Savefor later Page saved! You can go back to this later in your Diabetes and Me Close

Jordan's story: Undiagnosed type 2 diabetes after covid nearly cost me my life

""

Jordan Charles

“I hope that other young people and other Black people are aware of the symptoms and know that diabetes is something that can be easily tested for."

After having Covid, Jordan Charles suffered a devastating collapse caused by undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Here, he talks about his road to recovery.

Diagnosis

Covid

In early 2020, artist and performer Jordan Charles was 28 and gaining confidence in a varied career that saw him sing at gigs and events at festivals, private parties, and on cruise ships. 

A few weeks later, Jordan developed a cough. After he developed flu-like symptoms, began to cough up blood and suffered severe shortness of breath, Jordan called 111. He spent a night in hospital, where he was given oxygen to help with his breathing.

“It wasn’t too scary,” he says. “The doctors and nurses were very comforting, and the oxygen helped.”

After being discharged, Jordan recovered within a couple of weeks. But as lockdown restrictions began to ease that summer, he began experiencing sudden, acute episodes of lethargy.

“That was so out of character for me,” he says. “I’m an extrovert. I enjoy chatting with people. But there were times when I’d have to suddenly excuse myself from a conversation. Sometimes people assumed I was being rude, and it caused some friction.”

Symptoms

For some people, coronavirus can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called ‘long COVID’ or ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’. Jordan assumed that this was the cause of his energy dips.

“I was trying to wait it out, hoping it would get better soon,” he says.In September, Jordan’s symptoms intensified. Added to his fatigue, he had muscle cramps, needed to pee frequently, and lost his appetite.

He asked his aunt, a medical professional, for advice. She suggested his symptoms could be caused by diabetes, as they had a family history of type 2.

“I didn’t really know anything about diabetes or how serious it could be,” says Jordan. “I booked an appointment with my GP, but the day before I felt so terrible I decided to go to hospital. Getting in the taxi to A&E is the last thing that I remember.”

Complications

At hospital, Jordan collapsed and was resuscitated before being put on life support. Tests showed his blood sugar levels were 127mmol/l. He had no idea that in the months following his recovery from coronavirus, he’d developed type 2 diabetes. 

While it’s already known that people living with diabetes are more at risk of suffering severe effects of coronavirus, new evidence suggests that in some people – like Jordan – the virus could be triggering the condition.

“Doctors told me a blood glucose reading that high was incredibly rare,” says Jordan. “It caused lung failure, heart failure, pancreatitis and kidney injury.

"My body was shutting down. I was told that if I’d waited another hour before going to hospital, I wouldn’t have survived.”

Jordan was suffering from hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state (HHS). This occurs in people with type 2 diabetes who experience very high blood glucose levels – often over 40mmol/l. 

Critically ill, he was placed in an induced coma for three days while medics battled to save his life. After three days in intensive care, Jordan was transferred to a high dependency unit.

“One day, I was chatting to a nurse, and my partner brought in cards from our friends. I remember looking out of the window and thinking, ‘I’m back.’

“But I was a long way from being healed,” he says. “The extent to which my illness had affected everyone around me that I loved and cared about was devastating. I didn’t realise how bad it’d been.”

Treatment

As he recovered, diabetes nurses talked to Jordan about the condition and treatment options. They explained that because he had suffered pancreatitis – a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed – he needed to treat his condition with metformin and insulin while his pancreas recovered.
 

Emotions

Recovering my voice

“I was very worried about managing diabetes, but I thought the way to get through it was to be as proactive in my healing as possible.

“Emotionally, it was like I’d had my entire self stripped away. But I then had the opportunity to find and become myself again. 

“Being intubated (when you can't breathe on your own) was physically terrible, and losing my voice was mentally terrible. When I was extubated, I said, with no hint of irony, ‘you’ve ruined me!’

“Getting back to being myself took a long time.”

Jordan had counselling to help him deal with the psychological effects of his ordeal, while his singing teacher helped him recover his voice.

Today, Jordan is healthy and back at work, performing across the country. He currently treats his diabetes with metformin and insulin.

“My diabetes team has been very good at giving me the medical support I need and also dealing with the worry and the fear side of the condition. Sometimes it feels like I’m fighting with this thing that’s not always tangible."

“Now I have a better understanding of how different foods and drinks impact my blood sugars. The biggest surprise was that there’s secret sugar everywhere! Now, if I see anything on a label that ends in ‘-ose’, I don’t go anywhere near it.”

Young black man wearing sparkly suit and singing into a microphone in a jump

Raising awareness

Jordan wants to raise awareness of the symptoms of type 2, particularly for people who are recovering from coronavirus.“I hope that other young people and other Black people are aware of the symptoms and know that diabetes is something that can be easily tested for

I understand how disorientating those symptoms can be and how easy it is to blame them on something else. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t tested earlier. If I had, it may not have become such a big dramatic issue.

“When I was recovering in hospital, I was continually impressed, surprised and moved by all the people who were involved in keeping me alive. I want to thank them for everything they did because I wouldn’t be here without them.”

 

Jordan's story first appeared in our membership magazine Balance.

Brand Icons/Telephonecheck - FontAwesomeicons/tickicons/uk