A diabetic dance teacher who played “Russian roulette” on her health for a decade by cutting off her insulin medication to lose weight was told by paramedics who were hospitalizing her that she was only hours away from death .
Amber Dumbill, 24, who needs insulin injections for type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from increasing the hormone that increases blood sugar levels, began to reduce her dose, to control her weight – and developed a dangerous eating disorder called diabulimia.
An avid dancer, although she was only 14 at her heaviest height, Amber, from Warrington, Cheshire, would often perform in a leotard and tight-fitting exercise equipment at school, constantly comparing herself to the more petite girls in her class.
When she moved into student accommodation at the age of 18 while studying musical theater at the University of Blackpool, Lancashire, she stopped taking insulin and taking fingerprint tests, which were necessary to monitor her blood sugar levels – which resulted in her being on one Size of eight shrank.
But six weeks into her term, she woke up one morning and couldn’t get up. She was sick several times and called her mother Kath, 56, who told her to call an ambulance after finding blood stains on her vomit.
Amber, who is also the nursing home administrator, said, “I was told I had to wait four hours for an ambulance because I wasn’t a priority. So I called my mother again, who told me to do more tests.” The results were so high that when I called 999 back and told them they sent the ambulance right away. “
She added, “When we got to the hospital my lips turned blue and one of the paramedics said to me, ‘If you had waited four hours for the first ambulance you would have been dead. “
By the time Amber was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine, Amber was already fiddling with her blood sugar levels and taking less insulin than she should have been.
“I was upset when I was first diagnosed, even though I grew up with the disease, because my dad also had type 1 diabetes,” Amber said. “Unfortunately he passed away six years ago, but it had nothing to do with his diabetes.”
“My packed lunch changed overnight after my diagnosis – from white bread sandwiches and a chocolate bar to black bread and a leaner yogurt,” continued Amber.
“It was boring and I hated not being able to eat the way I used to, unless I was exercising, which meant I could have a candy bar.”
At the age of 14, full of youthful rebellion, Amber, whose younger sister Mia, 20, has no diabetes, began to defy her diabetic restrictions and at one point secretly ate up to 20 candy bars a day.
She said, “Since Dad was also a diabetic, I faked my blood glucose results by taking a sample of blood with his old syringe before watering it down to give it a lower reading.”
“In retrospect, I still can’t believe it’s something I used to do and I would strongly advise against falsifying any medical result.”
And while her family thought their weight gain was pubescent puppy fat, they knew it was because of their chocolate fits.
“My mom tried to talk to me about what was going on, but I didn’t want to talk about it,” she said. “I felt offended when she brought it up. She knew the candy bars she bought were disappearing so she would find new hiding spots for her, but I always found her. “
Everything changed when Amber read an article in her father’s diabetes magazine one evening that had been left in the bathroom.
She said, “There was a story about a girl who stopped taking insulin to lose weight and went blind as a result. I ignored the bit of blindness and just thought, ‘I can do this and I’m still eating chocolate. ‘“
“I knew it was risky, but I just thought nothing bad was going to happen to me,” added Amber. “I would look at class photos from school and hate the fact that I wasn’t the slimmest person in them.
“Besides, I was still doing ballet and had to wear a leotard and tights so I could compare myself to the other girls. In my dance class there was one who always looked like a twig!”
So began Bernstein’s terrible descent into diabulimia – an eating disorder largely undetected by the medical profession.
When a Type 1 diabetic skips insulin, glucose cannot reach the cells, causing the body to burn fat as an alternative source of energy, which in turn creates an acidic by-product known as ketones, which Support says is toxic to the body Diabetic Eating Disorders Group (DWED).
The resulting condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) leads to dramatic weight loss but is fatal if left untreated.
And while diabulimics describe their disorder as “the perfect diet that went wrong” because they can eat whatever they want without insulin without gaining weight, it can lead to blindness, kidney damage, and death.
But even when she heard that she might have died at university after her hospital anxiety, Amber was not back on track.
Instead, she restarted her insulin, but took less than prescribed if she gained weight.
Her wake-up call came after talking to her mother, a housewife, shortly after she met her new boyfriend, Ed Martin, 24, a sales assistant, through work in 2018.
“I told mom that Ed and I had talked about the future,” she said. “We had talked about getting married and having children.
“She just turned to me and said,” You won’t have children if you don’t clear your diabetes. “
“That, along with the realization that diabetes can cause complications in pregnancy, even when properly managed, shocked me to realize what I did to myself.”
Amber has led a healthy, balanced life since properly treating her diabetes.
Now, however, she is interested in raising awareness of diabulimia, which, according to DWED, which claims that around 60 percent of type 1 diabetics will have developed an eating disorder by the age of 25 – percent of those with 40 years of age admit to skipping insulin to lose weight.
Amber said, “I’m so grateful that I turned my life around before it was too late, but if telling my story only stops a person with type 1 diabetes from doing what I did, it will it’s worth it. “
Psychiatrist Professor Khalida Ismail, who runs the UK’s first diabulimia clinic at Kings College Hospital in London, warns that the disease can be fatal.
He said, “Diabulimia is extremely dangerous, but the fear that taking insulin will lead to weight gain is so great that people stop taking it to lose weight.
“You can look good and be normal height, but when you stop taking your insulin you will have very high blood sugar which can cause all of these diabetes-related complications. If a person with type 1 diabetes doesn’t take insulin, they’ll die very quickly. “
For more information on diabetics with eating disorders, visit www.dwed.org.uk.