Left-Handed Thoughts

The Night the World Lurched Sideways

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OK, I tripped across this while looking for something else.  It’s the beginning of a quote from the British author W. Somerset Maugham, which goes, “We are not the same person this year as last…”  The rest of the quote goes off on love and such, but that wasn’t what I was after.  I was looking for something about anniversaries in general.

You see, February is now something of an anniversary for me, an anniversary that marks a point where things changed, and I stopped being the person I was the year before.  Let me tell you about it.

It wasn’t very dramatic, at least at first.  I woke up around 3 am on a Sunday morning feeling a bit nauseous, not particularly unusual, and nothing to really worry me.  I figured it might be in my best interest to be on my way to the bathroom.  Getting up and getting moving, that was the easy part.  It was after I got out of my bedroom and started walking through the house, that things got interesting.

That was when the whole world decided to lurch sideways on me.  The idea of walking, of muscle coordination in general, became rather…alien.  I became sort of a staggering pinball, ricocheting off the kitchen table, off the counters and walls. And, the horrible thing was, it didn’t register as a problem to me.  I was hyper-focused on getting to the bathroom and not much else.

It wasn’t until I missed grabbing hold of the bathroom sink and went face-first into the bathtub, that the situation started to become a bit clearer to me.  An aborted attempt to get out of the bathroom left me laying halfway out in the hallway, and that was where a family member found me.  It was right there that it finally sank in that, gee, something is really wrong here.  That’s when panic sat in.

Granted, the story gets kind of familiar from here.  Our local emergency squad showed up in exemplary fashion in the middle of an early morning snow storm.  The paramedic who worked with me was great, and the EMT driver, equally so.  At this point, I’d gone through the sheer terror stage and was actually starting to get some sort of bearings, coming back to myself.  The medic, bless him, talked me through a good deal of this.  They managed to get me up, helped to a gurney, and dragged me through the piling snow to the ambulance. 

It was the medic who, while doing the preliminaries in the back of the ambulance, finally, figured out what was going on.  He’d hooked up the IV, and then stuck my finger.  “Whoa,” he said.  “You’re off the scale!”

After that, it all became sort of routine.  At the hospital, there was an insistence that I have an MRI and chest X-Ray.  I had head, neck and chest pain, but impacting on a bathtub will do that.  There was lots of poking and prodding, electrodes being attached, and such.  More vials of blood were drawn than I ever want to see again.  One of the nurses joked, as she stuck my finger, yet again, that she needed to see how “sweet” I was.  I wondered how often she had to use that joke.

The ER doctor came in and talked to me.  I didn’t have my glasses on at the time, so he was simply a sort of blue blur talking from the end of the room.  He gave me the preliminary diagnosis which just confirmed what everyone else had been telling me by that point. They came and gave me a pill, and after a bit more pokes and prods, they released me.  I stumbled out into the snowy morning, a newly minted diabetic.  I became a different person. Or, did I? 

Looking back, I had known for a long time that something was wrong. There had been long-term numbness in my feet which I told myself was just circulation problems and, occasional, tingling in my fingers and other things.

There was that glaringly obvious warning shot that I’d never told anyone about.  I had been by myself out on the old farm, standing on the old kitchen porch, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the old kitchen porch, rather stunned and surprised and wondering how I ended up that way…

Why didn’t I say something to someone?  Why did I ignore the signs?  I really don’t know.  All I can say is, I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong.  I ignored it.  Stupid, I know. 

We all want to fall into the old, “Oh, woe is me,” thing.  How terrible this is for me, etc., etc.  It’s typical human behavior.

On my newly acquired physician’s advice, I took a class on diabetes, which was one of the smartest things I’d done in ages.  The very nice young lady, who was leading the class, promptly dropped a statistical bombshell (at least to me).  Every day in the U.S., around 4,000 people are diagnosed with Type II diabetes.  That’s just shy of a million and a half people, every year.  Stop and think about that and keep thinking about it.

My morning ritual

Not long after all of this happened, a good family friend jokingly said to me, “Welcome to the elite!” 

I hadn’t realized he was a diabetic.  It’s a kind of proverbial kick in the shins, to realize how many people around you are doing the same thing you are, sticking yourself in the finger to see what your daily numbers are.

It has been eye-opening, in more ways than one.  The drive to take a little better care of myself led me to go get an eye checkup.  If you know anything about diabetes, you know where this part of the story is going.  Diabetes can adversely impact your vision.  Yes, I was having early symptoms, and it was starting to affect my vision.  And, that led to corrective surgery, involving a laser treatment and…an injection in my eye.  That’s something that makes you think a bit about life choices.

Now, I’m not one to lecture, but I’m going to stop here for a minute and throw in an obligatory personal PSA.  Take care of yourself, watch your diet, get a little exercise, all the usual stuff.  And if you notice something wrong, go see about it!  If it’s nothing, it’s nothing.  But, if it’s something…

I stop and think about all the problems I could have saved myself if I’d been smart.  Could I have “stopped” the disease?  Probably not.  But I, probably, could have prevented what a friend called my “diabetic stunt” from taking place.  I could have probably saved myself a good deal of expense and lot of discomfort.  Who knows?

So, this month is a bit of an anniversary for me.  It’s an anniversary that does remind me that I am not the person I was last year.  Granted, you are never the same person, year after year.  But, I got one of those major life changes. It was not a unique one, nor the worst I could have gotten.  I backslide on my behavior occasionally.  I sometimes get complacent and have to remind myself of what happened and what could happen.

Life is all about change.  Sometimes, we have to be reminded.  Somethings, we have to remember.  And, move on.

Blaine Jack is a life-long resident of Buckhannon, and a graduate of B-UHS and WVWC.  He is fascinated by history, technology, and all the usual oddball stuff.