Of Mice and Men
Diabetes research yet to keep its promises.
By Tom Karlya
May 2006 — I shook Dr. Wang's hand, said thank you, and walked out the door of his office. It was over a year since my first appointment to the very popular and respected orthopedic surgeon. After my initial examination where it was determined something was indeed wrong, we started with physical therapy and that did not have the results we needed. We scheduled my first (meaning there was more to come) surgery for June of 2006.
Rotator cuff surgery is no picnic and I tore it about as good as one could tear it. The pain and the recovery was intense and I was determined to work at it to the best of my ability and many a night closed my eyes at night with my tears of frustration from pushing my physical therapy to the limit. Bill, my physical therapist at Spagnoli Rehabilitation on Long Island, is incredibly talented and many times he would say, "I very rarely say this but you need to slow down. You cannot rush the healing process. You actually are pushing too hard." But with all my work to get better, my injured shoulder had other ideas and while working out one day I let out a scream so loud you could hear it 4 blocks away.
The diagnosis was a re-tear of the same rotator cuff, yet it could not be confirmed until they actually ‘re-opened' me and got inside……and this time I really knew what pain was. After a zillion X-rays, MRIs, and intense massage therapy, I was slated for surgery number two in November. Dr. Wang stated that before he opened me up they would perform a ‘manipulation' while I was knocked out. They would carefully lift my arm up over my head and reach it all the way back to break any scar tissue that was present. I was informed later that everyone in the operating room cringed as they could actually hear the popping of the scar tissue. They had never heard it as such before – aha! I'm making medical history! They opened my shoulder up again and behold there was no tear at all but the entire rotator cuff was actually mummified in scar tissue which was now broken apart and cleaned out. Since there was no tear, I was in physical therapy the next day. Oh joy.
Once again I was determined to push the limit. So now here we were in the third week of April 2007 and after countless times to visit my capable friends at Spagnoli Rehabilitation, two trips to the operating room (with a defibulator no less, but that is another story), hundreds of stitches, 7 new wounds to my shoulder area where they operated, cases of Vitamin E (after an operation, Vitamin E is wonderful to break up scar tissue and heal more efficiently), 16 trips to my surgeon's office, 2 pre-op evaluations, 9 zillion hours of rehab both in office and at home, countless tears, and over 300 painkillers (not counting over-the-counter) I was finally complete and although a tinge of pain still is present, I can reach with my arm better than I could for the last 2 years.
So here I am, as I leave my Doctor's office as good as he can make me, and I sit in my car to pull out of his driveway one last time, tears roll down my cheek. Why? Was it due to the happiness that my entire endeavor of pain and frustration had ended? No. You see as I sat there I realized my ordeal was over. And my thoughts transfixed on Kaitlyn.
My sadness is not for me. My sadness is for my daughter and knowing she will not experience what I experienced. She will not leave her endocrinologist for the last time and shake their hands and say, "Thank you. I do not need to come back anymore. I'm done." And that, my friend, is unfair.
Unless somewhere, somehow, someone figures out how to solve this mystery of diabetes. Don't you think that the media should never again print articles telling us, "How close we are to curing a mouse"? How many parents of newly diagnosed children, with less experience than those of us who have been around a while, actually believe that these stories that circulate from time to time about some research project being done somewhere in a mouse having any immediacy for their child.
My friend, Dr. Norma Kenyon (whom I love dearly), said it best when she declared, "My daughter is not a mouse." Our kids are not mice and I bet we could line up the projects from here to the moon that started out correctly with a mouse and one day fell off the map never to be heard of again. Sigh. Where is the cure? I would go through my last year dealing with the surgeries and the aftermath over and over again for the next 50 in exchange for my daughter to hear just once, "It's gone Kaitlyn—no more injections, no more insulin—it's not needed anymore; your diabetes is gone." Someone please email me and tell me something promising is happening in the world of diabetes research, but remember my daughter is not a mouse and me, I'm a diabetes dad.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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