Monthly Archives: September 2017

Are you an Athlete? Ready for your medal?

Hey, I know it’s been a busy summer (or winter, depending on where you live). Here’s your early autumn reminder that we still have plenty of medals to give away to those living with diabetes who reach athletic goals.

Have you been like Luke, who played baseball this summer, and is playing football this fall while managing diabetes? Maybe you’re like Eli, a 13 year old cross country skier in Minnesota. How about Alisha, an equestrian who has placed well in dressage competitions?

You might have worked hard to complete one of the JDRF or ADA cycling events this year, like Mike in Virginia. Or maybe you did one of the ADA or JDRF walks instead. Hey, your definition of an athletic goal met is the correct definition, whatever it is.

Our goal in creating this program is to recognize how challenging it is to begin, maintain, and finish a fitness endeavor while managing diabetes at the same time.

Whether it’s you, a family member, a friend, or a colleague (who is likely a friend too), I want to encourage you to send a request and get your medal. Here are the rules:

1. The athlete receiving the award must be living with diabetes.

2. For now, we’re going with a pretty loose interpretation of the word “event”. If you feel you’ve accomplished something important to you, that’s an event. That’s enough.

3. Send me an e-mail at champswithdiabetes@gmail.com. Tell me your name, name of the athlete (it’s okay if it’s you), and your address (we have to know where to send the medal). Most important, tell me what athletic goal was accomplished, and when. Extra points if you tell me how you felt accomplishing the goal. Full disclosure: I reserve the right to use your testimonial here, on Twitter, and on Facebook. I will not use your name if you don’t want me to. As always, I will never share private information.

4. When you receive your medal, it would be great if you post a photo of it around the athlete’s neck. You can send a Tweet to @ChampsWithD (hashtag: #champdathletes) or post it on the Champion Athletes With Diabetes Facebook Page.

There’s a growing army of Champion Athletes with Diabetes who wear their medals proudly (over 80 now!), and I’d like to add you to that group. If it’s important to you, it’s important to me too. Your medal is waiting. I’d like to send it as soon as possible.

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Encountered by Diabetes In The Wild.

I love to read stories from friends who encounter others living with diabetes in the course of their everyday lives. Those Diabetes In The Wild stories are always interesting.

But I almost never, ever encounter diabetes in the wild myself. The times when I have encountered someone else living with diabetes have indeed been few and far between. But twice in the span of just one week, I’ve actually been the subject of someone else’s Diabetes In The Wild stories.

The first time was at my post-op visit with the surgeon who removed my appendix. At the office, I went back to get weighed and get vital signs with an assistant, who almost immediately asked “Is that an Animas Vibe insulin pump clipped to your pocket?”. I was astonished that she knew, until she mentioned that both she and her husband have been pump users in the past (her husband still is, but she is now MDI).

We talked briefly about the Medtronic 670g, and about the Abbott Libre, which will hopefully be approved by the U.S. FDA soon. I mentioned my participation in clinical trials.

The second encounter was from a technician at our Veterinarian’s office last Thursday. We were in to get Boomer a booster on one of his vaccinations. She saw the ONE—–>NONE T-shirt I was wearing, and blurted out, “I just have to ask– One to None— is that about Type 1 diabetes?”. Thanks Alecia, for the one piece of clothing that may be, above any other, a diabetes conversation starter.

The vet tech’s son is nine years old, and has been living with Type 1 for a few years. She couldn’t imagine what it will take for her son to live with diabetes for 26 years like I have. You know how you survive 26 years? One day at a time. Her son has the Vibe pump, and the Dexcom G4. She raved about Dexcom and their customer support, as did I. Later, we got her e-mail address and I sent her information about the upcoming Friends for Life Falls Church event. You can never have too many diabetes friends.

The connecting theme from these two encounters is easy to understand: there are, in fact, tens of millions of us living with diabetes in this country. Yet living with diabetes can be a lonely existence. Tens of millions of us living with diabetes, hundreds of millions of us who are clueless about what it takes to live every day with this disease.

That’s what makes that moment of recognition, that instant bond, so special. It’s not necessary for us to have friends living with diabetes, or have people in our lives who understand. But when we do, it makes all of the 3:00 a.m. glucose checks, the bad pump sites, the constant doctor visits, and the fights with insurance companies easier pills to swallow, to borrow a metaphor.

I may still have diabetes… but I have new friends who understand me, and new friends who can count on me to understand. Me too? Priceless.

Same lies, different week.

They’re back.

Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate are trying to take away health care from the Americans they represent. Again.

The newest effort, the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal, or Graham-Cassidy, as many are calling it, is pretty much the same effort that failed earlier, in a different package. I guess the only thing different about this one is that this time, four guys are actually stupid enough to attach their names to it.

But the basics of the bill are the same as others: Remove Affordable Care Act subsidies and replace them with block grants. Nice idea, but it really never works. And even if it sort of works, it only works on a state-by-state basis. So the truth is that, best case scenario, many patients in many states would have significantly reduced access to care. Even less access to care than before Obamacare was passed.

The bill also proposes to defund Planned Parenthood (again). Like I’ve said before, you can’t do that without saying to millions of American women that breast cancer screenings and other preventative procedures aren’t important to you. That’s a hard sell.

The bill also states that it will “protect patients with pre-existing medical conditions”. Well, excuse, me, but I already have that protection today. This bill doesn’t promise anything new on that, except the assertion that this “protection” they speak of would also come with significantly increased premiums for people living with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and yes, pregnancy.

Senator Lindsey Graham, in repeated interviews, has stated that I don’t have to worry, that I would still be able to purchase insurance if this passes. Hey, look, I can still purchase a $120,000 Tesla, but I can’t afford it. This is the same thing: Making health care a luxury product, rather than a right for all Americans.

It still comes back to the same thing for me. If a “repeal and replace” bill can’t offer at least the same access to coverage, at the same cost, as the Affordable Care Act does today, it’s going to be a non-starter for Americans. Especially since half or more of us live with those pre-existing conditions.

We’re tasked once again with defending our right to health care. Contact your elected officials right now. Once again, American lives are at stake.

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One heck of a vacation.

Now, let’s see… where was I?

That’s right… I was supposed to go on vacation, a total of ten days off of work, and a chance to spend time away with The Great Spousal Unit for the first time since last November.

By now, you may have heard that I had surgery on Friday, September 8th. An emergency appendectomy. Here’s what happened:

Wednesday, I felt a little discomfort in my midsection. By Thursday night, it had intensified, and I decided that if I felt the same way Friday morning (my first day of vacation), I would try to get in to see the doctor. As luck would have it, my doctor was out sick Friday, so I went to a doc-in-the-box. They were swamped with patients, so I decided to go to the emergency room. I was convinced that because the pain I felt included significant pain in my lower back, it was a kidney infection.

So I spent some time being checked out in the ER, including a contrast test (too long to explain), after which, to my great surprise, I was told that I had acute appendicitis and I needed surgery right away. Maureen hadn’t even finished work yet.

She did make it though, about half an hour later, and boy, was I messed up. In fact, the surgeon told me at my post-op follow-up visit that the appendix was in bad shape, distended, and the moment he went to grab it, it burst. It’s a small organ, but what was inside, all of the bacteria, spilled into my gut, and there was really no way at that point to get it back.

Sorry to be so gross. I’m writing this in part so I don’t have to remember it later. And the worst part didn’t even happen yet.

One of the anaesthesia drugs I was given is supposed to relax my muscles. Instead, my muscles tensed up, and my body temperature went through the roof. The surgical team had trouble waking me.

It turns out I experienced something that only one out of every 20,000 patients experience. Officially, it’s called Malignant Hyperthermia. It’s caused by an allergy to a drug that was in my anaesthesia cocktail. We’re not sure which drug yet, but I hope to be tested soon, in part because it’s hereditary, so the fact that I have this problem indicates that my siblings and one or both of my parents might also.

I’m convinced that the hospital’s Chief Anaesthesiologist saved my life. The surgeon told me he was astonished that as soon as she went to work, my temperature went from 39.9 Celsius (103.82 Fahrenheit) to 39.2 (102.56) to something around 37.2 (99). I sure am glad she wasn’t on vacation.

To put it mildly, I had been through an ordeal already. I awoke to an operating room in mild chaos. It seemed everyone, about a dozen people, were all talking. There were five people surrounding me, and three of them were asking questions, all at the same time. I was still intubated, and they weren’t asking Yes or No questions.

I didn’t know I was intubated at first… it just felt like I had something stuck in my throat (which I did). I coughed hard, and it came partially out, and then I reached up and pulled it out the rest of the way. Those things come out pretty easily, it turns out. But I still freaked out those asking the questions. I reached out and grabbed one of the doctors, who, it turns out, is a great guy, and said “Stop calling me Boss, goddamn it!”. I guess that’s the funniest part of the story.

