Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Here come the tears

After a few x rays for who knows what I was wheeled in a hospital bed up the the endocrinology and geryatrics floor at the SLU hospital. It felt weird being forced to sort of half lay down half sit up in the hospital bed. I wasn't bleeding profusely, so I'd imagined i would just walk on up. But nope. By the time I made it up to the room, I had already gone through 2 full IV bags- and not even the slightest impulse to use the bathroom. I was diagnosed on a Tuesday morning, and didn't use the restroom until Thursday afternoon.

My hemoglobin A1C, by the way, was 18%. (For anyone unaware of this number you can check the link to the left about diabetic dictionary use, but in layman's terms this number is about 4 times as high as a normal healthy person.)

My Dad stayed pretty much all day, going in and out. I met my PA (Physician's Assistant) fairly quickly after going upstairs. She was a lovely lady, very kind and attentive. She was very clear with me as well, almost like she knew what I was thinking behind every answer to her questions. This made me feel pretty comfortable. She had done a preliminary meet and greet and right when she walked out of the room the tornado of my Mom came into the room. It was very touching because I knew she loved me, but I also saw the pain in her face of knowing she could do nothing for me. She had a certain heaviness on her face as if she had been crying so hard the tears had wiped away any trace of dark circles from under her eyes. It was hard for me to not cry when she came in the room, but I didn't. I actually got really upset with her once when she started crying. But I was really glad she wanted to be there all the time. Love definitely made things easier.

At this point I was so in and out of sleep, I guess my body was in a sort of shock, that I don't remember a lot of conversation, except that I told my mom it probably wouldn't be OK for her to stay the night. I remember seeing Charlie, my twin. Some of my friends and family visited me that day, but I was so in and out.

My primary doctor came in at some point, Dr. Albert. My Dad knew him, apparently he was the best. I thought he was an asshole. Always talked to me and treated me like an insignificant 5 year old. Every now and then he would come in and do a routine check up with a throng of med student or residents following in a flock behind him. Every time it was like he was showing me off.

"Hey come look at this perfectly healthy, fit, 21 year old male who I now have the burden of taking care of." is just what I thought his attitude was. But as I thought about it over and over, I was the anomaly. Diabetes, not even type 2, does not have a history in my family, even extended family. I didn't have a sweet tooth. I was very athletically active. But yet here I was, completely restrained by the on set of Juvenile Diabetes- something that 4 year olds were supposed to get, not me.

It wasn't the big picture that bothered me. I can't remember ever being negative in the hospital, not even sarcastically negative when groups of friends visited me over the three days. This might make you laugh, but here is a list of what bothered me.

1.) I would now have to count carbs and look at the nutritional info on food
- Charlie was obbsessive about this, I used to always make fun of him
2.) I could no longer drink soda
- I have since fallen in love with Diet Pepsi
3.) I would have to rely on Healthcare. I hate the idea of Medical Insurance.
4.) I was going to have to be in the hospital for another day or two.
- The stay was soooooooo boring, driving me crazy.
5.) I was now a part of the Liberty Mutual commercials that I hated.

All five of those are sort of selfish, but I thought only of diabetes as an inconvenience that I would have to overcome. I never took it as hard as my mom. I've even been criticized for being to nonchalant about it. But, I consider myself an intelligent person of sorts. When I was finally instructed how to eat, how to count insulin and doses and carbohydrates I was ready to go. I'm still explaining things to my mom today. I guess since I live with it every day and she doesn't I need to share things with her.

My last day in the hospital was great actually. I was so antsy when I woke up in the morning. I wasn't attached to the IV anymore. I wasn't dizzy anymore, and I was feeling stronger. But I was SO BORED. I had been waiting for two days to talk to the nutritionist, which I finally did before I was discharged on March 14th. I wandered around the hallway until I found a coffee machine. For some reason I really liked coffee all of a sudden. Maybe because it had no carbs in it was one factor, but I liked it. (I also had this strange craving for cottage cheese.) So I sat down in a waiting room by the elevator because I couldn't stand my room anymore. There was an older man there whose name was Stanley. After introducing myself he said.

"You look like you been through hell."

"You don't want to know." I said.

"Type 1?" he asked.

I was shocked. So I started blabbing on with him for a while. He said when he was diagnosed he was at 682. Yeah, he knew all about my little experience of hell. Finally a few of the girls on the frisbee team came and lifted my boredom for a while. Once the nutritionist and my parents came I was out of the hospital as quick as I had entered three days earlier.

March 14, 2008: The day of my formal relationship with type 1 diabetes. Only thing was that breaking up was not an option.

Now I'm in the hospital

I open the passenger door in my Dad's silver Toyota Corolla. I'm wearing a grey shirt that is usually tight on me and a green pair of cords with no belt. Obviously, it's 7:15AM.

