A Near Roadkill Experience on the Diabetes Highway

Miles O'Neal - 2005-Jun-03

I had some fairly witty things to say about this past few days.

Or so I thought.

But my brain, like my vision, is pretty fuzzy at the moment.

There were lots of little, isolated things that might have tipped me off months ago, but because they were little, isolated things, they didn't. I went merrily on my way, not too worried about little, isolated things, because life is full of those, right?

Three weeks ago, I went on a kayaking trip, and I suspect that was when things started getting extra wonky. The water was low, and I had to fight my way down that river an inch at a time. 4 miles, they said. It easily felt like 40. At times I could hardly hold on to my paddle. And I lost my glasses in one of the sharp turn rapids where the water was most assuredly not low...

Some older glasses worked OK, but not so well as I recalled-- and I'd only had the new ones for 3-4 months. Lots of stress before and since, but that doesn't usually impact vision so don't worry about it. Right.

A week and a half ago, I stayed home with what I thought was a mild case of flu for two days. Back at work, I'm noticing the new glasses seem even worse. That's weird. Weirder yet, I'm always thirsty. I mean, always. I'm thirsty for things I haven't cared about in years; I've rediscovered drinking milk, I love juices, water, you name it, as well as my beloved tea, sodas and coffee.

Um, it's a little disconcerting, though, to have to go pee every half hour or so. 24 hours a day. I hadn't thought much about feeling like I needed a nap in the afternoon lately, except as an annoying old man joke, but there it was. Only now, I'm tired all the time. A lack of deep sleep will do that.

I barely made it through the wedding rehearsal of my doptadaughter, Shaunda, Friday. Saturday was warm (mid 80s) and very humid (85% at least). That, of course, was why I still felt dehydrated, and was sucking down water, tea and soda by the gallon. I did manage to toast the bride and groom with only a moderate speech slur (and no alcohol), but left before the traditional chasing away. I'm not sure, today, how I managed to dance with so many gals, but the fact they were all slow dances undoubtedly helped. That and the proverbial O'Neal tenacity (and maybe some grace not to collapse on the dance floor and ruin the wedding party!) I ate almost nothing at the wedding feast. Couldn't choke food down. How un-Miles-ish.

Sunday I took off from church like a vacation day; I was beat. Josiah and I went to see _Hitchikers Guide_. I couldn't understand how my glasses could be getting worse, but they were. I went to the bathroom 5 or 6 times during a sub-two hour movie. Oh, and I was staggering like a drunk.

Yeah, by now it should have been obvious to me I was in bad shape. But I was in bad enough shape that very little was obvious. All I did the rest of Sunday and Monday was sleep, drink and pee. I couldn't eat the steak, hamburgers or hot dogs (3 of my favorites) that Sharon grilled for Fathers Day. One meal a day of Cheerios[tm] and a banana was as close to solid food as I could stand. Oh, and I hadn't done the math, but I had lost 27 pounds in 10 days...

So Monday morning I called the doctor. ``What are your symptoms?'' ``Well, I have to urinate every thirty minutes, and I feel like I constantly have to be drinking some...'' ``We'll work you in.'' I got an appointment a bit after Sharon got off work so I wouldn't have to drive. When I hit the door, I asked where the bathroom was and they made me take a cup. They were already on full diabetes alert; the urine sample and blood sugar count (``we can't read blood sugar past 500 and yours is just a big blank'') had the doctor on the phone to the hospital before I knew that was an option.

I hate ERs. This was better than a lot, but I had a large, old mental patient next door, and he was loud. I was pretty out of it (blood sugar should be between 70 and 120, mine was at 1347). At one point he kept hollering at the doctors, "Don't cut me! Don't cut me!" I was very close to yelling that I would cut him to little ribbons if he didn't shut up. I was barely in control.

The doctors and nurses kept returning to that reading. I should have been seriously in shock, if not dead. Actually, I was fairly well into shock, just not a coma. The Good Lord has given me a formidable constitution in some ways, and between sheer hard headedness on my part to keep going, and God's grace, I stayed at least semi-functional.

From there it was all down hill, except that they insisted on waking me up for every little test. I assured them this was unnecessary. They alluded to patients punching them. I promised I wouldn't, and even agreed that if I did, they could slug me back. I think they were listening to their lawyers. Or maybe their bruises. They woke me up a lot.

Apparently I'm a bit of a legend around the hospital now. Only 1 or 2 people claim to have ever seen a blood sugar even close to mine in a live human. I think they use me to scare unruly patients. ``And then, he turned into a great big column of sugar right before my eyes. And if you don't go to sleep, guess which sugar we'll be using to sweeten your tea with! Mwuhahahahahaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!'' (It's a good hospital; they would only use this on the most recalcitrant patients.)

They said I could go home today (Thu) if my glucose stayed down around 200 and I saw the dietician. They lied. Modern medicine is far more interested in getting you out of the hospital than anything else. So my only sub-200 reading was before breakfast today, and I have yet to see the dietician.

But I'm at home, surrounded by flowers and well wishing, and that counts for a lot. I got to soak in the tub instead of taking a rushed shower with someone hovering outside the door, trying to keep all sorts of leads and tubes unshowered.

My wonderful wife (who bears more of this than I do so far) presented me with two DVDs when I got home-- the Duke's _Rio Grande_ and Jerry Lewis's _Nutty Professor_. I expect to be sitting very close to the computer sometime this weekend to watch them. Maybe Dr. Lewis has something for my eyesight...