Then, a night in the Intensive Care Unit. Then, two more nights of hell where I couldn’t keep food down, and ate nearly nothing. By Monday morning, I was wondering what it would take to feel better, because every day since Friday had seemed to be worse than the day before.

But Monday came, and I felt much better, and I was able to stand up for more than a few seconds at a time. I got a chance to walk a little. Was I getting better?

Tuesday lunch, they finally switched me off of the dreaded clear liquid diet (think broth and jello for every meal), and I ate solid food for the first time in four days. By late Wednesday afternoon, I was finally released from the hospital.

I’m sure I left out a lot of the story, but that’s most of it anyway. Now, a few random thoughts now that I’m about ten days after surgery.

– Diabetes… that’s right, this is a diabetes blog! I managed as best I could. I talked it over with the attending physician the day after surgery. I was adamant about keeping my pump on, and managing diabetes myself. He suggested that I run a little high until I could get my diet and movement more normal, so we could avoid any late-night lows when my energy level was already low to begin with. I thought that was a good idea, and that’s what I did.

– The hospital used a non-reusable lancet when performing glucose checks. I would have preferred to just use my own meter and lancets, but the first few days, there’s no way I could have handled that. I was too weak. I know they’re supposed to use non-reusable lancets, but it’s nice to know they’re doing it.

– My appetite hasn’t completely returned, but I’m not nearly as active, so I’m okay with that. I’m basically eating about half of what I normally do. Don’t expect to see me and see a significant reduction in weight, though I really wish that would be the case.

– The surgeon is telling me to take one more week off of work. In addition, I can’t lift anything over ten pounds for four weeks. So much for autumn yard work.

– Some things taste different. It’s really strange. For instance, coffee doesn’t taste anything nearly like what it tasted like before the surgery. I don’t think this is necessarily bad. Mostly, I’m curious to know what causes this. I think it’s interesting.

– I received exceptional care from the nursing staff at the hospital. I was cared for by white, African-American, Hispanic, and middle eastern Muslim nurses and technicians, and they were all great. Spectacular, even. I will be forever grateful.

One final thing: I’ve read about many experiences like mine over the years, where people are brought back from the brink of death, and they are convinced that now their lives are destined for some “higher purpose”. The first part of that is true… I could have died on the table in the operating room.

But I already believe I had a purpose before this episode. I still have a purpose, and that’s great. I want to be the best person, the most helpful person I can be. I want to do the most I can for those living with and affected by diabetes. That was true yesterday, it’s true today, and it will be true tomorrow. Why do we need a near-catastrophe to convince us that we are here for a higher purpose?

Our purpose is before us already. Seek it. Live your purpose.

I’m ready to go off the clock.

I had one of those mornings last week.

Actually, it was more like one of those weeks last week.

Every time I came to work, it seemed like things were happening all around me, and my input or assistance was needed at every turn. Deadlines got tighter, and new requests made beating those deadlines harder than ever.

Then, on my way to work Friday, the subway broke down one stop from where I get off downtown. Convinced it was a fluke, and knowing I could do the extra walk (and I can use some extra walking, believe me), I decided against waiting for the next train.

I wound up walking an extra mile or so to get to the office. Of course, I never would have guessed that this would happen when I bolused for the breakfast I ate earlier. But it did, and understandably, my blood sugar tanked shortly after I arrived.

No worries… I always have juice and candy in my desk, so I was able to move on with my day. But, I started getting e-mails and phone calls and before I knew it, I was still at my desk working hard well after my usual lunch time.

Can you guess what happened next? Yes, my BG dropped again. I had to cut off a phone call early so I could walk away from my desk and get something to eat.

Many have said it… our lives with diabetes are great as long as nothing unexpected happens. But something unexpected always happens. Often, at the most inopportune time.

After all this time (26 years) living with diabetes, it’s easy to just shrug my shoulders at a day like this. But this is far more than a shruggable(?) circumstance. While experience is worth a lot on days like this, it’s easy to let experience tell us this is no big deal.

But it is a big deal. Or, perhaps, the fact that we make it look like it’s not a big deal is the big deal. I try not to remember what I’ve lost in time and effort in moments like these. However, it’s easy to tell myself that it’s time and effort I won’t get back anyway, so why bother worrying about it?

And that’s the point. So often, we make it look easy. We give the impression that it’s not hard to figure out, that everything just runs like clockwork.

It runs like clockwork because our lives, present and absent from diabetes, depend on the clockwork.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to go off the clock from my diabetes.

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