Laura Smith (Continued)
Eventually, I went to nursing school and got my RN in 1984. Somehow I made it all through school and when I got my first job, I continued to manage my diabetes the same way I had always done. I moved to NC in 1988, and soon after got a job in a cardiac catheterization lab. The erratic hours and schedule there had me fighting many lows while in the middle of procedures. I always kept candy in my pocket and had fairly easy access to OJ but it was still scary. Around that time, the "A1c" test came out and my very first one was 13.0! I had gotten in with an excellent endocrinologist who suggested an insulin pump for me. This would bring my out of control sugars back under control and also to help with the lows I was experiencing on a daily basis at work. Within 6 months of getting on the pump, my A1c was down to a 7 and I finally started taking my diabetes seriously for the first time in many years.
A few years after all this started, I got my first stress fracture in my foot and the roller coaster started with my feet and complications. After going through many surgeries, many months off my feet, and many broken bones, I was told in 2002 that I could either stop working or risk losing my feet, so I had to apply for permanent disability. Once I hit my 40's, the complications started rolling in. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, and retinopathy. All in all, I have had over 20 surgeries for various things, mostly orthopedic surgeries of one sort or another, and I am still on an insulin pump, but I take my health very seriously now more than ever. The good things are that I have good family genes; I have no heart disease at all, my kidneys are in excellent shape, and I have been told that I would probably never have heart or kidney disease.
I now see my endocrinologist every 3 months, download my pump every few weeks and check my blood sugar 10-12 times a day. My A1c is usually in the upper 6 to lower 7 range, but since I have lost the ability to feel my lows and have had some severe one's requiring glucagon injections, my doctor and I are happy with my A1c being in the lower 7 range.
Every day is a learning experience for me now. My husband, who is also a diabetic, and I are vegetarians, we exercise when we can, and keep an eye on each other with our sugars.
I stress to my many friends and pen pals that keeping your blood sugar under control is the best thing you can do to avoid complications. Of course the old adage, "If I knew back then what I know now I would have done things differently" holds true for me, but I am still alive and kicking and I am not giving up. I never thought I would live to see 60 years old. I have grandchildren that I love and even though at times it's hard, I have adjusted to life as a disabled person for the most part. I do miss being able to be a nurse. It was my life for almost 20 years, and I miss the fast-paced critical care that I worked in, but I also know that I can't be on my feet for more than a few minutes, have very limited walking ability and I have lost the use of one eye due to laser surgery, so physically I could never return to nursing. So now I read, do crafts and love to cook, and keep my husband and I as healthy as we can be.
This is a much abbreviated version of my life, but you can see it's been a very busy 57 years and if I could say one thing it would be: take your diabetes seriously from day 1 whether you are a type 1, type 2, or other. It's a disease you can easily live with but you have to work with your doctor and maintain good control.
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