Believe it or not, I was not always a diabetic. I lived for approximately 25.5 years before my pancreas decided it was no longer going to perform its duties as the insulin factory of my body. Take this job and shove it. I ain’t working here no more. I can’t remember exact dates and times, so I’m going to make those parts up. Everything else is truth. Only slightly exaggerated.
I believe it was November of 2005 when things really started. I wouldn’t take notice for a few more weeks, but hindsight is 20/20. My weight has been fairly static for most of my life. When it does change, it changes drastically. Going into the Army I weighed about 165 pounds. By the time I was discharged, my weight was around 210 pounds. I stayed somewhere between 195 and 205 for the immediate years to follow. Both years? In November, my weight dropped down to 164 pounds. The important thing to notice is “In November” instead of “by” or “as of”. I lost over 30 pounds in less than a month. I blamed my mother-in-law. For some unknown reason, she was making pasta with tomato sauce for dinner almost every night. And she was making just enough for each person at the table to have one serving. My father likes to tell people that he had to take me to an all-you-can-eat buffet when I was growing up in order to make me full. Oink! Oink! One bowl of pasta was not enough for a snack. I assumed that I was losing weight because I was not eating enough. The fact that I felt like I hadn’t eaten in months, only added to this belief.
Next, was the peeing. Suddenly I had to pee every 10 to 15 minutes. I would leave the toilet only to walk to
the next one. Traveling is difficult when you have to stop at every restaurant along the way to pee. Then, I realized I was drinking a lot of water as well. Well, that explained it. I was drinking too much water. I thought, if I could just stop drinking so much water, the cycle of endless peeing would stop. He keeps saying pee. This is fun. But I couldn’t stop drinking. I was extremely thirsty. I was starting to become more and more aware that something was wrong with my bladder. Mamma thought she had the answer and antidote. Mamma thought I had a bladder infection. Mamma said cranberry juice helps with bladder infections. In order to fix my bladder infection, I started drinking cranberry juice instead of water.
At the same time, a totally unrelated problem was occurring. Unrelated? Right. My eyesight was getting worse. I had been using the same prescription since I was 16, so I figured it was about time for me to need new glasses. The strange part was how badly my eyesight became in such a short time. I stopped wearing my glasses because I could see better without them. That wasn’t saying much since I couldn’t see more than about 5 feet in front me. I stopped driving, I stopped riding my bike, and I got very used to saying hi to people I couldn’t see and hoping that I knew them.
I finally had enough. Finally? I’ll say. I sent in my resignation in November and you wait until December to start looking for my replacement. After adjusting the screen resolution so that I could see what was on it, I did a Google search for my thirst, hunger, and frequent urination. The very top link in the search results was the American Diabetes Association. The URL, for those that do not know, is http://www.diabetes.org/. I noticed other symptoms that I had as well: blurred vision, fatigue, irritability. There was no question in my mind. I started reading everything I could. I just kept thinking, this can’t be real.
I called Mamma and explained what I had discovered. At which point, she immediately called Uncle Doctor and he agreed with my self-diagnosis. They both agreed that I should go to the hospital immediately. I took a little convincing. I had made it this long, I might as well finish the day before going to the hospital. I was being paid by the hour and we needed the money. Mamma wasn’t having that so I was leaving work and heading straight home.
Have you ever had to tell your boss something that made you a little uncomfortable? Try telling your boss that you have to leave because your wife says so. Try telling your boss that you have to leave because you may have diabetes. Try saying all of that, when no one else has noticed a single symptom. Try saying that when the only person who knows the problems you have been having is your wife. I was completely unprepared for my boss to ask me what my symptoms were and then to agree with my diagnosis. I was also completely unprepared for her to shove me out the door. Everyone else in the world was more concerned about me than I was. I felt fine. I was just thirsty, hungry, blind, tired, and had to piss like a racehorse. Other than that, fine.
I returned home to find that Mamma had already packed everything to take Tata to Nonna’s. Tata was only a year old at the time and Mamma wasn’t letting Tata go to the hospital. She told me to shower, change, and pack a bag. She left to drop off Tata while I was supposed to be ready by the time she got back. I knew nothing about diabetes. I thought that diabetics could not eat sugar. I figured if I was going to be diabetic, I was going to eat all the sugar I could before I got to the hospital. I thought that was my last chance to taste sweetness. I ate everything I could get my hands on. I had 3 or 4 pudding cups, a couple of Mountain Dews, a bag of Oreo cookies with some milk. I mean everything. And you wonder why I quit? Mamma came home and we walked to the hospital. The hospital was less than a block away.
We arrived at the emergency room and Mamma told the receptionist that we needed to see the doctor because I had diabetes. You could almost hear her eyes rolling. In this emergency room, patients were separated into colors based on priority. I don’t remember what the colors were, but we were placed at the bottom. We waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. When it came time to check my vitals, the nurse tested my blood just for the sake of argument. She was so certain that Mamma was crazy that she didn’t even wait for the result before sending us back to the waiting room. I had enough time for my butt to touch my seat before she came running back to us. I don’t know what she was saying. Whatever it was, she was saying it very fast and pointing. I followed the finger and the directions from my wife. I skipped all levels of waiting. For some reason, I was moving from the why-are-you-here waiting room, passed the you-have-a-boo-boo waiting room, passed the fairly urgent waiting room, and even passed the we-hope-you-survive-the-wait waiting room. I went from no hurry to a gurney. My condition was upgraded immediately. More like downgraded. Everyone was yelling in Italian. I had no idea what was going on. They were all speaking to Mamma, and they were all speaking so fast that all I understood was “lui”. “Lui” is the Italian word for “he”. I was pumped full of water, given a shot, and moved immediately to the inpatient section of the hospital. Good thing you packed a bag.
When things finally calmed down, I asked what was going on. I was told that I had diabetes and that my blood sugar was very high. I asked how high. The nurse told me that my blood sugar was over 1,000. At the time, that meant nothing to me as I had no concept as to what a normal blood sugar was. My non-medical understanding is that with a blood sugar of 1,000 I should have been well into my stroke, I should not have been able to stand, I should have been stiff as a board and waiting for my insulin. Instead, I was walking, talking, laughing, and blind. You truly are special. And that was the beginning.
I was admitted to the hospital on December 22, 2005, and was released 5 days later. I joke that I was so bad that year that Santa Clause brought me diabetes instead of coal.