Roadwork on the Diabetes Highway

Day 7 AD (After Diagnosis)... 2005-Jun-06

Whether you tend to live life one day at a time, or have a 5 year plan, diabetes is not for you. When it sucks you onto the highway, you live for the right now, and for the 5 hour plan. My doctor has held out hope that I will be able to get off insulin, maybe even off testing nearly so often, but that will still require serious lifestyle modification and constant vigilance. I'm already vigilant. I have to be vigilant about all the teens I'm entrusted with, and of course, it's Everyones Job to Watch For Terrorists. And Druggies. And Big Company CEOs. And Insurance Fraud. And So Forth. So it's hard to come up with the extra vigilance, but there ya go.

A typical day at the moment includes these things.

I'm not supposed to go barefoot. Not even indoors, much less outside. (I draw the line at wearing shoes indoors. I'm just watching where my feet go and occasionally wearing socks.)

I'll be going to one doctor or another one every week or two for a couple of months. And that's assuming all goes well.

I still have to get with the dietician.

There are steenking few sodas with sucralose in them. Sucrose has become my enemy, and I trust the other artificial sweeteners about as far as I can throw a Vogon construction ship.

I had a chocolate mousse in the hospital, but just try to find a diabetic-friendly mousse in the wild. At least there are some half decent puddings. Nowhere as good as Jello or similar, but decent.

No more shakes at Sonic, Fuddruckers, etc.

No more DQ, Baskin-Robbins, Amy's, whatever.

The good news is, they have tied diabetes to almost everything, so I'm at risk of heart attack, "sexual dysfunction", and 2,437 other health problems I have never, ever worried about.

Diabetes stinks!

Don't get in so far as I did. I had at least three warnings signs that, had I gotten a physical or even just discussed with my doctor, would have caught this months ago, and very likely have allowed only minimal corrective measures to do the job.

  1. Every once in a while, I smelled acetone for no reason.
  2. Moderately high blood pressure out of nowhere.
  3. Tired for no good reason.
There are plenty of other signs, but these were mine. In general, just go see your doctor and tell them what's up with your life. Worst case, they say "You're fine."

In the Fast Lane

There are some good things. I'm not sure about Type 1 Diabetes, but with Type 2, there's a reasonable chance you can avoid or get off insulin shots. My readings are coming down; in less than 7 days since I went to the ER, the blood sugar readings have dropped drastically. My dinner reading today allowed me to skip the extra insulin shot. We're being aggressive, but not paranoid, in following the guidelines. And it turns out that hard rock guitar playing is good for you. Getting together with good friends and cutting up helps.

I have to wait another week to go back to work, and probably to drive. The pharmacy bills are nuts; I can't imagine this without insurance. The pharmacies tell everyone that certain supplies aren't covered by insurance when they are. (This is SOP; I have no idea why.) You have to carry everything with you whenever you go out, if there's any chance you won't be home in time for the next test. The insulin can't get too hot or cold.

I am planning to go to the beach this summer. I have no idea how that will work, but it's going to happen. Maybe I'll have them spray me with truck bed liner material...

Freedom? 2005-Aug-19

Now I have a name for my enemy: Hyperosmolar Syndrome, or HS[1]. This can lead to a coma and death - and I should have been in one of those two states. By God's grace, I was still walking around (if only barely). When I came home, I had the classic symptoms that follow HS-- eyesight focal issues and minor nervous system damage (loss of fine motor skills, slightly lowered mental acuity). BUT...

When I first arrived home, I was taking 45 units of Lantus (long-lasting insulin) each morning, and a shot of Humulin (fast acting insulin) after every meal and at bedtime, based on a sliding scale according to my glucose reading. I hate needles. I really, really hated needles. And here I was sticking needles in my fingers 4 times a day, and in my belly 5 times a day. ARGH! At least they were small needles...

Within about a month, my glucose levels were so good that my doctor (Naglieri, a wonderful doctor) said I could start tapering off the insulin until I found the minimum level that let me keep my glucose in check. A little over a month later I reached that level-- ZERO! I'm still on meds to keep my liver from dumping too much sugar into my blood, but I have every hope of getting off those as well. I've got two miracles so far, why not a third?

I've gotten to where I don't mind needles as much. But I'm really, really glad to not be sticking them in my belly.

FREEDOM! mid-2006

Within a few months of the previous post I was down to 1 med. I knew at this point I was healed but my doctor wasn't convinced, so I worked with her. But in less than a year from the day I went in the hospital she pronounced me cured and gave me her blessing to get off the last oral med. I still take readings every week or two to prove to her how I'm doing. Still smack in the middle of the range, typically around 90.

A friend, a very brittle diabetic, asks occasionally if we're sure it was diabetes. But I had all the symptoms, not just the insanely high blood sugar. It sounds like a cliche to some people, but it's true; it's a miracle. My doctor concurs.

Why does God heal some people and not others? Why did He heal my collarbone a doctor didn't fix correctly and my diabetes but not my eyesight? I can't tell you. But I know He healed me. I'll be happy to pray He heals you or a loved one, or just to hear your story (regardless of what you believe).

[1] The best summary I've found is here: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/35072/35110/233205.html?d=dmtContent.

Last updated: 01 June 2008

Copyright 2005 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514