By Pooja Hurkat

My Struggle with Diabetes

I am Pooja. My struggle with diabetes started when I was 9 years old. I was a healthy child who used to be plump and energetic. My father is a doctor, a child specialist and my mother is a housewife. We are three sisters. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was naive since I was so young. After the diagnosis, I was not allowed to eat rice, potatoes, and sweets (I loved chocolates). It is very challenging for a kid to resist eating all such things. My mother used to inject me with insulin and for that my parents had to struggle as I would get restless.

Dr. Pooja as a young kid

When I was in 9th standard, I realized I looked much smaller than girls my age. I was a teen and like other children my age, I too started getting conscious about my looks. I wasn’t growing as I should have and my parents got worried. As a consequence, they took me to Mumbai to consult a doctor. My insulin frequency was increased from two times a day to three times a day. As I grew, I saw skin changes on my legs. I started developing ugly brown patches due to dysregulated blood sugar levels. Thankfully, they disappeared later due to some improvement in sugar levels .

The biggest challenge with most juvenile diabetics is that they do not meet many individuals who struggle with the same difficulties, especially in remote places like Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. Though my family supported me completely, I missed having friends who would understand my hardships.

I wanted to become a doctor. After passing school, I started preparing for medical entrance exams and joined a coaching class. However, I had to study for very long hours because of which I stopped working out and this started affecting my physical well-being as well as mental health. I felt depressed and demotivated which started affecting my studies. So this was a vicious cycle.

Listen to Dr. Pooja Talk about her Journey here: https://www.youtu.be/zYcPXfm8_8

Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder yet social stigma

I realized that diabetes is a lifestyle disorder by the time I was 25 years old. Before that, I didn’t manage it diligently because of which I started getting protein in urine and also developed high blood pressure. Also, like most juvenile diabetics, I developed hypothyroidism as well. I started managing my blood sugar levels by being cautious. However, I had no idea of what was to come. As I was growing older, I started thinking it would be nice to have a companion so I started discussing marriage with my parents. Unfortunately, they would always brush aside the marriage talk and insist that I work ever harder to become more independent, more successful in life. Maybe, they wanted to make me resilient and immune to the social stigma and discrimination that came my way because of my condition. I was now an M. Pharm and teaching in a college.

Some Snapshots from Dr. Pooja Hurkat’s life

The worst was yet to come

My health was deteriorating at a fast pace. I was gaining weight and my body had developed swellings. My insulin levels were high and I struggled with water retention. My creatinine was so high that it started showing up in my blood test results. My creatinine levels had gone up alarmingly to 3-4, and I had to be on medicines for several months to stabilize it. In 2011, I switched to an ayurvedic medication, which had heavy metals as ingredients and that affected my kidneys. As a result, my creatinine levels shot up to 6. The doctor informed us that I was hardly 6 months away from getting started on dialysis! We were told to look for a kidney donor. My father and middle sister came forward to donate. However, both had health complications due to which they were deemed unfit to donate.

We were looking for a donor and meanwhile my creatinine had skyrocketed to 9 and dialysis had become inevitable. Unfortunately, it was a challenge to make a fistula, which is necessary to ensure smooth dialysis, because I have very thin veins. So the next option was a perma-cath. We were also simultaneously searching for a kidney donor at the same time. We started consulting a nephrologist at a reputed hospital in Gurgaon . The doctor insisted that my father be screened again and this time, thankfully, he was declared fit to be a donor as his Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) value was good.

Journey through dialysis and transplant

The doctors informed us that they will put an intra-jugular catheter in my neck and then initiate dialysis. Me and my family were terrified because this catheter is highly sensitive and even a slightest of infection could be fatal. I was very anxious during the first day of dialysis as I had heard of horror stories about patients grappling with side-effects like nausea, vomiting, cramps, low blood pressure, etc. I was feeling alright during the process, however, did get some cramps towards the end. The dialysis continued for 2 weeks and then came the day of the transplant. My father looked very strong and determined and in the preoperative room, he was in the bed next to mine. I was in the Operation Theatre for 3 hours. Once the procedure was done, I thanked the doctors who operated on me. I was then shifted to the ICU and after spending 10 days in the hospital, I was finally discharged.
I’m eternally thankful to my dad because of whom I got a fresh lease of life!

Dr. Pooja with her father

Life After Transplant

The fight is not over yet but I am still growing strong!! I am on immunosuppressants and Insulin(s). I am constantly trying to strike a balance in my sugar level and kidney profile. You get freedom to eat but still need to balance your intake of potassium, proteins and carbohydrates. I drink lots of water to keep my kidney hydrated. I regularly get my kidney profile checked every three months. To me health comes first as it is the key to live and achieve all my dreams.

Dr. Pooja Hurkat today is an inspiration to her friends, family and colleagues. By leading a patient-centric initiative in her organization, she aspires to touch several lives.

To anyone afflicted with any disease, I have one message. Be brave and conquer your fears, everything will fall in place eventually.

Stay strong!
Dr. Pooja Hurkat
(A Survivor)

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