I just wanted to go home. Mum was a pharmacist, so she’d briefed me. The doctors would test me, then I’d have injections and they would make me better. It would mean injections, for always, but I would be better.

I remember waiting and being hungry and thirsty. Being four, I couldn’t tell the time and didn’t have much clue about the fact we were there all day. My dad didn’t have a telephone for personal use, so when we’d walked to the children’s ward, mum waited then spoke to the nurse – she’d be back and would take my brother so it was less effort, but she’d leave me and come back with my dad.

I was happy sitting. It was nice being quiet on the seat in the corridor between the young children’s rooms with the cribs and the main ward for the older kids. The treatment room was down the corridor, past the loos, I’d been once already.

The nurse asked me to go with her down to the treatment room. There was a picture of Rupert Bear on the door and a few other cut out cartoon figures, Mickey Mouse and Popeye. I don’t hold images in my memory, so I don’t remember if I don’t have the names of them. A filing cabinet and venetian blinds. A few nurses and a doctor, a young man with curly hair and a big moustache. He wanted me to look away while he set up a drip. I wasn’t asked to sit still, I was held.

In my brain, I think I was reasonably stating that wasn’t right, it was supposed to be an injection. My mum remembers it as me wailing. If you’ve ever read Calvin and Hobbes, think Calvin calmly expressing himself to his mum about why something should or shouldn’t be so – mum’s assessment is probably right.

The doctor took mum and dad outside, then mum came back in and said it would be OK. Once the drip was up, mum helped me undress and I wore a hospital gown, mum hadn’t thought I’d be kept in.

I was put in a crib which felt very unfair, I was a big girl and slept in a bed.

I watched the drip for a long while. I think my levels must have come down enough to allow me to sleep, so I did.

I didn’t know what day it was, other than a Monday – two days after mum went to work. I didn’t find out it was the 12th December, 1977. My diagnosis day.

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