Monday, July 2, 2012

The Stepford Diabetic: The Most Frustrating Type of Diabetic

September 29th, 1985.

I remember I was with my dad, out in the country. My dad was a real estate appraiser, and often would go appraise homes or farms 2-3 hours away, deep in the Puerto Rican country side. I loved it. I put on my 'Tinkerbell' brand make up, and dressed up... and dad would let me take pictures of the properties. You got to see a different way life; farm animals up close, and the people were always so kind. Sometimes they'd pay you in fruit, giant bunches of plantains or bananas, or even legumes. Sometimes in animals, like rabbits.  (I came by a pet rabbit that I adored, this way.)

I don't remember the town we had gone to (it might have been Mayagüez), but I remember it was raining soooo much, and we had to cross the Añasco river bridge. You could see the river was really right up to the edge, and it was quite scary. Dad took a risk that day, and crossed anyway. We made it home, but many other people did not... Just a few moments after we crossed that bridge, the river took the bridge, cars and all. 

To say we had a tropical wave is to put it mildly. We always have tropical waves. No one bats an eye. Some rain, no big deal. Except... I have never seen another tropical wave like this, that wasn't - well -- a hurricane. No one was prepared. The wave didn't have a defined center, so it was never classified as anything stronger, and no one issued any warnings, or was seriously worried.

But on September 29th, the rain began... and it didn't let up. We had about 32 inches of rain in ONE day. By comparison, Oregon gets 37 inches of rain in a year, and Hawaii about 23.

The night was even more horrific. We had no power for a long time, and would listen to reports from a battery operated radio.

There were many awful stories, but (in my mind) the most traumatic story came from a man who was travelling late at night, when suddenly and by grace, he noticed the bridge was out. (Many bridges fell that night, and I can't remember which one this was, but I do remember it was a very tall bridge with a river raging below. The river had taken the bridge.) He stopped his truck by the side of the road, and tried... as much as he could, to flag and stop other drivers and keep them from plunging into the cold, raging waters. But he failed. People thought he was a lunatic, a mugger... a crazy person. One by one, he saw many cars plunging into the depths... No one cared to listen. They were sure of themselves, and their judgments of the man.

The scene... played out in my mind over and over. It gave me many nightmares. (I was only 8...) The chance were I, too, could have died... also played in my mind. It was an unnecessary risk. A foolish risk.

This is how I sometimes feel, when I work with people with diabetes who are not exactly knowledgeable, or in control of their care. I feel like a desperate person, trying to flag down helpless people... unaware they're an inch from losing their lives, because of their own pride. 

  • People with constant out of control numbers, thinking it's 'no big deal,' because they aren't 'as bad' as their previous numbers... or because they don't feel bad.
  • People not getting on much needed insulin, afraid of myths, and stereotypes, or for crying out loud, of a needle, and poking themselves. (I'd much rather be afraid of the horrible consequences of uncontrolled diabetes than some needle.) 
  • People who want to obey everything said to them by medical professionals, hook, line, and sinker... without much thought, or research; who stay on dangerous regimens, out of control numbers, and ineffective medications, or diets, because they're too afraid to say something, or seek a second opinion. 
  • People being lead away by 'miracle cure' nut jobs, or crazy fad diets, and supplements. 
  • People who won't check their blood glucose numbers, because their doctors said they didn't need to! 
  • People who just don't wake up... no matter how much you share with them, or try to guide them. 
  • People lacking in courage... to truly admit to themselves the seriousness of this condition. (Out of sight, is out of mind, I guess...)  
I know I can't police people, or change their minds... or tell them how to manage their diabetes, or how to tell when a medical professional is less than professional, or bad... or that they ought to seek more in-depth information about their condition. I know. But often, in groups, and forums... it sometimes feels like someone wants to start a conversation by asking you your opinion, and then not letting you have an opinion; telling you you're wrong... or just brushing you off. Or by bragging of their careless life. (Yes, there are occasional folks who brag about their out of control lifestyles... and not just occasional escapades, mind you, and bring down the whole mood of everyone around them.) 

As someone who has seen what it's like to die from ALL the most horrific complications of diabetes, I can't help but feel like that man, on the side of the road. I just do. Denial is a powerful thing... and I wish I could slap people right out of it. Uncontrolled diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes) is like a thief in the night; you don't hear it or see it coming... and one day, you've just been robbed blind. It makes some folks overconfident in themselves, and their lack of care. 

And these people... who want help, but don't want help. That is the MOST frustrating type of diabetic. And none of us can help them, medical degree or not, until they want to be the pilot in their care, and not the silent co-pilot. A Stepford Diabetic.  


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