My Journey Begins

By Stephen Schwetz

This has taken some time to manage to get the free time to write this; work, kids and my personal life have all been at the forefront of the last 6 months. I am writing this down now, trying to remember the timeline but it is a bit hazy.

Thyroid Issues.

Many moons ago; a much fitter and younger version of me was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. After 12 months of medication to give my poor thyroid a break, a month with nothing I went back to the endocrinologist to go over the blood tests. My thyroid had shot up to overactive again. You don’t want hyperthyroidism as the primary concern is thyroid storm, which usually leads to death.

I had been warned of the treatment risks; a 10% chance that it wouldn’t be enough, a 60% chance that it was just right and a 30% chance that it would be too much. The odds looked to be in my favour; the 10% you get another dose led to you falling into the too much category at the end with the 30 percenters from the first dose. The 60% chance would later in life as your thyroid wore out you would end up with the 10 and 30 percenters. Not that this would matter, as it means that at some stage in your life, you will need to take a tablet. Hypothyroidism is easily treatable.

Referral in hand I made a booking to attend the radiological department at the hospital. On the day, it took all of 30 seconds to have the treatment. I drank the drink and went home to an empty house. The rest of the family had moved out for five days as I had a one-year-old and a three-year-old daughter. Due to the risks of them taking up the Iodine and their longer lifetime having the Iodine, it was recommended that they move out. I was given a Sick note for work, as I was not allowed to be near pregnant women, and as I was doing road-based IT break/fix I would not know if there would be someone pregnant on site.

I took the tablets for the next 9 years with no changes to my condition, and a blood test every 6 months to keep an eye on it, but nothing changed. My family has a history of Type 2 diabetes, The Doctor was keeping an eye on it with regular fasting blood tests. I knew what to look out for symptom-wise and was being proactive about making the right lifestyle choices to keep it at bay. These both had blood tests run for them in July 2020, and no issues were found, my fasting sugars were on the high side of normal, but these had always been a little up and down.

Funkiness Happens.

September 2020 rolled around, I mentioned to my Dr that I had been finding it hard to do things, I was always tired and worn down, being a good Dr she recognized the signs and sent me for a blood test. We had been expecting this at some stage so when the results came back as low thyroid the solution was simple, increase the medication dose slightly wait a month, and retest.

The blood tests for October came back, and the levels were not quite right so the dose was increased again. November’s results came back, and everything was where it should be. I was given another blood test for December to make sure. I was still tired and worn down, but apparently, it can take months for this to wear off, as the hormones may be right in the blood but the muscle still needs time to increase the stores.

In December, feeling slightly better I did the test and went back to the doctor. Unexpected to both of us the test results again showed results that were as bad as September. I was handed another bloodiest for early Jan, and if it still showed bad results then it would be referred back to the Endocrinologist. We would not be needing it.

My loathing of Christmas.

I have never been a fan of Christmas for as long as I can remember, shopping for gifts trying to work out what gift I would get for whom, and then having to brave the shopping centers full of people jostling for the same shelves. Then family gatherings involve lots of noise, bright flashing lights, and arguments between siblings.

I found solace for some years in working on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, nobody in the family questioned it, and at double-time and a half, those two days made me a week’s wages.

Flash forward to the lead-up towards Christmas 2020, add a heavy dose of the above autistic traits, along with the baggage that comes with having a mental health condition created by a workplace injury and I was struggling. I had been back to work full-time for 8 months having picked up a contracting job with a multi-national IT company right as the COVID-19 lockdowns were taking effect in Australia.

I was worn down, always tired, easily overwhelmed and had two goals:

  1. Make it to the end of the working year (18th December), and
  2. Get to watch my two girls unwrap their presents.

I pushed through the 18th and looked forward to things getting better. In two words “they didn’t”, I felt more like I was falling apart and everything was getting more complicated. It was muggy, and I was finding that I needed to drink a lot of water to feel quenched. I used all the CBT plays to challenge myself to find the proof that I was not coping and was about to fall apart mentally. I repeatably told myself I needed to make it through Christmas Day. Just wait until I see their faces, it will be worth the struggles.

On Christmas Eve, I even managed to get the girls out before the store that we needed to go to close. I knew that Emma would love her present. I had to look back on previous presents that I had got partners added them all together and had the perfect gift.

Christmas Day 2020.

The day had arrived, Santa had arrived, and the girls were energetic. We gave each other presents, and it was a blur, even now I don’t know what everybody had been given. We had a couple of hours to spare at home, and the feeling of burnout was still present, Emma was going to keep the girls entertained, so I crashed out for a couple of hours of sleep before we headed to my parents for the extended family lunch.

On the drive over, I felt like I was a loose cannon, I told Emma that I was on the cusp of not being safe to drive, my concentration was shot, and I felt like I was not in control. We made it to my parents, and it was what I knew was going to be noisy and overwhelming. I watched the girls unwrap their presents along with the rest of my family, I had no idea who was getting what, and once it was done, I told everyone that I was done, went to a bedroom, and crashed out asleep in about 1.5 seconds.

My mother and sister were/are nurses and, along with my partner (who worked within NSW Health), were worried about how I was presenting and felt that there was more to it than just being worn down by my thyroid. I was stumbling a little and slurring my words (probably typical for some at 12 p.m. on Christmas Day, but I am a non-drinker), so they decided to make sure there weren’t any issues to test my blood sugars.

Hello DKA and into the ICU

The meter reading was not good, and an ambulance was called, I went to the hospital and was promptly placed onto DKA Protocols.

Ketoacidosis is related to hyperglycaemia, a severe condition associated with illness or very high blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetes. It develops gradually over hours or days. It is a sign of insufficient insulin. Most cases of ketoacidosis occur in people with type 1, which rarely occurs in people with type 2.

Without enough insulin, the body’s cells cannot use glucose for energy. To compensate for this, the body burns fat for energy instead. This leads to the accumulation of dangerous chemical substances in the blood called ketones, which also appear in the urine.


For some reason, I took this photo in the ICU… Go figure…

The Diagnosis

On the 26th at some stage, I made it out of the ICU into the Endo ward. I woke up in the evening and then had two fantastic ham and cheese sandwiches, and promptly went back to sleep. On the 27th, I made it onto the general ward and, over the following three days, had a crash course in how to manage my condition in survival mode.

This basically revolved around taking a set amount of insulin and then covering it with food. I would not recommend this lifestyle to anyone that doesn’t eat a lot, because I ate a lot. I had to have meals with 60g of carbs 3 times a day with 3 snacks of 16gms.

There was some pondering about what type of diabetes that I had, as I was showing all the markers of type 1 (it is rare for type 2 to suffer from DKA); but it is rare to have a 42-year-old overweight dude show up with type 1. But as always, I am a unique type of dude and after some questioning, and adding in psoriasis and Graves disease I indeed am type 1.

You will be kept up to date with this, as a lifelong affliction there will be much more that I can write about.

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