Name: Amy Krout-Horn
Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL
Diabetes Type: 1
Current Life's Work: Author/Lecturer
Amy Krout-Horn, author, lecturer, and member of the Lakota Sioux tribe, is one of many inspiring diabetes stories. She has been living with type 1 diabetes for 37 years, since she was 13 years old. Later in life, she lost her eyesight due to diabetes. She recounts her story here as well as shares excerpts from her autobiographical novel, My Father's Blood (All Things That Matter Press 2011).
My father gave me two great gifts; our Lakota Sioux ancestry and type 1 diabetes. Some might argue that at least one, if not both of these, could be categorized among "misfortunes" rather than "proud inheritances," and, at times, both Dad and I might have agreed. My father's diagnosis came at age thirteen, and set the young teenage rural farm boy on a diabetes management path that included sterilizing glass syringes on the stove top and needles that were used until dull, and then sharpened upon a whetstone for another round of injections. Counting carbohydrates was still in the futuristic stages, and home blood glucose monitoring did not exist. During the first 20 years of type 1 diabetes, I'm sure my father never once referred to his chronic illness as a "gift."
In 1969, when I arrived into the world as my parents' first and only child, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the diabetes test read negative, no one feeling more thankful than my father. But, in 1975, after a long bout with influenza, everything changed forever.
"The nurse knelt, lifting the blue cotton blanket and letting the harsh fluorescent light creep in. She peered through the bars of the bed rails and I turned my back on her intrusive eyes. None of them had seen me cry and I wanted to keep it that way. They entered my room every couple of hours with a tray of multi-colored vile, syringes, needles, and lancets. They stabbed the tips of my fingers. They drew what seemed like gallons of blood from whichever of my thin limbs was willing to relinquish some. They injected insulin into my legs, my arms, my abdomen, and my buttocks. They inserted needles into my wrist and groin for something called an arterial blood gas. They removed the IV from the collapsed vein of my right hand and pierced the left one. I clenched my teeth. I curled my toes. I balled my fists. But I never cried.
"It was a lesson I had been subconsciously learning from birth; my father the teacher, my mother his assistant, I their observant pupil. For six years, I had watched my father's morning regimen from the wooden chair at the kitchen table. As I silently ate cereal, he rolled his bottles of insulin between the rough palms of his hands, the glass clicking against his silver wedding band in rhythm with the faint tick of the wall clock above us. Lifting the syringe to the light over the sink, he would draw the clear liquid into the needle, counting units under his breath as they flowed into the plastic barrel. My eyes never left the sight of his procedure: the swabbing of his scar tissue-bulged abdomen with rubbing alcohol, the steadiness of his hand postured as if he were holding a dart, the disappearance of the needle into his flesh, the unflinching expression that made it seem as casual as brushing your teeth or buttering your toast. He never cried, never complained, even when blood would trickle from the injection site. He regarded it with indifference, absently dabbing it away. More consideration was given to the grape jelly I had spilled on the counter top or the blanket lint that he plucked from my long tangled hair.
"The lab technician arrived with a folder full of papers. The doctor pivoted on his stool towards the desk and examined the results. I watched my parents and tried to translate what their expressions and actions said about the situation. My mother sat perched on the edge of the folding chair as if she would take flight at any moment, her eyes darting from my father to the doctor's stooped head, to me and back again, in awful anticipation. My father had stood beside her, motionless, hands clasped in front of him like a man awaiting a sentence for a crime he did not commit. When his interpretation of my lab report was finished, the doctor had addressed them, using words like "elevated levels of glucose in the blood stream" and "diabetic keto-acidosis." My mother had reached a shaky hand to clutch my father's arm, her bottom lip quivering as tears welled in her exhausted eyes. He had cupped her shoulder and looked past the sterile metallic room to the east where the sun continued its ascent, but not before I saw the single tear that had trailed along his smooth handsome face. The grief that my parents had denied themselves over the years had been released, triggered by my illness. The crux of their lesson seemed as clear as the September sky that held my father's gaze: crying was a precious commodity reserved for, in their times of need, the ones we love…."
Excerpt from My Father's Blood
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