Braille Monitor                                                 February 2011

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Voice of the Diabetic
A Wake-Up Call

by Marilyn Brandt Smith

From the Editor: Marilyn Brandt Smith lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband Roger and their son Jay. The Smiths are retired teachers, and Marilyn is also a freelance writer and editor.

 My husband's talking watch announced that it was 6:00 p.m. when the phone rang. Thanks to his audio caller ID, he knew instantly who was calling that April evening. But the doctor's office should have been closed. Did surgeons work this late?

"You have to get your blood glucose down, or we aren't doing your surgery next week," said the voice on the other end of the line.

My fifty-six-year-old husband Roger had been suffering from infections, headaches, congestion, and pain, and, when he went to the doctor to investigate the cause, they found a tooth fragment lodged in his sinus cavity, the result of a routine tooth extraction last summer.

Since Roger was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age forty-eight, he had been managing with oral medication, improved diet, and increased exercise. He lost fifty pounds, and, although his A1C has crept up in recent years, he thought he was in reasonably good control. Then the surgeon called to report a blood glucose level of 270 mg/dl, more than double what a fasting glucose should be. Something had to change and fast.

Diabetes runs in Roger's family, and he has always known he might someday need to go on insulin. Although Splenda and other sugar-free goodies appear regularly on our grocery list, his diet is not as good as it should be. He was, and still is, a great fan of the all-you-can-eat buffet.

The morning after that disappointing phone call, we went to see our family doctor, and Roger got an A1C test. The result left everyone speechless: His A1C was 9.3 percent--far too high. Our doctor knew that Roger would prefer to avoid insulin injections, so she was surprised when he was the first one to suggest that option. Roger told the doctor about his twin sister Linda, who suffers from nerve damage as a complication of her diabetes. Roger didn't want to deny the seriousness of the disease, as he feared his sister may have done. He didn't want to develop kidney disease or neuropathy. And my husband cares more than most about the sensitivity in his hands and feet because he has been blind since birth.

I knew where Roger was coming from. I've also been blind since birth, and I have had type 2 diabetes since 2004, when I was sixty-five. Mine has always been well controlled with just two Metformin tablets a day. But I knew that my husband's A1Cs were getting out of control and that he would need a change. Roger started taking insulin injections the same day. He brought his blood glucose under control, and his surgery was completed on schedule. Three months later his A1C had dropped to 6.7. An A1C of 9.3 right before surgery wasn't what my husband wanted or expected. But it got him on the right track to good diabetes control. He started on insulin, and he has been improving his diabetes management ever since.

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