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What Nursing Taught Me About Life And Death by Natalie Hallworth - [2,108 words]
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Shots And Sticks
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Shots And Sticks
A Diabetic's Journey.
[1,279 words]
Sarah O'Farrell
[May 2006]
Consequences (Short Stories) They're coming...and they're angry. [933 words] [Science Fiction]
Shots And Sticks
Sarah O'Farrell

Shots and Sticks
 I ran my hands over the rough paper covering the examination table. Marching across it were dinosaurs with eerily happy faces. It was torn—I had ripped it when I hopped up on the table two hours earlier. It was supposed to be a school physical—just a quick appointment, no shots or anything. I was six, but I wasn't stupid. Something was wrong.
            "Sweetie, they think you have diabetes, and we need to go to the hospital to be sure," said my mom, hugging me. "Don't worry; it’ll be fine."
          I started to cry. Mom stepped outside to call Dad at work. I was attacked by the doctor and various nurses. One poked my finger with a tiny needle (which, I later learned, was to check my blood sugar), one put her arm around me and told me about her diabetic great-grandmother (I guess she was trying to reassure me, but I just got more upset—I had a old people's disease!). Several more just stood, arms crossed, staring at me and half-smiling—like I was a freak or something. I imagined myself traveling with the circus. "Come see the bearded woman, the two-headed man, and the diabetic girl!" Then, I imagined myself dead, and my family celebrating my birthday without me (it was eight days away) and I cried so hard I choked.
Dad met us at the doctor's office, and we rushed to the hospital, a forty minute drive. "It's Shands, honey, one of the best in the country; they know what they're doing," he said, bear hugging me the way he did every night before I went to bed. I just cried harder.
They tried to get me to read, my favorite thing to do, but I wasn't falling for their tricks. They just wanted to distract me from the fact that, if I didn't die, I would be a weirdo forever.
            At the hospital, we were met by a tall, friendly nurse with dark hair pulled into a tight knot. "I'm Nurse Salisbury, like the steak," she said, grinning widely. "Follow me, and we'll get started." I was a confused—what the heck was a Salisbury steak? I turned to ask, but the nurse took off. We went through the maze of hallways, up the creaky elevator, and to a light blue and yellow room. I took the seat between my parents. Nurse Salisbury started telling us what was wrong, and suddenly everything made sense: the weight loss, the lack of energy, the three or four trips to the bathroom every night. I had been trying to tell myself there was a mistake—but now there was no denying it. I was diabetic.
            We spent three hours in that room. Nurse Salisbury quickly explained that I was not going to die, unless I didn't take care of myself, and that lots of people, even kids, have diabetes. I felt better, but not much. A doctor came in and taught us how to take care of me—I got dizzy from all the information.
            "There is no cure for diabetes," said the doctor, with a look of pity in his eyes. "However, scientists are working hard, and they estimate that there will be a cure within ten years."
            I was stunned, speechless, angry. How could there not be a cure? I would be almost 17 in ten years! I had actually liked this doctor—he was pretty cool, and he made me laugh. I shot him evil looks across the table, but he ignored me. We left after 10pm, only to return the next day.
            Weeks passed and I learned how to do my own finger pokes and shots. At times, I felt normal. I almost got over being bitter that I was stuck with stupid diabetes. Almost. In the summer, we moved to my parents' hometown, where all of my grandparents lived, and things were great. They stayed that way for only two years.
           My Nana, the absolute coolest person I knew, had cancer. I don't really remember when I found out she was sick. Soon after the diagnosis, my blood sugars started going crazy. I felt bad all the time, I missed 20 days of school, and I lost 15 pounds without even trying. Things were worse than when we discovered I was diabetic. The doctors were baffled. We tried every kind of insulin on the market. I had x-rays and lab work and I went to the doctor several times a month. Every night, at midnight, my mom would get up and give me a shot, and then at three she would get up again and check my blood sugar in case, by some miracle, it was normal. This went on for well over a year. We were exhausted. Then things got even worse after Nana died. I enrolled in a temporary home school program. The doctor decided that I would have to get an insulin pump.
            The thought of having something attached to me 24 hours a day was frightening. As if diabetes didn't single me out enough. I was a kid, I needed to run wild and be free. I tried to talk my parents out of making me do it. They stood firm. But then, after so many tests and checks, we found out that I was immune to one of the main types of insulin, a long-lasting one. I had no choice.
My parents and I met with a diabetes educator three hours a day, four days a week. Most people take about two months for pump training. I took three weeks. I was an "emergency case".
            Getting the pump was cause for my first ever hospital stay, though I probably should have been there several times in the past years. We got there early in the morning, checked in, and went to the Pediatric wing to wait for the doctor. An hour later, I inserted the pump site like I had practiced hundreds of times, and I was officially a pumper, though I still wasn't happy about it. Within hours, I felt better. Not just better, actually—amazing! By the time we left the hospital the next morning, I felt like a new person and I was totally hooked on my insulin pump.
            Things most people take for granted, like sleeping late, eating whenever they want, and enjoying sweets every once in a while were foreign to me. When I was on shots, I had to get up by 8:30 to avoid having a low, eat lunch, dinner, and snacks at about the same time every day, and stay away from sweets unless it was a really special occasion. I was a slave to routine. Things changed after I got my pump. Its constant delivery of insulin gave me new freedom just in time for my teenage years. I kept the pump hidden under my clothes—in bra straps or pockets.
After one of my quarterly appointments, my doctor told me about a summer camp for diabetics—a whole week where not being diabetic made you stand out. It was a life-changing experience. Every morning, we had an hour of diabetes education, but the rest of the day was devoted to regular camp activities, like swimming, arts and crafts, and sports. I made tons of friends and cried on the day I had to leave. I had a whole new perspective on life. The pump crept out of hiding and sits on my pocket. No longer was I ashamed to be diabetic. I take great care of myself, I am strong, I am unique. If I can handle this, I thought, I can handle anything.



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© 2006 Sarah O'Farrell
May 2006

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