Thursday, October 17, 2019

I Talk About My Origin Story Part 1

The year is 1996. I'm feeling sick after a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner in my grandparents' small home in a small town in Kansas. I don't know it yet, but this is the beginning of a new life.

A few weeks pass. I enjoy the waning weeks between Thanksgiving break and Christmas in school but can't help but notice how something just doesn't feel right. I am thirsty all the time and can't stop going to the bathroom. I feel tired and sore and, as the days pass, increasingly worried.

I had a fascination with scales and my weight around this time. It may have been because I was an adolescent man and thought my worth was measured in my weight. Regardless, it was this fascination that allowed me to answer my mother's question one weekend: "Have you lost any weight?" To her astonishment and my dismay, I had lost ten pounds in seven days.

My mom is a trained nurse. She consults with my stepdad, a doctor, and later that night they run some store bought tests. The first test is done with a large, clunky machine, a sharp metal poke applied to a shaking finger tip, and my first drop of blood put to a test strip designed to measure blood sugar. The test takes 45 seconds and comes back as error. Value unknown. The second test requires me to urinate into a plastic tub and dip a strip into it. The strip is designed to measure ketones in the urine. Ketones are an acid which result from the body breaking down fat to use as energy because it doesn't have enough insulin to use sugar. The strip turns a dark purple indicating that my ketones are elevated. I still do not know what this means yet.

My mom furrows her brow and breathes deeply as if steadying herself. I ask her if everything is okay. She says yes. I ask her if things are going to change. She breathes deeply again and responds, "If it's what I think it is, yes." I'm still thankful for her honesty.

We pile into an SUV and set course for one of the hospitals in Colorado Springs. The sun has long since dipped behind the mountains. The waiting room is bright enough to rival the day. Beeps, sighs, and coughs create cacophony and intermix with alcohol sterile smells that all hospitals share. I'm checked in and brought to a room where a nurse enters with a wheel chair and says, "I'm here to push you around." His smile invites me to do the same, so I do. Mom does not. She stands with arms crossed and waits for them to finish their tests.

The tests are finished. The results aren't shared with me until several years later. My blood sugar, at time of intake, was 964 mg/dl. The normal range is 70 to 120 mg/dl.

This result causes a flurry of activity. The staff puts an IV into my left arm first. They do this to get my body fluids. At some point, they give me a massive dose of insulin because my blood sugar is so high as to be scary.

Unfortunately, they miscalculate. Or they overshoot. I'm still not sure which. This action causes my sugar to plummet, and allows me to learn the first major lesson about diabetes: it's supposed to be about balance. However, with my sugar dropping so quickly, mom makes the decision to have me moved from this hospital. I'm loaded into an ambulance. People are all around me. Things feel different. Everything is more distant.

I learn later on that the balance of diabetes has dire consequences. I am given, on my first night of being a diabetic, an object lesson on what it feels like to crash.

Thanks for taking a moment to read through this and be on this journey with me. In part two, I finish telling my origin story.

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