You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf (my battle with ketones) – by Zoe Morris

zoe-237x237I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for a year now and I’ve rarely had any problems with ketones, other than when I was diagnosed after going into DKA. However this weekend proved to be both challenging and exhausting to say the least.

I had completely forgot to do my background Levemir insulin before I went to bed on Friday night, so it was no wonder why my blood glucose level was high when I tested the following morning. I felt rough when I woke up. I had a bit of a sore head and I had a really bad belly ache. I felt sick too. These are all usually signs of having ketones so I decided to check my blood glucose level to find out, to my astonishment, my level was 25.3 mmol. I’ve been high like that before on odd occasions but I don’t always have ketones. I then proceeded to the bathroom to test my urine for ketones. I only use the urine test strips. To my surprise it was high. Extremely high in fact. I was shocked.

So my plan was to test every two hours, follow the sick day rules from DAFNE, give insulin and drink plenty of water, hoping I’d be able to eventually get it back down into a more comfortable and manageable level without ketones or the risk of going into DKA.

The rest of the day proved to be very challenging. I was struggling to get my levels down and the ketones too for that matter. It’s not easy being a diabetic. It’s hard. Very hard in fact. I think of it like a massive ocean. You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf. This weekend was that moment. I guess I can’t always stop these sort of mistakes or events from happening. Sometimes you can’t predict how your blood glucose level will go or how your body will cope either. All you can do is your best to try and fix it and that’s what I had to do. It was time to learn to surf!


Looking back now I probably should’ve phoned 111 or gone to A&E when my levels reached a ridiculously high level of 33.3 mmol with +++ ketones. I just wanted to work hard because I knew within myself that I could do it and I guess I didn’t want to give up. I hadn’t been sick so as far as I was aware I should’ve been able to rectify it on my own with sheer inner strength and perseverance. The DAFNE course teaches you and gives you the confidence to treat issues such as this yourself. I had completed it in December so I had no reason to believe this wasn’t achievable.

We all have moments when diabetes can get too much. Trust me, this was definitely one of them and by the time it reached almost 10pm, I was physically drained. Mentally too in fact. My body was weak and I was tired from fighting but eventually I managed to get my ketones to come down to ++ and my blood glucose level was dropping too.

The following day started well with no ketones and a blood glucose level of 7.7 mmol. But by dinnertime Sunday evening however my blood glucose level had rose back up go 21 mmol. It was beginning to look like a cat and mouse game with no valid explanation. One minute I was getting it back under control and the next it was back to square one.

The following morning I managed to wake up with a level of 10 mmol and no ketones. Finally I was happy. I still didn’t feel 100% though. I had a bit of a headache too but that could’ve been from all the stress. I decided to keep an eye on it throughout the day by testing continuously. I also decided to continue drinking plenty of water too just be on the safe side.

Everyone has a form of inner strength I guess. Whether we choose to believe it or not. This weekend I struggled to find mine but eventually I managed to work hard and I proved to myself that I knew what I was doing. I had the determination I needed to get rid of the ketones myself and to get my blood glucose level back down in range. I guess it was just a matter of putting all the information into place and waiting for it to take its course. The waiting game was unbearable but I got there in the end and eventually I won.

Zoe 1 – Diabetes 0

However it got me thinking, was this caused by the sheer mistake of missing an insulin dose or was it something else? Illnesses can play a huge part in how our bodies cope with managing our diabetes. It can potentially be a curve ball which can through us completely off course. Perhaps I was suffering from a bug?

I also think about the fact that I only have urine test strips to rely on to check for ketones. I am aware that other diabetics are able to use blood ketone readers. I wonder if that could’ve made a difference. Would I have spotted it sooner? It would’ve made it far easier to test regularly and more accurately too. Urine tests are delayed so I guess you never fully know what is actually happening with your own body.

Either way, I will take this moment on board and learn from it. I guess when you look back at situations after being in the middle of it all you can look at it more as a bigger picture. I guess there were several things I could’ve done differently but in hindsight it’s easier to say that. I guess we all live and learn and this was no exception.

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