Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Comes in All Forms, or Who You Gonna Call When You Go to the Hospital?

This is a post about love, friendship, the family we choose for ourselves.    

On Monday afternoon, my very dear friend David sent me a rather frantic message.  “Sam saw a doctor and is going to the ER.  They don’t know if it’s mono or meningitis.”  I swear my heart stopped for an instant, then launched into a rather anxious, rapid pattern.  They were just words on a screen, and yet I could feel the weight and the panic.  Meningitis can be very, very nasty, even deadly, and spinal taps are the only way to test for it, and those are extraordinarily painful.  Mono can be pretty awful as well.  Sam is David’s boyfriend.  David works second shift, so he was nowhere near the hospital. 

Allow me to back up for a moment here to tell you about these friends of mine.

David and I have been pals for well over a year now, and we’ve grown very close for a number of reasons.  I’ve spent enough time hanging out with him that it almost warrants keeping a stash of diabetes supplies at his apartment.  He happens to live about three blocks away, so we are sort of emergency backups for each other.  If Matt and I went on a road trip but left the stove on, I could call David and he’d go take care of it for us.  We have that kind of friendship.  Some may say I am a fag hag.

Sam is adorable and vivacious.  He has one of my favorite cheesy grins when people take his picture.  In January, at a big dance party held at our friends’ place, David bumped into me in the kitchen to confide that he thought Sam was really cute.  We’d both just met him, but I definitely agreed with David.  The two of them were then chatting for a large portion of the evening.  Soon after, they were dating, and my circle of close friends grew yet again. 

Nowadays, David and Sam show up to parties, dinners, picnics, the gay bar, movie nights, many things as a twosome.  I know how much they care for each other.  They are that couple that leaves cute little notes for each other on Facebook so the world can see.  Always smiling, holding hands, stealing kisses.  I love their love—it’s fantastic to see two friends so happy together. 

Poor David was scared, that much was very clear to me.  He was feeling guilty that because of the nature of his job, he couldn’t rush back to the hospital to be at Sam’s side for whatever was about to happen.  I imagined if Matt and I had a similar situation.  I was fortunate enough that he was there when I had to have my appendix out in 2009; he’s the one who drove me to the ER.  Then I realized that as a heterosexual couple, we might not even have to face some of the difficulties that David and Sam could potentially encounter.  I kept David talking, just as anxious for updates on Sam’s diagnosis as he was, and felt somewhat helpless.  I didn’t really think there was much I could do. 

My mind continued to wander.  What if I landed in the hospital now?  Which of my friends would come to visit?  What if something would happen to Matt?  How would I handle it?  What if something happened to David?  David doesn’t have health insurance.  I thought of my other friends with no health insurance.  I thought of how many diabetes-related situations could send me to the ER. 

The best thing I could do as a friend was be there for him, and be supportive.  So what I said was this:

I don't really know what I can do to help you right now, I just want to wrap you in a blanket and let you cry if you need to and hand you tissues and put my arms around you. I know you are scared.  I'm trying my best to say nice, reassuring things. I'm not sure that I'm always great with what to say in these situations, but I can hug. And let people cry.

David thanked me.  He kept me updated on Sam’s condition for the rest of the day.  Not mono; Sam had a spinal tap and waiting on results.  Sam’s mom was there at the hospital too.  He asked if maybe I could stop by during visiting hours.  Shortly after, he sent another update:  not meningitis.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and I knew David had just done the same.  Just a nasty infection coupled with some sort of flu—they pumped Sam full of antibiotics were keeping him overnight to keep an eye on things.  That night, David snuck in through the ER door after visiting hours and made his way to Sam’s room.  I can only imagine how grateful he must have felt that it wasn’t as serious as it could have been.

They sent Sam home today.  I visited yesterday, and both David and Sam were there.  We all laughed and swapped war stories about the other times we’d each been in the hospital.  Sam complained about his IV, which was literally occluded every time he bent his arm.  I cracked wise that my insulin pump had fewer issues, and you’d think a huge IV could do better.  And it all just made me think about how love and friendship are so powerfully intertwined when you know the right people. 

One thing that David had told me was that he wasn’t sure who he would tell if he had to be admitted to the hospital…I suggested Sam, his mother, and his favorite fag hag.

That made me wonder, for those of us who may not have our real families living close by (like me), or may not have family that we even talk to, who would you tell if you had to go into the hospital?  Who would take care of you?  Who would help you get back on your feet?  Who is around to hug and comfort the people who are concerned about you?

I'm confident that if something unfortunate ever happens to me, I'll have wonderful, reliable, loving friends to help out, maybe even before Matt can get home from work, and before my mom could drive the 3 and a half hours to get here.  I am so thankful to have so much love in my life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Diabetes Turned 21 and All I Got Was This Lousy A1C

Yesterday, I went to my endocrinologist.  She's a very lovely lady.  This is only the second time I've seen her, but I do like her.  She is quick and relatively thorough.  The first time I went to her office, which is in a big medical office building near where I work, I felt like I was going to see some kind of endocrinology celebrity.  There was a HUGE poster in the front lobby with her picture and her credentials on it.  She was down-to-earth and truly listened to my concerns.  You don't get that kind of treatment from a lot of doctors with larger than life pictures, I can tell you that.

We went over my test results, of course.  Kidneys are normal.  Liver and thyroid are also normal.  Always a relief.  LDL cholesterol is slightly elevated (should ideally be 100, it's 120), but that's nothing a little exercise and a healthier diet probably can't fix.  The big issue, the thing that is hardest to admit, is the A1C score.  But hey, to show you that I am just a young woman struggling with diabetes like the rest of the world, here's the number:


That's right.  There it is.  It ain't pretty, and yet I'm not really afraid of it.  I feel empowered knowing the truth.  I feel like I'm going to work to fix this, and the tool I'm going to attempt to bring this thing down with comes in a pen:  Symlin.  I haven't used Symlin in a couple of years, but I am willing to give it another go.  When I was using it, it was really working for me.  Using it forced me to pay attention to my blood sugars and also everything that I ate every day.  I had the lowest low I've ever had while taking Symlin: 32 mg/dl.  I was very alert (albeit seeing a few spots) and able to get myself glucose tabs to bring myself back up, but it was enough to let me know that I need to keep an eye on myself at all times. 

And that is precisely what I need right now.  A kick in the pants that says, "Hey you, Type 1!  You gotta work on that shit, remember?"  I really want to remember.

I think my dia-versary was officially sometime last week.  I've never known my exact date of diagnosis--it was pretty traumatic for the family, and my poor mom's memory for the date is foggy. 

My little Type 1 has turned 21!  I propose drinks to celebrate it being legal.  If you think you'd be down for a little d-meetup 21st birthday dinner for my diabetes in the greater Philly area, send me an email:  nrrdygrrl-at-gmail-dot-com.  I'm not celebrating my crappy A1C.  I am celebrating the fact that I am alive, well, and still trying to stay positive and get healthier.