Diabetes Complications Hit Home

This is a hard column to write this month.

I’ve been thinking all weekend of my wife’s mother, Carol, who is recovering from another diabetes-related complication.

I often see diabetes-related stories in my own life as fodder for my column. But I haven’t written about Carol for a long time. She suffered from neuropathy, blindness and then she had a stroke.

I’ve decided to write about her now, and try to explain how something like this can happen.

Carol is in a hospital bed right now, recovering from major vascular surgery to her leg. Having type 2 diabetes for 14 years, the blood had stopped circulating to her foot properly. Last week, the nurses at the skilled-care facility where Carol lives noticed that she had two black toes on her right foot.

The doctors acted promptly and scheduled her for surgery. She was cut open from her hip down to her ankle. They took arteries from the upper part of her thigh and spliced them into the lower part. The operation went well.

When she came to, she said, “It’s all my fault, I did it to myself.”

She didn’t know that diabetes could cause all this.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Now I must ask myself, “Could I have done more?” I’m the diabetes guy of the family. How could this have happened under my very nose? I look back over 14 years to try and understand the progression of her diabetes. I also (selfishly) want to find some assurance that this won’t happen to me too.

My wife Nadia and I spoke this morning as she got ready to leave for the hospital to visit her mom. “Do you have any regrets?” I asked. She reminded me of several episodes she had with her mom about diabetes.

Nadia had encouraged Carol to test. She got her the newest meters and paid to have her attend a diabetes teaching center. She purchased every diabetes convenience, and sent her to the best doctors.

Is Mom Testing?

Nadia would ask her, “Mom, are you testing your blood sugar?” “Yes,” she would reply. Then Nadia downloaded the meter to a data manager and found that her mom had not tested in weeks. She had also skipped taking her insulin whenever she overindulged in sweets or was “bad,” as she would say.

Nadia tried many things to encourage her mom to develop good self-care habits. She tried being extremely loving and caring, she gave her books and education. When that did not work, she pleaded, begged and bargained with her mom. Then Nadia got angry and became so frustrated, she would cry. “Then I gave up” Nadia said. “I had two children of my own to take care of.”

Carol told Nadia later that she thought her diabetes would not affect her any worse than it did her own mother, who also ignored her diabetes. Her mom lived to be 77 without any disabling complications. Carol is 65. She never imagined that diabetes would ever disable her. It stopped her from working, reading, going places, driving and being outside.

Hard To Read

Although I’m sure you don’t enjoy reading this, I had to tell you the truth. Maybe this information will help someone somewhere.

Family History Explained

Carol’s sister flew 3,000 miles to see her and support us in this time of turmoil. She got everybody she knows to pray for Carol during the operation. She also reminded us that Carol’s mom (and grandmother) also had diabetes.

Aunt Mary Grace helped us to understand Carol’s choices. She told us that Carol is a lot like their mom. “Our mother didn’t like people telling her what to do. She made up her own mind to figure out what was going on.”

Hearing this really helped us.

Carol has a terrific skilled nursing-care facility to return to when she gets out of the hospital. They test her blood sugar regularly, give her excellent care, and she really seems to like it there. Also, it’s close to us so we can visit.

When illness strikes a family, it is normal to look back and ask questions. And then, sometimes, all you can do is pray. Say a prayer with me today for Carol and all other human beings on the planet who struggle with diabetes.

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