I just have to shake my head in amazement sometimes when I reflect on the volume of new experiences Lea and I have shared in the past two years. It’s hard to believe so much revelation can be crammed into such a short period of time, and yet, here we are; thrown into yet another new experience.
Lea was diagnosed as diabetic on March 26, and we found that we were completely unaware of the daily complications diabetics have to manage. One of my primary objectives in getting her back home from our extended stay in Hawai’i, was to get some reliable blood tests done so we can stay on top of her recovery from the necrotizing pancreatitis she experienced in Hartford Hospital.
So, on the Monday after we arrived back in Indiana, we had blood work completed, and she was diagnosed as high in triglycerides and high in sugar. Our family physician immediately scheduled us to see a Diabetic Educator so we could learn how to monitor her blood sugar levels and administer insulin injections. It opened another whole new head-spinning world for us, and added yet another aspect for me as her caregiver.
People with diabetes manage their own health, so it is up to us to learn as much as we can about the disease and how to control it. Counting carbohydrates immediately took on a whole different meaning. Reading and understanding nutrition labels is crucial to living with diabetes, so we have become a lot more focused on understanding the information on those labels.
People with diabetes also have a higher risk of heart and cardiovascular disease. One way to limit this risk is to measure cholesterol routinely and control it by changing the diet and/or taking prescription drugs. Lea had been taking cholesterol medication for years, since her family has a history of high triglycerides, and we try to have routine lab reports completed to monitor her status.
So, we are now monitoring her blood sugar levels four times a day, and administering long-lasting insulin and fast-acting insulin as needed to keep her levels within near-normal ranges. I give her an injection each night at bedtime of the long-lasting insulin, and when her levels get high during the day, I give her injections of fast-acting insulin morning and evening.
So far we are seeing some moderate stabilization of her glucose levels, although the levels are still spiking higher than we would like. We keep a meal-by-meal record of her food intake and the amount of insulin I give her, so we will eventually create an overview for the doctor and diabetic nutritionist to use to help us better regulate her diet.
One major complication, of course, is that the diet she needs to overcome the effects of the pancreatitis is practically opposite the ideal diet for blood sugar control. Her overall recovery diet is for high protein and high calorie, low fat foods. So, we are now shifting our diet to fewer carbohydrates and more lean meats. It isn’t all bad, since a diabetic can actually have whatever they want to eat. They just have to learn to practice portion control and monitor their blood sugar regularly.
The doctor also gave me another little device to keep by my bedside. It is an emergency glucose syringe in case I give her too much insulin some night and she goes into a diabetic coma while sleeping. This syringe you inject right into the muscle tissue to counteract an overdose of insulin. I spend most nights now in a restless sleep listening to her breathing, to detect whether she needs that shot.
Meanwhile, we are trying to complete her recovery in a couple of other areas; we want to get the abdominal wound caused by the pancreatic surgery closed up, and we want to get her right knee replaced. We had planned to have that knee surgery when we returned from vacation in Maine in 2005, but wound up in Harford Hospital for six months instead.
We went to see the orthopedic surgeon last week who had originally told her she needed to have her knee replaced, and he reaffirmed that her knee had further collapsed. He also said that she would not be able to walk on it any more without a cane or walker. He cautioned that he would not be able to do the knee surgery until her blood sugar is under control, since high levels of serum glucose can slow or prohibit the healing of the wound.
We also saw a plastic surgeon about closing up her abdomen. He said that her surgical wound is now completely healed and what remains is a huge hernia that needs to be covered. The thin skin graft over the bowels is really just a way to keep the bowels in place, but she can not go without a stomach binder over the wound, since gravity stretches that skin graft, and the bowels try to spill out.
He also said that he was not willing to do the surgery, since peeling that skin graft off the bowels would be life threatening. As you remove the skin, there is a chance of nicking the bowel and causing an infection which would show up only after the abdomen was closed up. Those infections can be fatal. He recommended that we see a general surgeon, who would take the lead on closing the hernia, and then a plastic surgeon would do the cosmetic work.
Lea wept as he gave us his opinion, because we thought we had been doing all the right things to get her healed up enough to get that wound covered over. Unless it is covered she is going to always have to wear a dressing to hold her intestines in when she takes the binder off, and she has to wear the binder any time she is going to be vertical for any length of time. It is hot and uncomfortable, but it appears that she is going to have to continue using the binder for the foreseeable future.
So, we continue keeping on keeping on each new day. These are the tasks set before us. We continue to give thanks to our Lord, God, for the many blessings we receive every day, and particularly for the joy of being together to share the love that bonds us. I talk to Him all day long, and send up many mini-prayers, trying to be aware of the small, often overlooked, blessings we have been given.
We continue to pray for guidance and direction in performing our ministry through this website and the local church we are attending. We are constantly looking for ways to expand our outreach, and to help others learn of the miracles we saw performed in Lea’s healing as detailed in the Hartford Letters. And, we pray that she will be able to recover her health and be able to vigorously engage in the powerful ministry He has planned for her. Glory to God!