Thirty-four year old Gourav is the best lifestyle coach that one could ask for, customising everything from what you should eat, when and why, besides suggesting a daily routine that works around your worklife. He should know. A Type 1 diabetic, who unfortunately wasn’t diagnosed early enough and who lost an eye because he didn’t take it as seriously as he should have, he knows the common mistakes we make. “There should be diabetes education and a multi-disciplinary approach to disease management. This is something that most Indians ignore. In the end it is too late,” says he.
Gourav, an IT and hospitality professional, was diagnosed at 15 but made the cardinal mistake of not measuring his life moment to moment that Type I diabetes demands. He slipped badly but has swung back now, realising that living with diabetes is really about self-discipline.
The diagnosis and the challenges of treatment
In 2003, Gourav started losing weight excessively. He would get thirsty irrationally and urinate frequently. His mother consulted a physician, who suggested tests. The results, which he got on his birthday, showed he had Type I diabetes. “My fasting blood sugar was 585. My family went into deep shock as nobody in my maternal or paternal line had any history of the disease,” says he. As the doctors raised an alarm saying that Gourav could collapse at any point of time, his parents rushed him to Safdarjung Hospital, where he was given insulin shots. He had to stay in hospital for 11 days till his levels stabilised.
Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes as it is detected among the young, is a condition in which one’s immune system destroys insulin-making cells, called beta cells, in your pancreas. Insulin is a hormone which is automatically generated and counters the amount of excessive glucose which is produced during digestion. When your body doesn’t produce insulin, the only way out is to inject insulin. This treatment, among the young, is difficult as it involves taking injections up to four times a day.
“We have to manage the insulin shots at a certain temperature and then there are multiple factors to look into along with it,” says Gourav, who has been taking insulin shots since his teenage life. The concerned family consulted numerous doctors who could magically make diabetes disappear from the 15-year-old boy’s life but that was a clinical impossibility. But what did confound the young teen was a codified protocol. “Every doctor had their own opinion about the medication and dietary habits. Even the sugar testing equipment was not easily available in 2003 and it was expensive to manage,” says Gourav.
Out of sight, out of mind and another crisis
After his prolonged treatment at Safdarjung Hospital, Gourav resumed his natural rhythms and got used to medication being a part of his life. He completed his school years and was able to manage multiple classes, tuition and spending time with family and friends. But adulting meant transgressions here and there. “While I took medication, did not have sweets and maintained the mandated regime, I did go out with friends and ended up having street food as a normal teenager would without thinking twice. Since I did not gain weight, I thought my insulin shots were protecting me. I never actually thought about the future. This was the beginning of my progressive condition,” says Gourav.
Being physically active, he never felt any symptom that indicated his levels were swinging or that they needed closer management. “Even though my blood sugar levels were sometimes up to 400 post-prandial, I was good to go and was running. I would work it out of my system,” says he.
The minor transgressions became major when Gourav signed up for a hotel management course, where he also took up a course in hardware and networking. “I took up a one-year diploma in hardware and networking while I was doing my graduation in hotel management. It was really tough to maintain a healthy lifestyle but at the same time, I wanted to do something good with my life,” he adds. Thus began a hectic, non-stop work schedule where both his days and nights were dedicated to work, where he would eat at delayed intervals, late at night and not in the correct proportions. However, with no major indications to the contrary, he thought his insulin shots were acting like his shield. “My then girlfriend, who is my wife now, ensured that I took my medicines on time,” he adds.
In 2009, Gourav was hired as a management trainee with a hotel manager and in 2011 he took his first assignment as a manager. Since then, he never looked back as he successfully married his IT skills with management and eventually was given charge of a top resort in Maldives. He also got married in 2018.
The year tragedy struck and mismanagement of doctors
In March 2020, Gourav came to Delhi on a visit from the Maldives when the lockdown was announced. “We had no other option but to stay back. As the hospitality sector was badly hit, my company asked me to resign, promising me that it would hire me back when things became better. It did want to hire me in December that year, but I looked for another, more stable option,” says Gourav, who got a job again in June 2021. That’s when life delivered his biggest blow.
“One fine day in July, when I was washing my face, my vision suddenly blurred. I wondered why there was so much fog in my mirror. Soon I realised it wasn’t fog but my vision that had gone hazy. I visited an eye clinic in Ghaziabad. The doctor suggested a laser surgery after two months, during which she put me on eye drops. Even after the laser surgery was done, of course after medical checks, my vision didn’t improve,” says Gourav. He went back to the clinic, this time seeking consultations of very senior ophthalmologists. They told him that he had lost his vision and that he would require another rectification surgery. Then he went to Venu Eye Care Institute in Sheikh Sarai in September 2021, where a team of ophthalmologists told him that he had had a retinal detachment and the retina itself was wrinkled and torn. They advised a right eye surgery first, considering that was still in a retrievable situation, and then a left eye intervention after three months. And all because his diabetes had thinned out his retina. “The treatment went smoothly but my vision was very blurry and it took me a month to see some glimpses of life around me,” he adds.
Post the surgery, Gourav’s eyes were filled with silicone oil, which is used during surgical eye procedures such as a retinal tear repair. But when the oil was removed after three months, his left eye started getting worse.
With one eye gone, it was time for a wake-up call
Although his new company allowed Gourav unpaid leave to heal himself, he became extremely conscious of his Type 1 status and how he had to work numbers no matter what the job demanded. “Till recently, I was so obsessed that I was testing my sugar levels at least 10 times a day. Now I do it four times a day and am very particular about what and how much goes into my mouth, their caloric quotient and what I need to burn them. I also make sure that my levels do not fall too low. Counting carbs is a lot like mathematics,” he adds.
He tries to have his meals and sleep on time. Gourav does his own grocery shopping, picking up only those foods that have a low glycaemic load. He consumes more vegetables and proteins in the form of pulses, beans and eggs.
In the quest for leading a healthy life, Gourav also took a lifestyle training programme and ended up becoming a lifestyle coach himself.
“I was given books and research papers on how and what changes happen in the human body when a person suffers from diabetes. People don’t know how to differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and it’s a major concern in our country. Education is most important. Type 1 diabetes means you have got to manage the ratio of sugar and insulin in the body. I can eat anything as long as I understand how much insulin I need to neutralise its load and wear it out through physical activity. Since the pancreas won’t do it for me, I have to think like it, “ says Gourav. “Diabetes is always in the back of my mind,” says he. That’s the way he could come back to life as he knew it.
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Ankita UpadhyayAnkita Upadhyay is a health reporter with The Indian Express' Delhi bu… read more


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