Around the end of October 2001 I was
scheduled to go into the hospital for surgery. The day before the
surgery I was scheduled for a pre-op physical with both the surgeon
and the anesthesiologist. I completed the physical and went home
to spend what turned out to be a sleepless night thinking of the
Next morning, bright and early, my guardian angel took me to the
hospital. As I sat in the surgical prep room a nurse came in and
told me the surgery had been canceled. Seems the blood test I took
showed a high level of glucose in my system indicating that I might
be diabetic. The hospital scheduled me for Diabetes Education classes,
for which I will be eternally grateful. I learned more about the
human body and it's quirks in the month since then than I have learned
in my entire life. I learned about the pancreas, insulin, neuropathy,
nephropathy, retinopathy, blood glucose testing, and the complications
of diabetes if blood glucose levels are not maintained in the normal
range. I feel that I learned the "How" I'm going to die even if
I don't know the "When."
Some of the things I learned I would like to throw out there for
anyone to see, to show how my doctor and I missed the obvious symptoms
I retired about a year and a half ago and quit smoking at the same
time. My guardian angel still works, so I kinda picked up the role
of chief cook and bottle washer around here and the added chore
of baby-sitting my dawg Lucia. I, of course, started spending a
lot of time on the computer and that added to my yet undiscovered
Around a year ago I noticed a burning sensation in my feet with
stinging such as you get when your foot falls asleep. I attributed
it to sitting on my butt so much so I'd get up and play fetch with
Lucia, my Siberian Husky. I also had a physical around that time
and told my doctor about the sensation in my feet. He checked my
blood sugar and it was normal. Now, I have learned that the normal
range of a person's blood glucose level is 80-120mg/dl (4.4-6.7mmol/L).
Mine at the pre-op was 382mg/dl (21.2mmol/L). They scheduled me
for a fasting blood glucose test for the next morning which I took
and it was 352mg/dl (19.5mmol/L). Down some, but not nearly enough.
It was determined that I had Type 2 Diabetes. This condition, I've
since learned, has several factors that contribute to the cause.
Age, weight, physical activity, or the lack of it, are among the
things that contribute to the condition getting a foot hold in a
person's system. The three things that cause your blood sugar level
to rise as I learned in the education classes are:
All three of these turn into glucose (sugar) in your blood after
eating them. With Carbohydrates being the main culprit by 100% of
any carbohydrate you eat turning into glucose within two hours of
eating them. Only about 80% of Protein turns into glucose and it
takes about two hours longer to peak out in your system. Fat is
a non factor because only a small percentage of fat turns into glucose
over a much longer period of time (8 hours according to the textbooks
I have obtained). So, Carbohydrates are the main culprit and bears
My doctor gave me a blood glucose test meter (Accu-chek Advantage)
so that I could test my blood glucose level and a little booklet
to maintain a record of the results of the tests. Since then I have
also downloaded some free software to generate reports for my doctor.
I test my blood glucose level when I awake in the morning, then
two hours after eating breakfast. I test again before I eat lunch,
then two hours after I finish lunch. I test again before dinner
and one more time two hours after dinner. Then one more test before
bed time. The test consists of using a tool called a Lancet, which
is a sharp little mother that is loaded into a spring-loaded thing
that looks like a fat ballpoint pen. A pack of little "testing strips"
come with the meter and when you run out, the little mothers are
the expensive part of the operation. You hold the fat pen against
the side of your finger tip, or the back of your finger and press
the button on it. "Zap" sometimes I feel a little sting and at other
times I don't. After squeezing the crap out of my fingertip a tiny
drop of blood oozes out and I slide the strip into the drop of blood
on a little spot for it and the meter "beeps" letting you know it
has recognized the blood. Then you wait for 45 seconds while it
hums and whirls then pops up a number that you hope with all your
heart is between 80-120mg/dl (4.4-6.7mmol/L).
It took about 10 days for my numbers to start dropping toward normal
as I learned from trial-and-error how what I ate affected my blood
glucose levels. Glucose is used as fuel (energy) for your muscles
and body by entering the cells in your body. Glucose needs a key
to open the door to the cells and Insulin is that key that allows
the glucose to enter the cell. In Type 1 Diabetics no insulin is
produced at all by the pancreas, so must be injected. Type 2 folks
have insulin, but for whatever reason it is sitting down on the
job and not allowing the glucose to enter the cells.