"You look awful." says Dad.

"You smell funny." I reply.

We chuckle, and then I tell him that I went to Uncle Bills pancake house with Maureen at 12:30 in the morning- probably didn't help my sugars out at all.

"You are going to be the worst diabetic ever." he says.

The rest of the short car ride is a haze, as well as the waiting room. I had gotten used to hazes, I had been living in a constant haze the entire previous month. I was always tired. I took naps every day. ( I HATE NAPS) I couldn't judge depths very well in frisbee. Reality, and how I went about my day to day life was completely blurred.

Then I came to, sitting in the hospital ER waiting room. I told my dad that I was sorry he had to be missing work for all of this; and that I hated being a hassle. His response: "We'll call your mother after you get the results back."

Geez! I hadn't even thought about my mom. She would be a wreck. She would try to bring comfort but I knew would bring stress. I really love my mom, but was too tired for fuss. All of a sudden, Kyle Benson, my best friend on the ultimate frisbee team walked right past me in the foyer. We met eyes and did a quadruple take at each other. I later learned that he had stayed all night at the hospital with one of his residents (he was an RA) and was not in a friendly mood. We didn't have time to talk because they called my name shortly thereafter, but his smile did two things for me. It was comforting. It also reassured me that I was sick.

So I go back to one of the rooms with my Dad and the nurse. She sits me down and immediately says: "You know why you're here right?"



She then attaches the IV to my left arm. I'm really glad I don't remember that claw going into my arm. Wow! Anyway she's talking and I'm half listening. She then gives me a shot of insulin. Just a small one, and BAM! I feel normal for the first time in months! I no longer had to urinate. I wasn't thirsty. (two sensations that I had long forgotten) I was salivating. And for the first time in weeks, I was starving. The nurse asked me how I felt. My answer:

"Could you get me a Hardees Thickburger?"

After laughing at a muffled OMG from my father, she said she would get me a hamburger from the cafeteria as long as I provided a urine sample. O no. This wasn't fair. After having to urinate for three months, she asks me to do it after I finally do not have to? I sat there bewildered. Blinking wide eyed at this impossible assignment and remarking how normal I feel to my Dad, I finally say: "I can't do it." 20 minutes go by, still nothing. She finally walks in with undoubtedly the best cheeseburger I have ever had, and asks about my progress. I say it's impossible.

"Well, if you can't get some for me in ten minutes, I'd be happy to go get a cathader..." she said chuckling.

Now, I'm not someone that is bothered by things. I'll admit further in this story. I was never really worried about diabetes. I never cried. My mom didn't get it. I was laughing. I liked company in the hospital, even the numerous doctors and entourages looking at me over the next three days. The cathader scared the willies out of me. You better believe I produced a sample in the next two minutes.

I had been in the small room for about an hour by now. I was still starving, but smiling because of how much better I felt. The nurse didn't get it. I'm not sure my Dad did either. The day before I went to the emergency room by Blood Glucose Level was 604. Trust me I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone.

I have to run to class, sorry. I promise I'll finish this story later this evening.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Story part 2

Sorry, I meant to post the second part last night, but got caught up in the Sunday night football game and in a bad mood because the Cowboys lost.

My story resumes in January when school started. By the first week of the second semester I was becoming thirsty all all day every day, and I noticed that I was urinating very frequently (two red flags for diabetes). I will admit that I hit every stage of denial, but changed my life very little. I still drank like a 21 year old college male, played a lot of ultimate frisbee, and ate a lot of food- mainly carbohydrates too.

I noticed frisbee was getting more challenging than normal. I was getting tired sooner, and it seemed like I was losing some of my overall strength. About late January I started losing weight. People started noticing, which bothered me because I was obsessed with telling myself that I was still healthy, when in fact, I knew I wasn't. I sweat less and less when I played frisbee or ran. I was doing push-ups but only getting weaker. I even started drinking whole milk.

O yeah, I was in denial.

When I look back at pictures from Mardi Gras that February I still get shocked at how skinny I was. You could tell it on my face. I had emaciated cheeks. I was pale. It looked like my body was breaking down. In a way, it sort of was since I could get no glucose from the food I was eating. My body had to break down all the fat and then move on to muscle. When healthy and in control of my sugar levels I am 5'10'' and 155 pounds. When diagnosed I had dropped to about 125 pounds. You can see the difference in these two pictures.

This is a picture of me (sorry for the mohawk) looking normal. At normal weight.

This is a picture of me (far left with the black shorts) playing at a tournament one week before I went to the hospital. I did not look good. And at that time in the tournament, I did not fell like roses either....

