It’s a beautiful fall day here in Northeast Florida. A slight chill is in the air (okay, it’s 57℉), the sun is bright and my bird feeder is full. Hopefully the redbirds will return and enjoy autumn in my backyard.
The past 4 weeks have probably been the most challenging of my life personally-speaking. It all started with a little gout flare-up, for which I went to a local walk-in clinic on a beautiful Tuesday morning much like today. Since I don’t have a “regular” doctor and have rarely been sick, a friend recommended this place since it’s a national chain of emergency-care type clinics. They were nice, professional, very clean and helpful.
At least until their doctor saw me. After asking a few questions about my condition he wrote a script for Prednisone, charged me $89 and sent me on my way. It never occurred to me that he had not read my family history in all the paperwork I had to fill out before I even saw him.
If he had read my history, he would have known that I am at high risk for diabetes since close family members have it, and he never would have prescribed Prednisone for gout. But he didn’t read it, or didn’t pay attention to it. And that started me on a downward spiral for the next 5 days that almost put me in a diabetic coma.
Like a good patient I filled the prescription and started the medication. That evening I started getting hoarse and by Wednesday morning I had laryngitis and bad vertigo. On Thursday my vision went terribly blurry to the point I couldn’t even drive or read. Friday and Saturday nights were the worst nights I’ve ever had. I couldn’t sleep, I was drinking huge quantities of water, and feeling absolutely horrible. Plus the gout wasn’t any better (I could hardly walk), I was dizzy, and I could barely see anything. Oh, and I was passing kidney stones like Tebow on a good day during all this. Ouch!
By the following Sunday afternoon my wife had me in the ER, not sure what was going on but certain something wasn’t right. I had returned to the walk-in clinic twice earlier in the week but they missed the signs AGAIN and, on the third visit sent me to the ER.
As we sat in the ER I told Laura we should probably go – we had already sat there 3 hours without seeing a doctor. Being a good wife with keen intuition, she insisted we stay until I could see a doctor. Finally, we were ushered back into a room and the fun began.
Blood work – lots of it – family histories, chest x-rays, an EKG, etc… the works. About 45 minutes after all this, the ER doc walked in and informed us that my blood sugar was well over 500 and that they would be injecting me with lots of insulin and I’d be on fluids for several hours. (I found out later that you can slip into a diabetic coma at 600). My ER doc – great guy, Dr. Blake – told me the Prednisone opened a Pandora’s Box inside my body and caused all kinds of things to start going wrong.
After several hours of testing, injections, and IV fluids, it was apparent that the glucose wasn’t responding as quickly as the doctor preferred, so at 2:30 AM on Monday morning I was admitted to the hospital as a dehydrated Type 2 diabetic with dangerously high glucose levels. I didn’t even know I was diabetic to begin with, but the Prednisone pushed me over that proverbial edge, thank-you very much.
During those 3 days in the hospital I saw dietitians, several different endocrinologists, emergency-care physicians, and was subjected to more needles and blood tests than a drug addict in detox. My glucose levels began responding and went from well over 500 to under 200 in about a day and half. That drop – plus dealing with this new diagnosis – put me on an emotional roller-coaster I’ve never experienced before. I felt like a basket-case!
I had told my wife many times before that, since I was at high risk for diabetes, I never wanted to cross that bridge and have to deal with this. Then suddenly, without warning, I’m in the hospital slowly making my way back from the precipice of going into a diabetic coma. It was very sobering to say the least.
So for the past three weeks I have seen the doctor weekly, had another EKG, had an MRI of the brain (yes, I have one), am learning how to cope with living on less than 1700 calories a day, injecting myself with insulin every morning, pricking my fingers every 4 hours, reading food labels for sugar content, and learning a new way of life. I am determined to drop at least 30 lbs. since my doctor tells me I can regulate my diabetes with diet and exercise and probably stop the insulin altogether – if my pancreas decides to play nice and cooperate. My vision and vertigo have cleared up, the gout is gone and I’m slowly feeling normal again (though I doubt I had felt normal for quite some time before all this happened).
I share all of this as an admonition to those of you who are overweight and not taking care of yourselves. I thought that because I didn’t eat fried foods (okay, at least not regularly), somewhat watched my sugar intake, and stayed relatively active (a very subjective state of being) that I was immune from being afflicted with something other people have. Boy was I wrong.
For some guys in their 50’s (yes, I hit that mark earlier this year) it takes a heart attack or other major life-threatening event to get their attention. For me, it was a trip to the ER that I almost didn’t make. I’m grateful that God kept me in the palm of His hand and allowed me to see how fragile life is if we take it for granted. My wife and children need me around a lot longer and I intend to be here for them. But it means I have to make major life-adjustments to do that. But they’re worth it.