Several interesting things start to happen to a person's body because
glucose is not entering cells. The glucose starts to build up in
the body causing havoc to every part of the human body it touches.
The first thing that happens, and it happened to me last summer
like a sledgehammer. You get thirsty, I mean double-D thirsty. The
body is dehydrating because of the sugar and it begins to give you
a dry mouth, and an unquenchable thirst. I was drinking 10 Cherry
Cokes a day and ice water so fast that the fridge could not make
ice cubes quick enough for me. I drank, and drank, and drank without
quenching that thirst one iota. Now, all this fluid has to go somewhere,
so it is trip-after-trip every 20 minutes to the bathroom to get
rid of all this fluids you drink to quench the unquenchable. That's
how Diabetes got it's name.
Back in the Roman and Greek days they were aware of Diabetes but
being in the dark ages someone found a way to test for Diabetes
and this was to taste the urine of a person suspected of having
the disease. In Italian, sweetness is translated as "Millitus".
In the meantime, the Greeks recognized the connection between the
great, unquenchable thirst and the frequent trips to the bathroom.
Someone decided that the disease was like a "siphon" and "siphon"
translated into Greek is, you guessed it, "Diabetes" thereby giving
the disease it's present name of "Diabetes Millitus."
The glucose that can not enter the cells starts doing it's damage
to any part of the body it can reach, and that is just about the
whole shebang. It attacks the sheathing that covers the nerves interfering
with the signals sent through those nerves to the brain. The glucose
coats those sheaths and there are enzymes released in the body to
gobble up those glucose buzzards. Trouble is those enzymes don't
know when to stop munching after eating the glucose and continue
right on eating through the sheath of the nerve. Sorta good news
here though. If a person keeps their blood glucose levels in the
normal range, those nerves can regenerate themselves. I notice now
that my numbers are under control and in the normal zone, the burning
sensation and the stinging in my toes have decreased. Sometimes
it comes back and bothers me, but not as bad as it has been in the
past. The damage to those nerve sheaths was given the name Neuropathy,
one of those buzz words I mentioned earlier.
The next thing I noticed and this little problem cost me some $350.
In January 2001 I had to get new glasses as I lost the only remaining
pair I had. For $575 I had my eyes examined and two pair of glasses
made with what I thought were snazzy frames. Within four months
I could not see out of these new glasses because everything was
blurry. When I got them in January they were perfect and I could
see better with them than I could in years past. But by May I could
not use the damn things. I bounced along until September finally
giving in to the necessity of having to see things. I went back
to the eye doctor and told him that those glasses he made for me
were useless now. In my mind I was thinking this old geezer was
probably a drunk and misread the eyecheck and made a bad prescription,
forgetting that I could see perfectly with them in January. The
poor old gent examined my eyes again and was shocked at the difference
in the test from January and the one in September. He asked me if
I had Diabetes and of course I told him hell no. He sold me two
new pairs that I could see out of perfectly for two or three weeks
then I could not see out of those either. Now I was convinced the
old coot was a drunkard and didn't know what he was doing. Well,
this is when a new word in entered my vocabulary, "Retinopathy."
Seems when you have diabetes and are going to the bathroom every
20 minutes getting rid of all that fluid you've been guzzling your
body is starving for that fluid. When it can't get that fluid in
the normal way it starts pulling it in from all over and the eyes
are one of the first to be drained of fluid by the body. When the
eyes lose fluid, they change shape causing "Blurry vision.” Another
problem left untreated could become something named "Retinopathy"
another buzz word. With Retinopathy, glucose in your system damages
blood vessels in the eye. The body starts making other blood vessels
to replace the damaged ones. But, in doing this the vessels are
placed through the Macula and begins to destroy “sight.” This requires
a thorough eye examination twice a year, if possible. Some of this
could be corrected by “laser” surgery I am told.
Well, if all that crap is not bad enough, the glucose starts meddling
in your kidney function by clogging up the filter system that your
kidneys perform and this kills a lot of diabetics. When the kidneys
start to fail, brothers and sisters, it is dialysis time and renal
failure time. The name for this? Another buzz word, "Nephropathy."
