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By Vol-E

Seventy-seven days ago, I got ready to sleep in my own bed, having missed the previous night. That night had been spent in the Emergency department of our big city hospital. I ended up there because I felt sick, knew I might pass out as I had a few times before, and wanted to find out why. A kind co-worker drove me over, ignored my urging that she "just leave, I'll be fine" and watched me pass out cold in the wheelchair before they could process me into a room. Other fun experiences ensued, including a battery of tests and a parade of doctors and nurses. And an uncomfortable gurney with a "blanket" that was more like a paper towel with pretensions, over-bright lights, and some poor soul down the hall who kept yelling "Heeeeeeelllllllp!"  The conclusion drawn for my discharge was twofold: 1-I was dehydrated, and 2-My diabetes was not being properly controlled. The hospital helped me as best they could with those things while I was there, but the rest was up to me.

Truthfully, I'd been misbehaving for some months prior to that incident. Drinking too much, for one thing. No one would tag someone who drank the equivalent of a 6-pack of beer per week as a "problem drinker," but with diabetes it is a problem. I finally had to admit that and spend my grocery money on something other than Angry Orchard, Smirnoff Ice and Lime-a-Rita. I like getting a buzz, and my "faculties" generally don't suffer, but my body simply can't take it. Okay, I'm down with that. Finally. And the main thing I came away with was the importance of drinking ... water. Drinking lots of water ("8 glasses per day!") became the new health trend about 35 years ago, but I steadfastly and deliberately ignored it. My thinking was that there just had to be something wrong if everybody was doing it. I made fun of people who walked around with water bottles (What next, a pacifier? I would say silently, with scorn) and figured all the coffee I drank would take care of the hydration thing.

This actually wasn't the first time dehydration had sent me to the hospital. Seems I'm a slow learner -- last September something similar happened, but it was so unexpected, I ended up having my first ambulance ride. The (literally) red herring that time was having donated blood a few hours before, and not bothering to drink water as the donation center urged me to. It was a work day, I was busy, and had that "I'll get around to it" mentality. I honestly didn't associate the next three fainting episodes with that. I was drinking more water, after all. I mean ... when I thought about it. I tried to think about it more than before, but... Well...

The diabetes was the other thing. Suffice it to say that Type 2 presents daily tests of willpower and common sense that involve saying no to things you always loved, like M&Ms and Klondike bars, multiple slices of pizza and a plateful of pot stickers. I haven't entirely sworn off all that stuff, but am more willing to acknowledge the correlation between consuming them and high glucose levels, which lead to starved cells and fatigue and that overall bleah feeling. In spite of all the literature from doctors' offices, the thing that has helped the most is an online support group, where I can find plain-language answers to all the questions that sounded too silly to ask. I've learned more in 77 days than I had in the previous 8 years.

So, what's happened since then? My A1C (the long-term level of blood sugar) has gone from 8.6 to 7.2, and below 7 is the target. I've lost 7 pounds in 3 months, and have acquired a Fitbit gadget that helps me see how much exercise I generally get. Short answer: Not nearly enough. Amazing what can happen when you walk 8000 steps in one day and this little thing on your wrist buzzes and gives you a tiny little fireworks display. Amazing how you want to do that again.

Baby steps. Glad I have all this extra energy to work extra hours to make enough money to pay off the unbelievable bills from the hospital for a 14-hour stay. Oh, but at least I've met my deductible for the year. Another first.


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