It was the summer of 1984 and we were living in DeSoto County.
I developed a sore throat and visited a friend of mine who is a doctor. The doctor was always very diligent to check out the patient’s complaints. During this visit he ordered a red and white blood count as well as a urinalysis. When he came back into the room he ordered an injection of antibiotics and gave me a prescription to take. With a very stern look on his face he said, “Your glucose count is too high and you have sugar in the urine.”
My thought was “So?”
After all I just wanted some relief from the sore throat. The doctor finished by saying I want to see you in two weeks. I thought to myself, “If my sore throat is gone you may not see me in two weeks.”
Two weeks passed and for whatever reason I decided to return to see the doctor. He did a blood test, urinalysis and examined my throat. He told me the throat problem was gone but that the glucose level in the blood was still too high and that there was still sugar in the urine. He gave me a copy of a diet and told me to follow it for two weeks and to come back and see him.
I was not concerned. I knew nothing about diabetes and I assume I thought it could not happen to me. I never considered the fact that a large number of people on my mother’s side of the family were diabetic. My mother’s maiden name was Hipp and, once I considered it, diabetes seemed to be a Hipp characteristic. But none of those thoughts went through my mind. I did think about the fact that each morning at around 10 a.m. I would get very weak and walk across the street and get a bottle of chocolate milk and a honey bun. After eating and drinking my morning refreshment, I felt fine. But then having a low sugar episode surely was not diabetes, or was it?
I followed the recommended diet and in two weeks returned to my doctor.
He again checked my blood and did a urinalysis. He came back in the room and said my glucose reading was too high, sugar was still present in the urine and my cholesterol and triglycerides were too high. He in fact said my triglycerides were, “out the top.” He then made me an appointment with an endocrinologist at Methodist Hospital which then was in downtown Memphis. I was instructed not to eat or drink anything before the appointment because I was to be given a glucose tolerance test.
When I entered the office, my blood sugar level was checked and I was given a drink very heavy in sugar. This drink was so sweet I thought I was not going to be able to drink it but the nurse assured me I could. My glucose was then checked on thirty minutes intervals. After the second check I asked if I could walk around outside and the nurse said it would be fine. It was hot that day and I actually thought I might not get back inside the hospital. I felt dizzy and weak but finally made it back to the office for the last check. I was then called into the doctor’s office and he checked me over from head to foot. His assessment was very blunt. His words were, “If you have ever been afraid someone would tell you that you have diabetes, fear no more because you definitely have.”
He wrote me a prescription for some diabetic pills and put me on a cholesterol medication. I was instructed to eat breakfast and take my medication before leaving for work. The next morning I ate breakfast, took my medication and went to work. I was teaching a class for about 100 teachers and at 9 a.m. I had to call a break. I was weak, trembling and sweating. I asked one of the housekeepers to bring me a glass of grape juice and immediately drank all of it. I was feeling better and went back to work. The next morning I was still teaching and the same thing happened. This time I called the doctor in Memphis and was instructed not to take the diabetic pill and he would call me in another one. This worked better.
Thus the fight was on to balance food intake and the amount of medication taken. This is a lifelong process to gauge medication and food intake and to keep check of the glucose level.
After a number of years, I had to get on insulin, which I will be on as long as I live. Yes, the fight goes on between the balance of insulin and the food eaten. By hook or crook I have got to increase exercise which is another component of diabetic management.
My purpose in writing this column is to encourage everyone to be checked for diabetes as you get older. This is especially true if:
* You have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
* Your cholesterol levels are not normal or your triglycerides reading is above 250 mg/dl
* If you are basically inactive or exercise less than three times a week
* If you are a little heavier than you think you should be.
These indicators came from the American Diabetic Association. Above all else, if diabetes is present in your family background, head for your doctor and be checked. Don’t take diabetes for granted.
Billy McCord is a retired school administrator and an Elder in the United Methodist Church. He is Pastor of Shady Grove UM Church in Calhoun County and is President of the Calhoun County School Board. Contact him at P.O. Box 337, Bruce, MS or firstname.lastname@example.org.