Gone To Guam

I have just had the best trip of my entire life! It all started when Carl Butler asked me to be a keynote speaker at a diabetes conference he was organizing. The first surprise was the location—Carl lives in Guam and is part of a group of wonderful, dedicated individuals who planned this educational conference for Guam and its surrounding islands.

My talk was to cover some of the latest advances in diabetes care and research. Usually, this is an attention-getting topic, but this audience started to drift. They had been sitting still, being “talked at” by speakers, for several hours.

Stopping my talk, I asked the group, “Does anyone have a question that has not been answered today?”

Just one hand went up. “Is it all right for me to drink black or green tea?” a lady asked. “Yes,” I told her. “Both are actually quite healthy.” Then someone asked about diet soda. Was it OK for somebody with diabetes? I shared that I drank it occasionally, although I think that water is the best beverage.

Now I was having fun. The group was energized, and more hands were going up between questions. “What is the difference between type 1 and type 2?” “What is a good blood-sugar level?” “What can I do about my tingly toes?” Each question sparked more people to bring up their own questions.

As in many parts of the world, type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic on Guam. I couldn’t help but notice the cups of orange juice that were served at lunch. I brought up in my talk that even though we are taught as kids that orange juice is good for us, people with diabetes have to figure it into their meal plans like any other sugary drink.

I battled my own blood-glucose levels while traveling. I would have a few good readings, and then I’d go low after exercising, or go high and get very grumpy. I love to eat and try new foods, and it is not unusual for me to be low, have a snack, and then discover that I’ve climbed to over 200! I test often and always get my numbers down, but my A1C is 7.2%. My doctor says this is fine, but our board member Dr. Richard Bernstein calls it a “disaster.” It correlates to an average glucose of 165.

After the conference in Guam, my family and I went to south Australia, where we visited Nadia’s brother before heading back to Guam and then home.

While we were away from Guam, a typhoon blew through and the island was devastated. When we passed back through on December 14, there was no electricity, no water for many and no transportation, because of gasoline shortages. Lightning had struck a huge gasoline tank, which burned for five days.

With the sweltering heat and no air conditioning or refrigeration, our host’s daughter was having a difficult time keeping her insulin cool. Nadia would ask for extra cups of ice when we went out and got drinks and would give the ice to Elise San Nicolas so that she could keep her insulin cool.

When we got home on December 16, it was to find a power outage at our house. The vestiges of Typhoon Pongasang had reached the West Coast, and the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live, had been pounded by rain and high winds.

Fortunately, the weather—albeit wet—is relatively mild, so we’re not freezing or sweltering, and my insulin is in no danger of overheating (or freezing).

I feel lucky. I have good friends and a nice home, and I still have my health after 28 years of diabetes.

I am wishing you all good health and long life in 2003.

Happy New Year!

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