So, even though there are more dangers lurking for diabetics, these
three are the ones that do the most damage to the Diabetic.
- Neuropathy = Loss of sensation in extremities there by
causing amputations if not examined very carefully for injuries
- Nephropathy = Kidney failure and eventual, well you get
- Retinophy = Blindness.
I then scheduled an eye examination. They gave me the most thorough
eye examination I have ever had in my life. They poked, prodded,
inserted two kinds of drops, they slid my head in a frame and almost
stood me on my head. They looked, they studied, they hemmed and
hawed. Finally, when the one examining me decided to call another
doctor in the room to look at something in my left eye, I decided
they were too serious and needed a little fun poked at them. After
the second doctor, a female of about 27-30 years of age, repeated
the same things as the first doctor, a young Asian male, I said
to her that I had a question. In her most serious doctor voice she
responded yes? I said to her, and folks this is the gospel truth
I swear, "Doctor I need a second opinion to confirm what your
fellow doctor here told me. She got a puzzled look on her face and
said, 'Of course, what is the question?'" I got real serious
and said to her "He told me that my optical nerve was connected
to my sphincter muscle and that's why I had a crappy outlook on
life, is it possible for you to confirm his diagnoses?" Well, folks,
I wish you could have seen the look that came over her face. She
thought it was a serious question and started to digest the question
before it dawned on her that I was joking. The little Asian doctor
was holding his stomach and doubled over with laughter and after
a minute the femaled doctor cracked up in uncontrollable laughter.
Believe it or not, neither one of them had ever heard that old joke
it was completely new to them. They called all the other doctors,
nurses, staff and technicians into the examining room for me to
go through the whole rigmarole all over again. Can you believe it?
Eye doctors and workers have never heard that joke before? They
take life too serious I told them. Finally the examination was over
and I had to drive home with my eyes dilated into the California
sunset. What a trip! It tickles me how serious they were.
The female doctor told me that usually Retinopathy didn't start
until 10 years after a patient is diagnosed as diabetic. I said,
"Hell Doc, that is fantastic news" and, incredulously,
she asked "why is that so fantastic?" I said, "Hell, no
one in my whole family has lived past the age of 65 so I'm darn
sure that I won't be around in 10 years for that crap to hit me!"
She couldn't believe my attitude and that tickled the stuffing right
outta me! Good news on the diabetes front though.
After learning I was diabetic I threw out all sugar and switched
to Equal and diet Pepsi from cherry coke. Within a week I had my
blood sugar level down to around 250mg/dl (13.9mmol/L) with a few
spikes here and there. I have been testing about every 2 hours out
of curiosity and keeping a diary of what I eat and my activity prior
to and 2 hours after eating. Try as I may, I could not get much
lower than 250 (13.8mmol/L) for the past week. Well, I finally got
around to reading one of the diabetes education books the hospital
gave me and in it I read that if you walk an hour after eating for
a short time that it would decrease your blood glucose level. I
know the nurse told me that in the diabetes education class, but
it just went over my head. In the garage is a brand new treadmill
that my Guardian Angel bought for me a couple Christmas's ago and
it still had the big red bow on it that she had wrapped around it.
She cleaned the dust off for me and I got on it and walked for close
to 10 minutes before I gave out. When I was at UPS I walked on a
treadmill 15 miles a day. This little 10-minute walk was exactly
an hour after I had eaten and an hour before I tested my self. When
I did test my self an hour later my blood sugar level was 150mg/dl
(8.3mmol/L)! I couldn't believe it! Struggle for a week and hover
around 250, then take a 10 minute walk on the treadmill and bam
I'm down to 150. Well, I had Chicken Cachitori with a little Spagetti
on the side for dinner, waited an hour then walked for about 5 minutes
on the treadmill. Tested my self an hour later and bam, it was 159mg/dl
(8.8mmol/L). So, my future is pretty set of getting to know that
treadmill intimately, and working up to my max eventually.
Keeping your blood suger levels near normal is no guarantee that
you will prevent complications from diabetes, but what is the alternative
if you don’t maintain tight conterol? I found my trusty scales in
the garage and dusted it off, then stepped on it for the first time
in several years. I had lost 10 pounds in the two weeks since I
discovered I was diabetic. The world looks bright again!