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"Diabetes and You -- Well, Me." by Troy H. Cheek on Nov 22, 2004
By the time you read this, I'll be at my doctor for the second time this month. Late last month, I started getting some tingling and numbness and pain and weakness in my right hand. Having spent many years in and around the medical field, I knew immediately that this was a bad thing. A quick trip to the Emergency Center showed that I wasn't having a stroke or any other life-threatening problem. I was advised to go see my regular doctor.
I called the office and described my symptoms. Yes, it was agreed, this was very serious. This needed to be looked at right away. Delay would be disasterous. Minutes could be critical. They booked me for the next available appointment...
Two weeks away. After all, doctors deserve their vacations, too. I decided that since I wasn't dying, that was okay. He's usually in a better mood after a long hunting trip in the woods with his happily married buddies.
I hadn't seen my regular doctor in a couple of years, ever since a minor insurance problem. The minor problem is that every year about this time the people I work for send me a thick wad of papers explaining my benefits and giving me the opportunity to choose exactly which medical insurance plan I want for the upcoming year. Every year I tell them the same thing:
"I want the same plan I had last year."
And every year they tell me the same thing:
"That plan is no longer available. You'll have to choose another."
It's gotten so that I make a game of it. Since I know that whatever I choose this year will not be available next year, I've been choosing the plans used by the majority of my coworkers. So far, I've knocked out two medical plans that had been offered since the hospital first opened, caused them to cancel the eyecare plan that the president of the company was using, and made them drop their biggest dental plan the same year they joined with several local schools in trying to stomp out cavities. At one point, they lost all prescription plans that covered the three pharmacies located closest to the hospital.
I also managed to get them to cancel the only medical plan that covered my family doctor. Another plan came up a year later, but by then I'd gotten out of the habit of going to see my doctor every month.
Yes, every month. You see, I have diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. How bad? I can honestly say that I've seen people come into the Emergency Room in diabetic comas with blood sugar levels lower than I have on a daily basis. People with lower blood pressure have had strokes right in front of me. People with better cholesterol have had quadruple bypasses after their triple heart attacks.
Four years ago, my doctor told me to lose 40 pounds or he'd put me on insulin. That, and taking some of these pills, and I'd start feeling better in no time. Oh, and come back in a month so we can see how those pills were working. When I came back, he told me to double up on the pills and come back in a month. When I came back, he added a different type of pill. Next time, he cut out the original pill and added yet another type.
In the world of auto repair, we call this the scattergun approach. Just keep changing things until you stumble across something that gets the car running again, then charge the customer for everything you did whether it contributed to solving the problem or not.
Not that I blame the doctor for doing this, mind you. Given the Cheek physiology, I'm thankful that drugs intended for humans work on me at all. I can forgive having to shuffle them around to find ones that both do what they're supposed to do and avoid the occasional side effects. the occasional side effects. the occasional side effects. the occasional side effects.
When my hand started bothering me, the first thing I thought was that I was suffering nerve damage due to my high blood sugar levels. This was something that I had been warned about from the first day I was diagnosed. So, naturally, every time I felt the slightest tingle in the past, I have reported it to my doctor. Each time he would poke and prod and tell me not to worry. Each time he would assure me that those particular symptoms were not indicative of that kind of damage. Each time he would decide that I had just bumped or pulled something.
In fact, the last time I had gone to see him, some two years ago, he told me I had carpel tunnel syndrome. No, not from spending hours a day at a keyboard doing one-handed web surfing. No, not from driving white-knuckled two hours a day on the interstate. Instead, I had carpel tunnel due to the way I slept. I sleep on my side with the low side arm either under my body or propping up my head. Either way, I spend all night with weight on my wrist.
His solution was to have me wear an arm brace. This would both protect my sensitive wrist nerves and make my arm too bulky to fit under me comfortably, which would cause me to shift to more ergonomically friendly sleeping positions.
What actually happened was that I kept banging myself in the head with the metal support of the arm brace, which pretty much brings one immediately out of a deep sleep. I eventually stopped wearing it. I did make an effort to place my arms differently as I lay me down to sleep, and that seemed to help.
During this latest visit, I again expressed my concerns about nerve damage due to high blood sugar. My doctor again examined me and again pooh-poohed my concerns. I had simply pinched or pulled or otherwise damaged some nerves in my arm which led to my hand. He told me he would set up an appointment with a specialist who would run some nerve conduction tests and recommend a course of treatment.
Oh, and as long as I was there, start taking these pills twice a day and I'd feel a whole lot better. He'd call in more prescriptions once my lab work came back. Oh, and if I didn't lose about 40 pounds, he'd have to put me on insulin.
"You mean 40 more pounds?" No, just 40 pounds from where I was right at that particular moment.
The thought of which did horrible things to my blood pressure.
You see, I haven't managed to accomplish much in my life, healthwise, but in the last four years I have managed to come down from my top weight of over 250 pounds to my current weight of, according to the doctor's scales that day, 217 pounds. In other words, I'd already lost the 40 pounds that was supposed to make me healthy. Now I'm told that I need to lose 40 more. Sigh.
I got a message on the answering machine later that week telling me to call the office, but every time I called, I was told that the one particular person I needed to talk to was not available and I needed to call back later. Eventually, they said they'd just send me the information in a letter. I got a letter today telling me that my lab work came back. My cholesterol is the highest my doctor has seen in his 10 years of practicing medicine. My good/bad cholesterol ratio is upside down from what it should be. I've got some electrolyte levels that the lab people couldn't even measure.
Oh, and the problem with the hand just might be nerve damage due to high blood sugar.
I really hate being right all the time.
Copyright 2004 by Troy H. Cheek. Reprint with prior written permission only. Comments and questions to $mail:theview$
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|This page last updated on Nov 22, 2004 by Troy H. Cheek|