I was left fighting for my life just four months after giving birth - my body was shutting down

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“I knew it was bad because the only thing I remember is my mum crying.”

A mum was rushed to hospital, fighting for her life, just four months after the birth of her first child.

Elleyce Whiteley, from Whelley in Wigan, should have been enjoying the first precious months with her son Jax. But instead the 27-year-old became incredibly poorly and doctors feared she would not pull through. She had previously been pre-diabetic and was diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy.

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Elleyce said: “When I was pregnant I was diagnosed with type two diabetes. I had been pre-diabetic for quite a long time and the lack of activity when I was pregnant made it go to type two.

"They tried to diet control me, for example I would be watching what I was eating, checking what carbs I had and looking at labels to make sure they were low in sugars. Most people can manage it with their diet until they have a baby and it goes back to normal. I couldn’t do that, so they put me on insulin during my pregnancy.”

Elleyce Whiteley, 27, with her five-month-old son JaxElleyce Whiteley, 27, with her five-month-old son Jax
Elleyce Whiteley, 27, with her five-month-old son Jax

Elleyce took the insulin until Jax was born and while his glucose was checked, there were no issues for him. She then stopped taking it, so medics could see how her body reacted, and she initially coped well without insulin.

"I was doing okay for a while and felt really good, probably the best I had felt for years,” she said. "Then all of a sudden it went through the roof.”

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Elleyce had been discharged from antenatal care, but she contacted the diabetic specialists to ask what she should do. She was prescribed medication which is primarily for diabetes but used by some people to aid weight loss.

She said: “It came to four weeks on the tablets and I had lost about two-and-a-half stone, but nothing else had changed. With diabetes, if your sugars are really high all the time, that makes you lose weight too.”

The medication needed to be reviewed after a month, but Elleyce says she was “passed from pillar to post and left by myself” for around six weeks. It was then the situation became worse for Elleyce, who works at the Armed Forces Hub in Wigan.

She said: “I started getting signs of diabetic ketoacidosis. It was things I had experienced before, but not put together to say that’s what it was. There was sickness, nausea, stomach pains. The diabetic symptoms were really extreme, like an unquenchable thirst, going to the toilet more often because I was drinking more, feeling tired, a bit confused, stomach pain. It can affect your vision as well, so I was straining with my eyes.

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"When I started to get unwell, I thought maybe I had a bit of post-natal depression. I was really exhausted.”

After one particularly tough night, Elleyce’s mum Laura looked after Jax so she could rest, with the pair thinking she was probably facing sleep deprivation as a new mum. She spent the next day relaxing on the sofa, but found she was gasping for breath after simply walking upstairs to the bathroom.

Elleyce WhiteleyElleyce Whiteley
Elleyce Whiteley

Elleyce said: “My body was shutting down. My back was going, my stomach was going. I phoned my mum and asked her to come home. By the time she got home. I couldn’t keep water or food down and she phoned for an ambulance within five minutes.”

Elleyce was rushed to hospital and was taken to the resuscitation area, where doctors worked to treat her.

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She said: “I knew it was bad because the only thing I remember is my mum crying. I didn’t know why she was crying, because I was still out of it.”

Doctors had told her mum they were doing everything they could, but that Elleyce was not responding to treatment and she should prepare for the worst. She was very cold, needed scans to check on her heart and lungs because her heart was beating very quickly, and also had checks on her renal system.

There were fears Elleyce would need to be put into an induced coma, but fortunately she started to respond to the treatment. She was diagnosed with type one diabetes this time and started taking insulin again.

Elleyce spent six days in hospital, before going home to recover, but it continued to be a difficult time as the illness led to her losing her eyesight for two weeks.

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She said: “I couldn’t do anything for myself. I couldn’t make a bottle for the baby or bathe him. I couldn’t drive.”

Fortunately Elleyce says she has a good support system and she is now on the road to recovery. While she says she still feels “quite drained”, she is now back to “about 90 per cent” of her previous health. She continues to take insulin and will speak to a dietician for advice on what she eats. While it is a big change, she says it is something she became used to after being diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy.

It is only five weeks since she became ill, but Elleyce is already looking to the future. She wants to raise awareness of diabetes, particularly among young people, so is fundraising for charity Diabetes UK, after reading about its Million Step Challenge on Facebook.

She said: “I have set my goal to walk 500,000 steps over three months, rather than a million, to start off, and once I have passed it I will carry on going. It gets me out for the summer and it’s a nice thing to do. “

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