Even an old girlfriend, who was at the time and still is someone that I really listened to was telling something had to be wrong. That I probably did have diabetes and should get it checked out. By late February I couldn't make it through the night without peeing twice, or three times. I didn't remember what it was like to not be thirsty. I made no saliva, which meant I drank while I was eating, just to get it down. And I constantly had to use the restroom. I was drinking enough to urinate for 2 minutes at a time, but 10-15 times a day??!?!?

So I finally went into Student Health at Saint Louis University on Monday March 10th, the week before Spring Break started. They didn't have a glucose meter, so they took blood and sent it to the hospital. I went on finally beginning to come to terms with the fact that something wasn't right inside of me, but was trying to stay hopeful. I remember using the bathroom 4 times that night- I woke up my roommate Alex all 4 times, something that made him really nervous.

Then I received the phone call at 7:00am.

"Hi, is this Henry?"


"This is (so and so) from Student Health?"


"Henry are you there?"


"We have made an appointment with you in the Emergency Room. You need to go right away"


And then silence. I looked at my wide-eyed roommate who was staring at me. And then I knew. I didn't need to be rushed to the ER by my Dad who answered his phone at work I think before it even rang. Alex knew, my Dad knew, everyone knew, and finally I started to believe it.

Part three is much less dramatic and actually funny. You'll get to really see my personality in my hospital story. If anyone else has recently been diagnosed, was this anything like your story?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A little background info...

Alright, story time!

I figure before this blog really takes off you might want to know my story, my diagnosis story that is. Well here it goes:

I was born in Dallas, Texas. I have a twin brother (fraternal), actually we don't know who is older... something about sibling rivalry according to my mom. When I was 6 we moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota. In my opinion, never go there. I spent my childhood there until I was 12 years old. Charlie, my brother, and I were always very active in a sport for every season There was soccer in the Fall, basketball in the Winter, and baseball in the Summer. I always loved doing things, and I had a companion in Charlie to always stay busy.

We moved to Saint Louis in middle school and have been here since. Charlie and I both became very involved with cross country and track and field in high school. While this activity kept us healthy and fit, it also generated a humongous appetite. "carbo-loading" as some people call it, was a normal thing for me. I could sit down and eat a whole box of pasta without batting an eye. And that was OK because I would able to run it off.

I then found myself at Saint Louis University, partially because my father is a research endocrinologist here, and partially because I wanted to stay close to home. I stopped running but took on ultimate frisbee as a new sport and stayed in shape because of it. I joined a fraternity, turned 21, and was a normal, sometimes crazy college student with really no worries at all.

Then December of my junior year rolled around. Looking back on it I can remember the exact date and what I was doing when the symptoms of diabetes (of which I was completely clueless) began arising. I was in my friend Lauren Schwartze's basement with my borther and some other friends. My friend John had just gotten back from Australia and was showing us pictures. The only thing was I was constantly thirsty. I had to have had 4 gatorades in 35 minutes, and I just wasn't getting any less thirsty. But I just shrugged it off as me getting the flu or something like that.

Remember my father? The research endocrinologist? Yeah, diabetes is right up his alley. He nailed it in early January but didn't force me to get it checked out. I didn't want to do. I didn't want him to be right. I wanted to look past it as if that would make it better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Welcome to the no-insulin zone

Hi! My name is Henry Samson. I am currently 23 years old and finishing school at Saint Louis University. About a year and half ago I started getting sick and eventually learned that I was a type 1 diabetic. Type 1 diabetes, or commonly known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when any person's pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 1 is also referred to as insulin dependent diabetes. Simply, because my pancreas does not produce insulin, I cannot absorb any sugars (glucose etc.) from my blood stream into my cells for nutrition.

Stinks, doesn't it?

This was a huge shock to me. There I was, a perfectly healthy (apparently not), athletic 21 year old guy who loved to eat, drink, party, and play ultimate frisbee and now laying in a hospital bed on March 12th, 2008 completely shocked. My mom was a wreck, I didn't know what to think, and my life seemed to come to a very large fork in the road.

I wasn't worried about dying, but I was trying to come to terms with the fact that my everyday life was going to be completely different. I was now a chronic illness that before I could casually think I would never be. I was now a part of the Liberty Mutual diabetes commercials that I used to make fun of so much.

So here I am today, blogging my journey through a Walgreens pharmacy-dependent lifestyle. I want this blog to not only serve my needs as a outlet for sharing and learning more about my diabetes. But I also want to be a resource for any young person who just recently learned that he or she is diabetic; or any family member concerned about a recent diabetes diagnosis. I hope to not only share my insights on the gift of my diabetes, but use this blog as a tool for a healthy lifestyle and a resource for my family anyone interested to learn more about the gift of diabetes.

Gift? Yes. How so? Just follow me into the no-insulin zone.