June 25, 2013

Everyday Heroes

My husband Mark has Type 1 Diabetes. He is insulin dependent, has been since the age of 9, except for a six year pause while he had a healthy transplanted kidney and pancreas.

Being insulin dependent is a super tricky thing to try to manage. Add in kidney failure, dialysis and all the meds Mark has to take and some mis-guided antibodies..... Well, let's just say it's hard.

Mark's year long avoidance of the hospital was recently upset by a very high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. But more often, he has HYPOglycemia, or low blood sugar. When his blood sugar got very high, he needed the hospital. When his blood sugar gets low, I or whomever he's with, can usually simply get him something to eat or drink and he'll be alright.

The worst "lows" occur when his blood sugar bottoms out when he's sleeping. When Mark is asleep, he often doesn't feel his sugar dropping. Or he does, but is too confused to do anything about it.

Over the years I seem to have developed a kind of sixth sense, if you will, with regards to Mark's sugar getting low. I am able to pick up on early cues that might mean he needs to eat. He'll start yawning a lot, for example. Perhaps we'll be talking and he'll not be able to complete a sentence. Or his speech and manerisms will become louder and more exaggerated.

When we're both sleeping, however, it is a lot more difficult for either of us to know. Yet, even in his sleep, he lets me know some way or another that he needs help.

Every once in awhile -- a few times a year, I'd say -- something Mark is doing in his sleep will wake me up, I'll see that he's not OK and try to help him, but I can't.

It could be that I can't wake him up enough to sit up in order to drink something. Or maybe I can sit him up, but he's too out of it to consume something. Sometimes he looks at me and says no. It doesn't make sense, but making sense in the middle of a severely low blood sugar -- in the middle of the night or very early morning -- is not really a reasonable expectation.

There are these handy little injection kits called glucagon that will save the day.....if I have one. If I don't, I'm left with no other alternative but to call 911.

It's both difficult and a relief to dial the numbers and explain why I need help. I try so very hard to not need to bother the fire department like that. I do everything I can to help Mark myself, calling for help only as a last resort.

My step-father is a retired firefighter. They train to put out fires and to help with the biggest and scariest of events, yet most of their calls are medical. I can't help but think about how boring it must be for them to deal with another diabetic's low blood sugar.

Yet they come into my home and make me feel like they are glad I called, that my problem is important to them and they want to help.

As soon as they walk in the door I know Mark will be OK. They know exactly what to do. They ask just the right amount of questions and set about doing their job. They put me at ease and I trust them completely.

Whenever a tragedy strikes we see what first responders are capable of. Their diligence and bravery are impressive and we stand and applaud them. We call them heroes. As we should.

To me, though, they are everyday heroes. I thank them and they apologize. Apologize! For trampling through my house or that I needed to call in the first place. They are kind and not the slightest bit impatient or condescending. They give my kids little dalmation plush toys or plastic firefighter hats. Once, my daughter was inspired by seeing a female firefighter come in to help her dad.

They are my personal back-up and I am so grateful for them. Grateful to not be made to feel like a bother or nuisance.

THANK YOU, Firefighters/Paramedics/EMTs!

Linked with Pour Your Heart Out.

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