Diabetes used to be easy
When old people (39=old) reflect on our life’s experiences, we tend to harken back to “the good old days”. Back when life was easier, and time moved slower.
We had a choice of seven TV channels.
It took at least three days to transmit written words from one coast to the other.
Dialing a phone number (especially if the area code was a toll-free “800”) meant moving the little wheel back and forth…back and forth… over and over.
Re-heating last night’s dinner took about half an hour in the oven.
The good old days.
Insulin durations were measured in hours, not minutes. Hardly anyone used a pump.
Blood glucose levels were always one of the following: 20, 40, 80, 120, 180, 240, 400, 800 mg/dl. If you had a keen color perception, you could guesstimate something in between.
Insulin dosages were prescribed by the doctor and were always the same: X units of regular, Y units of NPH. One set of X-Y’s before breakfast, and another before dinner.
In the ’80s, after school I would go out and ride my bike around the neighborhood – or perhaps in the woods behind the elementary school. Sometimes I’d plan to meet friends beforehand, other times I’d venture out alone and see who I might run into. I carried a small box of raisins in my pocket in case I began to feel “weak”. That feeling was my gauge.
Hypoglycemic unawareness wasn’t a “thing” yet, because average blood sugars were much higher than today’s “normal” range. There was no published DCCT study, and “intensive therapy” was not yet the law of the land.
These days, when I read blog posts by parents of kids with diabetes, it’s a whole different ballgame. Parents keep their kids on much closer watch: texting, calling, and emailing their food, blood sugar (even CGM trends), and insulin dosages back and forth all day. They have to.
I only took two shots a day.
There were plenty of eat-overs, sleep-overs, and birthday parties at friends’ houses. They were no big deal; I took my prescribed insulin and ate my prescribed food (and rebelliously some extra), and all was good.
The whole reason I’m bringing this up is because Christina’s excellent post on Friday got my brain working in high-gear, drawing comparisons to my own childhood.
No, I don’t fault her one bit for making sure her daughter would have responsible, watchful eyes looking over her, and that they would know what to look for and how to respond “just in case…”. If I were in her shoes, I would do the exact same thing.
The. Exact. Same. Thing.
That’s the downside of the “intensive therapy” we now strive for — of the tightly-controlled and as-close-to-normal blood sugars we work so hard to achieve. With a target A1C in the 6’s or 7’s, rather than in the 8’s or 9’s, the “normal” is lowered, so the “lower-than-normal” becomes more dangerous. Likewise, with pumps replacing Lantus, Levemir, and NPH, a severe DKA scenario can happen quicker than ever.
We need to be more vigilant than ever.
The “old way” of doing things wasn’t healthy. Nor was following an exchange-diet easy. A life with A1Cs in the teens can’t sustain itself too well. And, despite keeping my blood sugars much higher back then, I probably averaged one 911-hypoglycemia emergency per year.
It’s been about ten years since my last one of those.
I often look back at my younger years and wonder how I made it. I did — somehow — but I wouldn’t recommend it.
I’m better off as I am now — with carb counting, frequent blood sugar testing, and everything else that goes along with so-called “intensive therapy”.
But it sure seemed easier back then…
* * *
I hope this post does not come across as judgmental or critical, I certainly did not write it to seem this way. It’s just my observation that it seems so much harder to care for a child with diabetes today than it did thirty years ago. That being said, I’m sure my parents took plenty of precautions behind-the-scenes that I didn’t know about, but it was nowhere near today’s standards. Technology wasn’t that advanced.