The Second Shelf
My son, diagnosed with diabetes, was not the first.
By Tom Karlya
May 2009 — My article this month was supposed to be about my dad. He passed away since last I wrote and I wanted to tell you all about him. The good, the real, and how he influenced an entire community where I grew up in Hempstead, Long Island. How he was the first Commissioner of Little League and how to this day, when I run into people who I grew up with, they tell me how much positive influence my dad had on their young lives. I wanted to tell you how his community activism is probably the foundation for my efforts in the diabetes field. He lived by the motto, "If you don't do it, it won't get done," and I have since made it my credo in life as well.
I wanted to also tell you that he lived by the rule that no one starts at the top. "If you are not willing to ‘lick the envelopes,' you will never be able to tell someone else to." I wanted to tell you how he bravely battled his diabetes and he would check his blood alongside his granddaughter when she was younger, and how Alzheimer's drifted him away from us. I wanted to tell you that in end, it was the complications from diabetes, that took him away; and thankfully it was peacefully in his sleep with almost all of his children and his wife of over 60 years in his midst. But I cannot tell you that story as completely as I would like or even as respectful to my father as I would like because of the second shelf in the refrigerator.
Those of us who have a child diagnosed with diabetes know all too well about the shelf in the refrigerator. It's the shelf where all necessary refrigerated diabetes supplies are stored. Insulin, glucagon, and anything else that is necessary are all tucked away on a shelf with much caution as not to be confused with items like food. No reason to label it, if you have a child diagnosed with diabetes, you know what this shelf is, don't you?
But as I already stated, my stories about my dad or the lack of stories as I would have told them are not to be told, because of the second shelf in the refrigerator. That is what I said, right?
You see, just four days after my dad died, Rob, my thirteen-year-old son came to me and said, "Dad, I'm peeing a lot."
"What's a lot?"
"About four times an hour."
"We'll have Kaitlyn check you."
Kaitlyn came down the stairs with her hand hanging limply by her side. She was white as a sheet and when I asked her how close he was to the norm of 80-120, she meekly replied, "Dad, the meter just says ‘HIGH.'"
Now everyone in the diabetes community knows that the word ‘HIGH' means Rob was over 600 and that is a really not good place to be. She checked him with another meter to be sure and again the word ‘HIGH' showed up. We needed to take him immediately to the hospital's emergency room.
"Maybe this time would be different. Perhaps we did not have all the signs correct. Kaitlyn and Jill attempted, feebly, to make the argument that we didn't have it correct. It just couldn't be diabetes. We doubted what we knew to be true or at the very least we did not want to face what we knew to be true. Rob was upstairs getting a backpack full of clothes ready when I turned and said, "Look we all know what this is. We cannot just will it away. ‘Us' merely pretending it isn't there is not going to help Rob."
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