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Georgia’s story: My type 1 diagnosis changed the course of my medical training

Georgia Weston

Georgia was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, aged 26. She is a medical student who has currently taken a year out to complete a master's degree in engineering at Keele University, and once she has finished her training, she hopes to enter the world of diabetes research. She is also a member of the Diabetes UK Communities in Action (CIA) volunteer group. 


Diagnosed during the pandemic

I’m currently in my fifth year of university, intercalating in a Cell and Tissue Engineering MSc. For the last four years I have been training as a medical student at Keele University. During a hospital placement two years ago I realised I was feeling progressively more thirsty than usual and drinking excessively over a period of a few weeks.  

I got home one afternoon and rang my GP as it was coming up to the weekend and I was concerned that the symptoms had gotten worse and thought that it warranted some additional tests. 

I went to the GP who tested my blood sugars via a finger prick and my ketones by a urine sample. I did not feel unwell aside from the thirst, but my blood sugar was 23mmol/L, and my ketones were positive. The GP told me that I was probably in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and arranged for me to go to hospital immediately.  

At accident and emergency, they discovered that my heart was in an abnormal rhythm, so the doctors initially struggled to treat the DKA, and I was transferred to hospital. This was particularly scary because none of my family and friends were allowed to be with me as it was in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was discharged after two days in hospital.  

At the start of my diagnosis, I really struggled to inject and was particularly embarrassed about this because of my medical background. However, it is important to acknowledge that this is a life-changing diagnosis with which I expect everyone has difficulties of some form and I want to share my personal struggles as it might help other people in the same position. 

A few weeks after my diagnosis I had my end of year medical school exams, and I was so relieved when I managed to pass everything first time!  

I was worried that my diagnosis would prevent me from becoming a doctor, but this was the first point where I started to believe that my goals were still achievable and that I could thrive with diabetes rather than just trying to survive with it. 

Journey with diabetes

Medical training

I started medical school over five years ago and am due to qualify in 2024. After leaving school I completed a BTEC in equine studies before working as a carer. It was during this that I found a love of healthcare but started to struggle with the limitations of my job, wishing that I could do more to help people. Aged 21, I joined an access to medicine course, and that is how my medical career began. 

One of the interesting things I’ve experienced since my diagnosis is that diabetes and particularly type 1 diabetes seems very poorly understood by the general population. It’s not simply a case of ‘type 1 diabetes is just insulin and type 2 is lifestyle’.  

There’s so much variation between people, and so many complications, it’s a disease which is different for everyone and that makes it so much more difficult for people to understand. 


Battling hypo unawareness

I use multiple daily injections and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to manage my diabetes. I have looked into the possibility of using an insulin pump, but I am not eligible for this technology on the NHS currently and am unable to afford it myself.  

I love the Dexcom CGM because it can connect with my mum and best friend’s phones, which is particularly helpful as I do not have great hypo awareness. My hypo unawareness was a key reason behind a product I developed during my current master's degree. I had been using the FreeStyle Libre sensors, but the sensors kept failing or I found them inaccurate.  

During the times I had hypos, I sometimes needed other people to help me to treat it. It was then that I considered the idea of a wearable glucose monitor encompassing a dose of glucagon (medication to increase blood sugars). My idea was that this device could keep glucagon inside for two months, and it would auto-inject after fifteen minutes of a severe low blood sugar being detected. I was able to successfully design the product and reached the finals of a global innovation competition called YES22, where our team won the award for ‘Best Engineering’.  

The idea was never put into production due to my educational commitments currently, but I am proud of it and would love to continue the project following my graduation.  


Diabetes research

I am currently working on a three-month project in which I will be creating a 3D scaffold of the brain architecture to simulate conditions following a bleed in the brain. I will then try to determine which blood components cause the arteries to contract and worsen the condition. The hope is that this research will provide vital information which can be used to improve the treatment of brain bleeds in the future. 

Once I have finished my engineering masters and completed my medical degree, I hope to maintain both academic and clinical pursuits, working as an endocrinologist whilst being heavily involved in research. I appreciate that the care I receive for my diabetes today is due to millions of hours of research by dedicated scientists, and I would love to pay that forward and be a part of new advances in treatment too. 

Medicine is evolving more rapidly than ever, and I cannot wait to see what the management of diabetes looks like in the future! 

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