I am Nkiruka Okoro, a 42-year-old Nigerian woman with two children, living and working in Glasgow, Scotland. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven. Today, I am a Senior Clinical Assistant at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
My life changed drastically on 22 February 1988. I went from being a healthy young girl to experiencing rapid weight loss, constant thirst, frequent urination, and other concerning symptoms. After being diagnosed with typhoid fever and malaria, I received intensive treatment at one hospital. Despite efforts to save me, I lost consciousness and was declared dead upon arrival at a teaching hospital.
My twin sister saved my life. She believed I was still alive and insisted I be removed from the morgue. The doctor confirmed her intuition when he found a faint pulse. I was immediately transferred to another hospital and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. My diagnosis shocked my family and me as I was only seven.
I received diabetes education and learned to inject insulin. I stopped eating carbs and focused on vegetables and protein. Despite this, I struggled with depression and took excess insulin at times. Hospital visits became frequent due to hypoglycaemia and DKAs. At age 10, I developed retinopathy and neuropathy. Switching to recombinant humulin insulin saved me, thanks to my parents who could afford the cost.
I faced vulnerability, stigma, and insults and was labelled a witch. I even experienced being abandoned at the altar being told that I could never be a mother or wife. Despite these challenges, I became a diabetes advocate. Along the way, I earned three degrees related to science and diabetes management.
My family has always been my biggest support system, and they have helped me overcome many obstacles. My experience and qualifications have positively impacted the lives of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. My parents have type 2 diabetes, which runs in our family. I understand this condition intimately as I live with it and rely on daily insulin injections.For many years, I’ve led a support group on BlackBerry Messenger and now on WhatsApp that has positively impacted members. Additionally, I educate young people with type 1 diabetes at a yearly youth camp.
“I faced vulnerability, stigma, and insults and was labelled a witch. I even experienced being abandoned at the altar being told that I could never be a mother or wife. Despite these challenges, I became a diabetes advocate. Along the way, I earned three degrees related to science and diabetes management. ”