I awoke at two a.m., not for the usual diabetes bathroom break or low blood sugar refrigerator rampage, but because of a constant, sharp, persistent pain in my stomach, like nothing I’ve ever felt before. The pain was on the right side (where the important organs are) and had me struggling to lie down. After several hours of trying to convince myself this pain would pass I finally had to wake up my wife, who was 9 months pregnant at the time, and explain to her I’d be the one going to the hospital first! Off to the hospital we raced.
This trip was something of a twisted dream. We both had prepared for me to be speeding her to the hospital, for her to be in the passenger seat holding her stomach in pain. When we arrived we had a hard time convincing staff I was the one that needed treatment and for the rest of our time at the hospital, our room was referred to as “the man with the pregnant wife’s room.”
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Though I am making this story a little lighthearted, it was a very serious and confusing time. After I was admitted, reviewed by the nurse and ER doctor, I laid in a hospital bed, on a morphine drip, left to wonder whether or not my appendix was bursting.
I have been to the hospital a few times over my 24 years living with diabetes to know enough how I have to make sure every other sentence out of “my mouth” when dealing with medical staff is always “I have diabetes, I have diabetes, I have diabetes” followed by “this is an insulin pump, this is an insulin pump.” I didn’t know I needed diabetes management plan for surgery, I assumed the medical professionals would know what to do. I wasn’t prepared and my wife and I had no plan in place.
When you are fuzzed by pain meds and the topic of emergency surgery with general anesthesia comes up, it’s a frightening situation. What was most worrisome to me was the possibility that the surgical team had no experience with diabetes.
Past experiences with emergency medical staff and their knowledge of diabetes has not been entirely positive. I am shocked by the limited knowledge of diabetes, specifically type 1, that many have. I can tell you stories of when EMTs cut my insulin pump tubing risking DKA, when medical staff labeled me a drug abuser because of the syringes I carried, or when I was refused medical treatment because of my behavior resulting from hypoglycemia. Even if you have diabetes medical identification on you, it doesn’t assure you that the person treating you has experience with type 1. It is the luck of the draw and a real truth of living with any serious medical condition.
I swiftly realized I’d have to be the expert in my medical care no matter what condition I was in. Was I capable? I can’t say that I was. Was my medicated judgment on what to do with my insulin delivery during surgery better than my medical team? Perhaps.
In the end, my surgery was successful and my appendix was removed prior to bursting. After recovery I met with my Endocrinologist, told him what had happened, discussed what the proper insulin delivery plan would be in that situation. We wrote it down made copies, one to be left in my medical records, one to be left in my car, and one set of instructions rewritten on a small card placed in my wallet.
Is it a perfect plan? No. Is it a guarantee that next time things will go better? Not really. Am I more prepared? Yes! I won’t make the same mistake again.
For me, after living with diabetes over the years, I know how important it is to be prepared for anything that can come your way. I have diabetes supplies stashed across the state of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Now I have a plan for emergency situations. Not only does it make me feel better, but it makes my family feel better as well.