A true story about having Type 1 Diabetes for the past 43 years and how much has changed
. Growing up Diabetic
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My story begins just after school let out for the summer. It is 1975. My Mother made plans for an exciting two-week vacation for my two older sisters, Momma and me to New Jersey to visit with Grandma and all our cousins who live out there. My oldest sister had a one-year-old baby and my father had to work so they stayed home.
We flew out from Los Angeles Airport on June, twenty-sixth. It was a five-hour flight. My first time on an airplane. A little scared, but exhilarating for an eleven-year-old. We landed at Kennedy Airport in Queens New York. Aunt Terry was waiting there for our arrival. It had been several years since we last saw Aunt Terry when she used to live in California across town. As soon as we saw her it was all hugs and kisses and asking how we were all doing.
I couldn't wait to meet our other cousins. Aunt Terry took us to Grandmas in Denville, New Jersey. Grandma had a very small house way back in a wooded area and when the rest of the family showed up it was standing room only.
The next morning Aunt Terry showed up to take us to New York City.
It was amazing to me! I had never seen buildings so high in the sky! We toured the Statue Of Liberty, The Twin Towers, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, China Town and shops all within the city.
We were having so much fun that I never thought twice about why I was getting so thirsty. Everywhere there was a water fountain I had to stop to get a drink, or I would ask Mom to buy me sodas. Then shortly afterward, I would have to relieve myself. Running in and out of shops hunting for the bathrooms we just figured it was anxiety because of all the sightseeing we were doing.
The second-day Aunt Terry came by again to take just Mom and me to the New Jersey shore at Coney Island. We picked up my little cousin John on the way. I was so anxious to get there, to see the east side of the ocean and ride the rides and play all the games.
It was like a permanent carnival; never to be taken down. John and I played fishing games, ring toss games, darts and rode almost all the rides together throughout the day. But I was even thirstier today than yesterday. Before the day was over I had run to the bathrooms many times to throw up shortly after putting anything in my mouth.
Yet, I continued to eat cotton candy and suck down Pepsi sodas all day. My Mom noticed I was getting too sick, so we cut the day short and went back to Grandma's house. We thought maybe, it was the different water or something. So my mom made an appointment for me to be seen by a family doctor as soon as we got back.
My appointment was set for Monday, June, 30th. I told Mom I didn't want to spoil her Fourth of July Birthday plans because I was getting sick. She assured me that I would be fine once I saw the doctor.
On the night of June, 28th, I was feeling so weak and sick that I quietly went into the bathroom. I did not want to wake everyone up, so I slept on the floor next to the toilet because I couldn't stop throwing up. By morning, I was drenched in sweat.
I yelled for Momma to come, "please help me." When she got to the bathroom I was almost completely passed out. How I managed to call out to her I'll never know. My older cousin (Arthur) Red, as we called him just arrived for some visiting. But when he saw what was happening to me and my mom beginning to freak out not knowing what to do. All I remember was hearing someone say,
" We need to get her to the emergency room fast."
Then Red picked me up off the couch he placed me in his car and that's when I went into a coma.
I have no memory of what happened after that except what I have been told by Mom and other family members.
The coma was bad enough that it lasted five days. The ER doctors told my Mom I had Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes and asked if there was any history of it in the family. She told them " No, " no one until me."
My whole family was in shock when the doctors told my Mother I was more than likely going to die. My last rights were read to me and there was nothing my family could do but pray. Momma called Dad to tell him what had happened. So, he and my oldest sister along with my baby niece flew out the next day. I never knew they were even there.
My sugar levels were over one thousand. How I survived at all is still a miracle. By the time I awoke from the coma, everything was such a blur to me. I had an IV ( intravenous needle and thin tubing) stuck in my arm, as I looked around the room, I saw my Mom and Aunt Terry crying and holding rosary's praying then smiling as they reached out to hug me.
My mom kissed my forehead and held my hand tightly. I was still very confused. It took a few more days for me to understand what happened to me and why I was so sick. Mom told me I had Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes.
" What is that?" I asked. I had never heard of it before and I didn't know anyone with it. Her words were filled with tears as she tried to tell me what diabetes is and that I had to give myself shots for the rest of my life because of an organ inside my body that died out.
I didn't know what to think except? " Why me? What caused this to happen? I'm only eleven years old and barely one hundred pounds."
I thought I was just a little sick kid.
Our two-week vacation now turned into a month. During my extended stay in the hospital, I was poked with needles every few hours to test for sugar levels in my blood. There were no portable blood testing devices of any kind back then.
I looked under the covers to see a tube that was between my legs. It was a catheter and it was inside me collecting my urine so it could also be tested daily. It hurt so bad every time I tried to move around on the bed.
