I Can’t Do It
Marci Page Sloane, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE
“I can’t do it,” Adrian blurted as I started to explain how to count carbohydrates to control his blood sugar levels. “I have to give myself four injections and check my blood sugar ten times a day and now you want me to count how many grams of carbohydrates I am supposed to eat as well? I just want to have fun like all of my friends and not think about so many things. I see what happens to people who get diabetes. Why should I even bother?” Adrian looked beaten. Being alive had become a chore that he wasn’t very enthusiastic about fulfilling.
At eighteen years old, Adrian had many psychological issues to deal with regarding his diabetes. He was too young to be so accountable for his health. Adrian had many considerations; he needed to follow a schedule – a demanding schedule. His friends didn’t share this level of responsibility at all. “Adrian, let me tell you a little story,” I said, hoping that I could help to change his perspective about his disease. I wanted him to realize that less than a century ago he would have died.
“You see, Adrian,” I said as I began my story, “before 1922, children were starving to death from diabetes. Without insulin, these kids couldn’t feed their body with energy or sugar and the body would literally eat itself to death. James Havens, the son of the vice president of Eastman Kodak, was the first child to be treated with insulin in the United States. His weight was down to seventy-three pounds and he was dying. Insulin saved his life. Five-year old Teddy Ryder was down to twenty-seven pounds and approaching death when he received insulin and went on to live until he was seventy-six years old. Then there was Elizabeth Hughes, the daughter of United States Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. Diabetes ravaged her body until her weight was below forty-five pounds and she could barely walk. Her doctor put her on a starvation diet to prolong her life. It allowed her to live long enough for a treatment to be discovered. Within weeks of the discovery of insulin and her visit to Dr. Banting in Toronto, she began gaining weight and her health improved significantly in no time. Elizabeth went on to marry and have children. She died at age seventy-three.
“Eighty years ago, you would not have lived unless you were one of the fortunate ones who survived long enough for insulin to be discovered. For you, Adrian, there is a long and healthy road ahead if you care to follow it. I will give you the tools to save your own life and then it’s up to you.”
Adrian sat still in contemplation about his disease, his life and the choices he was forced to make. “Twenty-seven pounds and forty-five pounds? How could they have lived?” Adrian asked, looking overwhelmed at how destructive “his” disease could be.
“As humans, we want to survive. We fight until the end. Their fight was painful, uncontrollable and horribly scary. All they were able to do was pray that a treatment or cure would be found before their bodies gave up,” I said. “And for some their prayers were answered.”
“I suppose these children were so thankful to be alive that they were grateful to follow a regimented treatment plan,” Adrian said, realizing how truly fortunate he was. “So, did you say I need to inject five units of insulin for my breakfast?”
“Yes, and if you would like I can give you other breakfast samples and we can figure out how much insulin will be needed. And you know what? I bet a cure is within reach. Maybe you can join me in the Walk to Cure Diabetes next Saturday?”
“I’ll be there!” Adrian smiled as our session ended. His new outlook on life was just beginning.