In Which I Feel Very Well Taken Care Of
Living diabetic and pregnant in Norway.
By Kathryn Foss
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
February 2009 — These last few months have been a tremendous journey for me, as a woman who is both diabetic and pregnant. I was sitting in the hospital this week, waiting for my bi-monthly string of appointments with my medical team to begin, and I had two things on my mind. First, I realized how fortunate I am. As an American living overseas, I am constantly grateful and amazed by the health care I receive over here. I'm not even a real Norwegian, but they care for me as though I was one of their own! I have had 3 major health events since moving over here: the installation of an ICD (Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator), being diagnosed with diabetes and becoming pregnant. In all 3 instances, I have had great experiences. When I had my cardiac procedure, I only paid $40 AND my young, cute electro-physiologist talked to me the whole time he was operating on me AND, as a bonus, showed me my old ICD when he took it out! I think the drugs had probably made me a little chatty and aggressive, but he was very polite to entertain me throughout the procedure.
As far as diabetes goes, aside from the temporary setback of my crazy first doctor, dealing with it has been easy. I haven't had to stress about being able to afford a good endocrinologist ($27 a visit), about being able to afford my medication (free after the first $100) or about regular testing and follow up. However, the beginning of diabetes was a pretty lonely road. I didn't have any diabetic friends and avoided the free classes because they were all in Norwegian and I just felt too insecure to attend.
Once I became both diabetic and pregnant, it was an entirely different ball game. When you are pregnant in Norway, suddenly everything is free. I think they want to reward you for birthing real live Vikings and so use free prenatal care as a powerful incentive. Whatever the reason, I am grateful. Since becoming pregnant, my diabetes has taken on a new life. I have become an insulin user as my pregnant body has become stubbornly insulin resistant. When I first started taking insulin about 3 months ago, my daily injections combined were averaging about 25 units. As of yesterday, in the beginning of my last trimester, I am up to an average of 120 units of insulin a day! Having to dial up 30 units at a time on my insulin pen is challenging for me. The mental hurdle I have had to clear in order to inject huge quantities of insulin into my growing belly is pretty enormous. If I had not had the encouragement and coaching of my stellar Danish endocrinologist every 2 weeks, talking me through my paranoid ramblings, I am not sure I would be doing as well as I am. I am a firm believer that having access to affordable, good health care enables me to be healthy, diabetic and pregnant.
So, back to the waiting room at my appointment, and the second thing on my mind was how universal diabetes is. Oslo is a pretty diverse city and all pregnant diabetics in Oslo go to the same diabetes clinic on Wednesdays. We bond over urine samples, blood work, long waits for busy doctors and the health of our unborn non-diabetic babies. On this particular Wednesday, there was me (the American) and women from Pakistan, Thailand, Somalia and Poland along with a bevy of Norwegians. I sat and observed all of these women, gathered in an unfamiliar place because of a familiar disease. All of us waiting in anticipation for the unveiling of this week's A1c and the desperate hope of hearing the doctor say, ‘Your baby is doing fine. Keep up the good work!' We all speak different languages and come from different corners of the globe, yet a common disease and a common goal unite us. And in that moment, sitting in the hospital, surrounded by the diversity of diabetes and the confidence of women who know they are well taken care of, I felt enormously proud.
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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