I also had ketoacidosis.
The doctors treating me had to explain what this disease would do to my body in time. They told me all sorts of horrible things that can happen to my body if I don't take care of it. They explained how to adjust the insulin from the moment I get up to when I go to bed at night. And even then, if my sugar levels drop or stay too high again I could be back in a coma or that I could die if I wasn't careful.
Mind you, I was only a child and hearing these conditions that concerned the rest of my life was hard to take in and understand. I felt like I was given a death sentence at the age of eleven.
How was I going to do all of this that was required of me from now on? I was told that I could go blind, or that I might have body parts cut off due to infections, and that I really had to watch my weight because of diabetes causing obesity. Plus many other complications.
" What ?" "Are you kidding me?" The words spoken to me had no meaning to a child my age. There was no one I could talk to about what I was going through just to live. No one! I felt so alone and scared because of it, that I felt I had no choice in living or dying.
Then a nurse came into my room with an orange, a needle, and two small vials of insulin, one was clear as water the other one was a cloudy liquid.
"I am here to teach you how to give yourself injections", she said. They are shots, no matter how she said it. I knew that much and I hated them, the same as every kid did.
I asked her. " What's in the bottles?"
The nurse told me," that it is insulin extracted from cows and pigs! The clear one is a fast-acting insulin and the cloudy one is a long-acting insulin. You'll learn more in time."
" Why do I have to have it from cows and pigs? Can't it be a pill or something else?"
Her answers were, " No, I'm sorry you have to go through this, but it is the only kind closest to human insulin and if I were to take it by mouth, my stomach acids would ruin it."
My pancreas has died inside my body.
Crying did me no good, I begged, I pleaded, I yelled out, " I don't like this, please help me!"
Momma was there every minute crying alongside me all the way. She did her best to understand how important it was to listen and do as we were instructed before I could be released from the hospital.
When I was finally able to leave we went directly back to Grandma's house. My hands and arms were covered in bandages. I was given a large bag containing supplies I had to have and a pee testing kit, and lots of needles. I was bruised from all the needles I endured.
I really looked sick now. I lost twenty pounds during my stay. The clothes Momma made me for this summer trip were falling off my body. I had to keep pulling my shorts up all day. I looked liked I had been almost starved to death.
My sisters and cousins were all there to greet me when I came into the house. I was still so very weak. All I wanted to do was sleep and hopefully, wake up to my normal life again. I wished this was all just a bad dream. Unfortunately, it was not a dream at all. It was real and I had to take my life very seriously so I don't keep getting sick.
As soon as we landed back in Southern California Momma told me to unpack and then repack clean clothes because I had to go back to a Children's Hospital in downtown Los Angeles to learn more. Because there was much more to learn about this disease.
My very best friend Chawn from across the street came over to spend every moment of time with me as possible before I left again. She was so afraid of what her older sister told her that happened to me in New Jersey. She didn't want me to leave again. Worried we may never see each other again.
She couldn't understand what diabetes was either. And why did I get it?
" Will, you ever get better?" She asked me. " No," I replied. " I will have diabetes for as long as I live."
We started crying and holding each other while Momma waited for me to get into the car before I had to leave again. "I'll be waiting for you!" She yelled out. We waved at each other until we were out of sight. I kept on crying because I missed her and I hated being away from her again and my family.
"How long will I be staying at the children's hospital, Mom?" I asked.
She replied. The doctor said, "it would only be another two weeks or so. Until you fully understand how to care for yourself."
She grabbed my hand, and we looked at each other with tearful eyes. " It will all work out in time you'll see." She always did her best to convince me of that.
Diabetes can be a controlled disease, but it will take time, time to fully understand how to control it. Mom was my rock, my mentor, my reminder, my everything. She helped me to learn how to control my diabetes for at least the first ten years. Then I had to learn to be an adult with diabetes.
That was over forty years ago now. I understand it is a lifestyle and I must choose to live, and never give up. I finally realized that everything I eat or drink has an effect on my sugar levels. LIFE is Good. It hasn't been easy by any means, but I am still here, all of me and I plan on hanging around for as long as I can.
If you know someone with Diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, always be aware that the disease can kill that person at any time if not cared for right and monitored daily. Always ask; what their sugar levels have been. 80 to 150 is good, 150 to 250 is okay, anything over that means that they are not caring for the disease well and it will take from them the most important thing in their life and that is their life.
Please support the American Diabetic Association whenever and however you can.
by contacting ;
(ADA) at 1800-342-2383
orwww.diabetes.org for more information
With Sincere Thanks;
Darlene Wilson ( aka ) sew~no~more😊