This series of stories detail my diagnosis and life with insulin dependant diabetes. In short, I’ve been a diabetic for almost 30 years. I will be celebrating my 30th year of diabetes in late December of this year.
In addition, these stories will blend my diabetes, martial arts, and life in Christ. Yes, they all go together. (I still believe the Israelite judge, Samson, knew some form of martial arts to defeat 1,000 Philistine men with just the jawbone of a donkey. Only God could’ve made that happen.)
Oookay, let’s move on.
As I previously mentioned, my diagnosis is almost 30 years old, so the dates are a little fuzzy. I will do my best.
In early December, 1976, I was a seven year old boy living in Monroe, Wisconsin. I was in the first grade. As I recall, I began feeling as if I had the flu. I began vomiting and couldn’t stop. My parents tried everything they knew to control this “flu”, which included clear fluids. My pediatrician believed I had the flu as well, and recommended more clear fluids. It would just have to run it’s course.
The vomiting didn’t stop; it got worse. I couldn’t even keep water down. I seem to remember my parents taking me to the emergency room of St. Claire Hospital, in Monroe.
Immediately, the ER personnel must have seen that I was dehydrated and put in an I.V., which probably contained some form of glucose. I subsequently went into a coma.
Now I could go into details of what happened to me while I was in the coma, including a near-death experience. But I’ll save this for another day. Yes, I was briefly in Heaven. No, God wasn’t ready for me at that particular time.
During this time, my pediatrician was baffled as to what was going on. I was unresponsive and my veins had collapsed. The only thing he knew to do was to contact an old friend of his, who was a pediatric specialist, at the University of Wisconsin. (Go Badgers! Sorry. I had to get that in.)
This doctor came straight from Madison, went over to my bed, smelled my breath, and immediately knew that I was in a state called, “diabetic ketoacidosis”. My parents witnessed this firsthand, so that is where I get most of this account.
I pulled out of the coma during a surgical cut-down, on my vein, in my right ankle. I still have the 3” scar to prove it. According to the doctors, they had me awake briefly to monitor my consciousness. It was here that I experienced my second “heavenly” encounter, but the details can wait. All in all, I was in a coma for probably a couple of days to a week, if that.
The specialist who diagnosed me with diabetes told my parents that the insulin producing cells, in my pancreas, were shot. He was going to try a new procedure, by injecting large amounts of insulin in me, in an attempt to revitalize some insulin production in the pancreas. Sad to say, it didn’t work. But, the insulin worked wonderfully.
For the next week, I was poked, prodded, and forced to eat foods that would gag a bear. The blood testing occurred every 15 minutes including vial draws every hour. For a meek 7-year old, this was very traumatic. I wailed, constantly. My parents tell me that everyone, including the Catholic priests that prayed over me, wept and often left the room in distress. I was being raped by a disease that no one could take away.
The blood draws happened in the early morning hours as well. Two nurses would come in and hold me down while another drew blood. I was in hell. There are really no words to describe the actual pain and horror that took place.
After a week of this testing, I finally stabilized. I met with my diabetes specialist and dietician to begin understanding this disease. Basically, I would now need insulin to keep me alive for the rest of my life. My diet would need to change as well. No more sugar sodas or sweets.
Life was better for a time. I became more tolerable to the pain and even met Santa Claus while in my hospital bed. You can only imagine what I wanted for Christmas.
It was now December 23rd and a crucial decision had to be made: Christmas was just two days away and my doctor spoke to my parents about letting me go. But first, they had learn to give me insulin shots every 4 hours.
I remember a nurse handing my father a syringe and an orange to practice administering insulin. He was very distraught. I told him it was going to be all right. After his practice on the orange, I was next. My father is one of the toughest men I know. This was the first time I saw him weep.
My dad passed the test to allow me to go home. Two days later, I celebrated Christmas in my home.
In Part 2, I will discuss living with diabetes, as a child, and the battles my parents took on against insurance companies and schools.
Diabetes will never conquer me and I refuse to ever give up.