Diabetes (the discovery)

I have diabetes.

I rember the day very well. I had been having headaches and went in for my first check up in ages. I wouldn’t get sick often. The headaches had been coming pretty regularly and sometimes they would be severe. I was sure they were migraines.

I realized there was something wrong when I received my sugar check and they told me the number was 190 and I had been fasting. I’m in EMS and I know the basics of this disease. Fact is I knew only the basics. I knew 190 fasting is not good. I knew if it was my patient I would ask what medications they were using to control their diabetes and what they were eating last.

I felt a cold chill go through my body. Numerous amputated toes and feet that I have seen throughout my career came flooding in. I kept thinking it must be a mistake. I have read of cases where someone will rub the alcohol prep too soon to the actual puncture and the alcohol will produce a false high. I was sure that was what had happened.

Apparently the doctor also thought it might be a false reading and as I waited in a small,white and sterile room I was informed that the doctor was ordering another glucose check as well as a blood draw. The blood draw was something me and my wife had talked about before. It was used to measure your glucose average over a 3 month period.

My next finger stick glucose check came back higher. This time it was over 200.

The doctor tried to be as calm as possible. I was given a glucometer as well as a prescription for a few medicines. I could tell she didn’t like I had not seen a doctor in over a decade. I was asked if I had been having any symptoms such as drowsiness (I thought it had been just the after lunch regular sleepiness. How would I combat it? A Monster energy drink loaded with sugar!). She asked about my sexual performance because high levels of glucose for prolonged periods of time can affect performance (WTF!?! Where was that written?). She asked about my vision, the diabetes can blind me. She rechecked my blood pressure as diabetes can harden my blood vessels and cause hypertension. She ordered a 12 lead because diabetes can affect my heart, especially since I couldn’t say how long I’ve had symptoms.

Diabetes isn’t a war of victory or defeat. It is a war of attrition.

We are never cured of diabetes, we have it controlled.

Diabetes doesn’t go into remission, the number is just disciplined through eating habits, medications and activity level.

She told me I was overweight. Advised a 30 minute workout daily. I know she wasn’t trying to but I felt she was overwhelming me. As I walked out to my car I thought of all those patients I’ve had to “wake up” with dextrose. I thought of patients in DKA. I’ve always been a big drinker, and I don’t mean just alcohol, for a meal I could easily put away 3 or 4 glasses of whatever we were drinking. I now understood after lunch I wasn’t just sleepy, I was going into a diabetic coma!

The drive home was lonely. My wife would text but I couldn’t speak it yet. I was worried about infection. I was worried about the loss of my renal function. I was worried about gum infections and thought about losing teeth. I was hungry but I was afraid of eating. The doctor had told me to watch my carbs, but I just knew the basics of what a carb is. I was scared to eat.

My life had taken a turn and what I thought was going to be a routine check up with maybe a prescription for a stronger migraine med turned into something completely different.

Instead my whole world had been changed. I was me, I was still a father, a husband, a paramedic, an instructor, a writer, but now I was also a Diabetic.


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