Thursday, June 26, 2008.
Sitting on the edge of my bed that morning, I finally came to grips with the fact that this was more than just an episode. I stumbled over nothing twice on my way to the shower. And then the world started messing with the dimmer switch and leaning the walls in on me. I had slept only a few scattershot moments that night. Spent the rest clutching my cramping stomach and shivering with nausea and dizziness.
Episodes like this have been rare in the time since my surgery over six years ago; I can maybe count them on one hand. Generally they crash in only to linger for a few moments and then subside. This one lasted almost three hours.
And I had no time for this. So I did the bootstrap thing and hopped in the car to head to my final summer ethics class. Most of the details of the remainder of that Thursday are looming just out of reach in a fog of confusion, stupidity, stubbornness and denial. Where the things we do seem to make sense at the time but are proved to be merely willful acts of overt carelessness. I took some medications that had sat in bottles long past their effective date. I tried this concoction for energy or that one for pain. I then tried to sleep it all away. But the human body will only handle neglect for so long. Eventually it will take the initiative away from you – its survival instincts for too long overridden by complacency and poor management – and kick your ass.
I hate for people to make a fuss, but things were clearly out of control and my capacity to negotiate a fuss-free recovery had dwindled away. The triage nurse actually went all bug eyed. He ushered me into a curtained room and another nurse swiftly found a vein, practically before I had the gown snapped and my head hit the pillow. Or so it all seemed. My blood pressure measured 74/30 and my sugar had peaked beyond the limits of their standard equipment – over 600. The perfect storm of symptoms converged over my little corner of the world that Thursday and it took nearly three days to clean up the damage.
I wish I could say I’ve learned my lesson. I did an admirable job mouthing the words to the doctors and nurses; a tried-and-true mix of confidence and humility. Yes, I’ll take the diabetes education classes. Yes, I’ll find a way to pay for the Chantix to help me quit smoking. Yes, I’ll check my sugar several times a day and shoot up the insulin. And yes, of course I’ll eat the right things and get plenty of rest. This is a familiar script. As is the line I get from my family – “You’re gonna end up just like your Uncle Jerry.” He never put forth any real effort to control his diabetes until the very end, when there was little that could be done. He died at 50 waiting for a new kidney.
That’s ten years down the road for me. I hope I make it . . . and hope is a good thing, right?