Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears?

If every story has a backstory, this is mine...

Grade 5
One of my schoolmates talked to the class about her sister's diabetes and the day-to-day routine since her diagnosis. She went through the symptoms: thirst, frequent urination, dry skin, fatigue, weightloss... I remember thinking "I have all of those... except one- weightloss." And with that, the posibility fled from my mind.

Grade 8
Preparing and presenting a speech was required every year of middle school. For some reason I chose to speak about the discovery of insulin.

Grade 10
Fall: Thisty. Really, really thirsty. Going to the bathroom a lot. Skin parched...

I thought I had a urinary tract infection and booked an appointment... Losing one pound, two pounds, five in a week...

It was a new doctor. She did a full physical. I remember handing a urine sample to the secretary at the front desk. She said, "We'll call you if anything is wrong, but I'm sure it will all be good." "I am sure it won't be," I thought as I left the office.

Winter break: Falling asleep while sitting watching TV at 6:30pm... The only thing I remember asking for Christmas was a belt, so my pants would stop feeling like they were falling off...

The new year: The doctor's office did call and asked my dad to take me to the lab for a few blood tests. Nobody told me why. Nobody needed to tell me why. I knew what it meant when they were testing first thing in the morning and then two hours after eating...

January 15th, 1994: I was eating dinner with my dad, my grandparents and my sister. I remember roast beef. The doctor phoned and told my dad that I needed to come back to the office. They wouldn't tell him why. He pressured them for answers. They still wouldn't tell him why. He started yelling. They told him nothing.

My stomach turned. I stared at the dinner on my plate, before finally just leaving the table.

At some point my dad phoned my previous physician. He asked them to obtain the test results...

January 16th, 1994: I went to school, but was pulled out of class and summoned to the office. My dad picked me up. The only thing I remember about this was sitting in the car driving to the hospital and thinking, "I promise to be a better person, if this just ends up going away."

January 17th, 1994: Holly- middle-aged, brown-hair, lots of make-up and strong perfume- the diabetes nurse/educator woke me up at 6 am. She and several others stood around as they asked me to step onto a scale.


Being half asleep, I fell off several times before attempting to steady myself by spreading my arms out like airplane wings. It was a ridiculous scene; even half asleep I realized this and started laughing. I recall the event as highly entertaining for me; really uncomfortable for eveyone else.

The next seven days: I stayed in the hospital until the 24th.

Things to remember:
  • Read The Catcher in the Rye.
  • My mom sent me flowers. Part of the arrangement was gladiolas.
  • My friends came to visit me, which was nice. One of them saw the bouquet and said, "Oh, I thought gladiolas were for funerals..." which was not nice.
  • I made a weird looking basket.
  • I learned to hate the smell of Bacti-Stat soap.
  • Lots people in my family came to visit; my dad stopped by every night. This was the best part of my stay.
  • The daytime when no-one was there was boring. I remember staring out the window. The curtains were ugly. I think they were orange.
  • I made friends with one of the student nurses. She'd hide out in my room and we'd chat. It was from her I learned my sideshow status- I was the first type 1 diabetic any of the nursing staff had ever met in the flesh.
  • Every hospital professional I met was eager to mention the promise of a cure in no more than 5 years.
  • Had a heparin lock shoved into my arm without any warning. The nurse just grabbed my arm and, without any explaination, pushed the apparatus underneath the skin of my forearm. It was rather horrific.
  • I got a day pass one day. I went to the mall with my dad. I bought some shirts. The sales lady kept staring at the heparin lock in my arm. I remember my dad saying that he couldn't help but think of me as a porcelain doll now.
  • The staff made my dad and my sister learn how to give me injections. The idea behind this was that in the event that I was sick and unable to give myself the shot, either of them could step in. This always confused me, because I always figured that if I was so sick as to be incapacitated what I'd really like was to be spared being jabbed and taken to the hospital. When I think back to it, though, I find it especially unfair to my sister- she is terrified of needles and was was practically in tears when it was her turn to poke me. That's when I decided I really didn't like Holly and her perfume.
  • Discovered insulin smells like Elastoplast band-aids.
  • Annoying nurse on the night shift routinely woke me in the middle of the night to quiz me about the symptoms of hypoglycemia... I still wish I could show up at her bedside at 4 am to wake her up to quiz her about the symptoms of diabetes.
  • Asked my endocrinologist if my life expectancy would be affected. She told me, without any hesitation, that diabetics generally live 1/3 less than the average population. It felt like a sucker punch... especially at 15.
Getting sprung: a day or two after leaving the hospital I went to see a movie with friends. It was Philadelphia, which in retrospect was not the best choice. Toward the end of the film, when Tom Hanks' character dies there is a scene of his wake. Playing on the television is a home movie from his childhood. I remember crying and not being able to stop. I couldn't explain why I was crying at the time. But, now I think I know why... and funny enough, that's actually the only time in my entire life that I cried about my diabetes.


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