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John's Diabetes Story: In December I got really sick ...

by IBD Medical on September 26, 2022

Diabetes Stories

Hi, my name is John! I was born in the St. Albans, Vermont hospital while my parents and two older brothers, Jim & Bill, were living in Georgia Plains, Vt. My Dad was a Baptist Minister; my Mom a school teacher. Dad & Mom moved quite often and before I was six, 1954, we moved to Dickenson Center, which is across Lake Champlain in upper New York State.

In December of that year I got real sick. I don't personally remember my mother taking me to my uncle who was an M.D. and being told that I had diabetes. However, I do remember being so thirsty that I couldn't stop drinking and then making bathroom runs. I was sent to the Joslin Clinic in Boston, specializing in diabetes, where they found my blood sugar reading was over 450 milligram per deciliter ( mg/dlˆ ). A normal reading is 80-120 mg/dlˆ .

Now I'm different. Glass syringe, insert plunger, attach needle, stick it into an orange to practice, draw air into the syringe, agitate insulinˆ so that it's a good mix, wipe the top of the bottle with isopropol alcohol on a cotton ball, inject air into insulin bottle, withdraw insulin, wipe injection site with same cotton ball, inject syringe, dispense insulin, over and over again to the point where you can do it in your sleep. Three times a day I bring out the clinitestˆ kit and take urine tests. If result is high, then I have to check for ketonesˆ .

A balance has to be established between Diet, Insulin and Exercise. If tests are high I need to inject more quick acting insulin, U40 Regularˆ , and still include a much longer lasting insulin, U40 NPHˆ . Three times a day for the rest of my life. If I go into a low blood sugar condition, called hypoglycemiaˆ , no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I have to stop and get some sort of sugar into my body.
I thought hey, maybe it's not too bad. If I have a test in school, I can fake an insulin reactionˆ and have to go to the nurse's office. But no way! That means everyone really will know I'm different.

We made sure that lots of folks knew I had diabetes. I have never been subconscious about what I do to take care of my disease. It's funny. My friends don't care that I have diabetes. Some are oblivious to my 'condition'; others are actually interested and want to know more. The needles really don't hurt; they're tiny. It only takes a few minutes a day. This isn't so bad...

"Mom, it's the ninth inning and I'm up to bat next. No way I can leave now." This is getting worse all the time. But it was supper time and I had to eat on time. If I waited an extra twenty minutes exercising at the same time, I'd be in insulin reactionˆ . They're no fun. The first time I got one, I didn't know what was going on. My body wasn't doing what I thought I was telling it to do. My voice was gone, even though I was trying to scream for help. My knees no longer held me up, but kept buckling. My mouth tasted like it was full of sawdust. It got to the point where I couldn't even remember my name. Mom brought me out of it by forcing me to drink orange juice. About fifteen minutes later I was 'normal' again, but I couldn't remember anything that had happened for the previous half hour. If someone had seen me would they have thought I was drunk? Embarrassing!
"What do you mean I have to learn about the pancreasˆ ? How do you expect me to do all this? There's no one else around here with diabetes. Even my doctor says so." - my younger thoughts...

Yes, I am different. A disease called diabetes has me in its hold. But I can and will combat it. I must take shots to furnish my body with the insulinˆ it no longer produces. So what. I can handle this. There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed I'm diabetic. There is no way I'm going to let diabetes get me down. Excuses and feeling sorry for myself are going to do more harm than good. There will never be a day when I allow my diabetes to be a crutch in my lifestyle. I may have to form habits around it, but I will never allow my disease to stop me from doing anything I want to do.

Now that I'm an adult, I see it was easier for me to learn how to live with diabetes than what it's like as a teenager for example. As a youngster, the peer pressure hadn't really begun. Habits can be formed rather than replaced. My daughter was diagnosed at the age of sixteen and her habits were established and had to be thrown away and new ones created. There have been struggles, however. Doctors who weren't up on diabetes, unexplained patterns of high and low blood sugars, added to my confusion. Things that today, with more and more information available, can be rationalized, weren't even thought about then.

Most children that I've run across have the ability to remember early events in their lives long before I did. Now in 2001, at the age of fifty-three I don't believe myself old but, if the shoe fits.... A friend of mine recently promised me, 'It's not Alzheimer's, it's old-timers'.

The name Joslin is going to be mentioned quite frequently. My training began at the Joslin Clinic but continued at the Joslin Diabetic Camp in Charlton, Massachusetts. I will always have fond memories of Elliot Proctor Joslinˆ , whom I personally met and talked to, and for whom the camp was named, where I spent so many summers of my life and still go to for visits. One of my best friends, Paul Madden, who has taken a career as a Diabetes advocate, lecturing and advising, still spends most of his summers taking a leadership role at the camp.
As you can see, diabetes management has changed a lot since!