A diabetic who almost died when poisonous acids flooded her body causing it to ‘shrivel’ by more than a stone in one day, has called for more support for young adults diagnosed with the condition.
Hannah Postles, 29, collapsed at home when her blood sugar levels soared and it was only due to quick-thinking colleagues who realised she hadn’t turned up for work that her life was saved.
The day before she became ill Hannah, who lived in East Ardsley at the time and worked as a journalist in Bradford, had been bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding.
“I was full of energy, running around chasing my baby nephew. Family and friends had commented on how well I looked,” she said.
But the following day Hannah, who has type one diabetes, started to feel unwell and within hours was so sick and exhausted that her blood sugar levels - which were now so high they were causing her body to ‘become acidic’ - became the last thing on her mind.
Unbeknown to her, Hannah, who lived alone, had developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a condition caused by a severe lack of insulin which means the body cannot process glucose, and starts to break down body tissue as a source of energy instead.
When the alarm was raised and a colleague’s partner went to her home to check, he discovered her lying behind the front door, struggling to breathe and talking incoherently. In the short time she had been ill she had lost more than a stone in weight due to loss of fluid in her body and her organs were badly damaged.
She was rushed to Pinderfield’s Hospital in Wakefield and admitted to the intensive care unit where medics battled to save her.
During her week in ICU, Hannah was pumped with insulin, antibiotics and ‘bicarbonate of soda’ to balance the acid flooding her body. Her kidneys were unable to cope with water tablets and her body swelled by four stone as it started to take in the fluids she so badly needed. After a week in intensive care she moved to a ward where she was treated for another two weeks before being discharged.
Had Hannah, who was only diagnosed with diabetes in 2011, not been helped in time she could easily have suffered the same fate as young mum Nicky Rigby, 26, of the Wirral, who, unaware she was diabetic, died after developing DKA.
Now, a year on from her collapse Hannah has called for more support for young adults diagnosed with type one diabetes.
She said when she was told she had the condition, which is often diagnosed in childhood, she was given a brief crash course in how to inject insulin and manage the diabetes and sent home with a bag of needles and equipment.
“She was given follow up appointments, but said she felt more support could have been offered, especially with the complicated procedures diabetics need to take when they become unwell - as illness can cause a spike in blood sugars.
She said: “I was told ‘you will be doing this for the rest of your life’.
“If I had been diagnosed as a child I believe I would have had more specialists give support and advice.
“The day I collapsed, had I not been found when I was I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.
“DKA can easily kill, but it’s something people don’t really know exists really.”
She said she still didn’t know if it was illness that had caused her blood sugar levels to rocket, or if it had been high blood sugar that had made her ill, but she said more support following her diagnosis with diabetes could have prevented what had happened as she would have been better informed.
Since then, Hannah has moved to south Yorkshire to start a new job with ‘more routine’ as a media relations officer at the University of Sheffield.
Now living with the mantra “I control my diabetes and don’t let it control me,” Hannah said writing a blog about the incident and raising awareness was helping her cope with what had happened.