It can be said that one of the very best tools for effectively managing diabetes is education. The more you know, the better you can anticipate all the factors that affect your diabetes management. One thing I had never realized until this week, however, is how that education can help someone else – even someone who doesn’t have diabetes.
Granny Got Sick
The Thanksgiving holiday brought an unwelcome surprise to my family this year; just before the holiday, my granny fainted and fell while alone in her home. Now, there are a few things to know about my granny: she’s 84 years old and, with the exception of some severe arthritis and a few joint replacements, she’s always had a health record worth envying. Ideal blood pressure, perfect blood glucose (no diabetes there, go Granny!), fantastic cholesterol levels – you name it, she could be the AARP version of a poster child. (A radiologist even told her after a CT scan that her brain is full-sized and hasn’t shrunken at all, which is apparently unusual for people her age, so I guess she’s a smart poster child, too!)
But a few days before Thanksgiving, Granny had gotten dizzy, blacked out and fallen. The dizziness continued on and off and brought her to the doctor’s office, then to the emergency room, then as an admitted patient in the hospital. That was Friday afternoon. I was on the road by 5am on Saturday. And by the time I arrived at the hospital six and a half hours later, they decided she’d be able to return home soon if someone was there to administer the subcutaneous blood thinner injection she’d need for the next few days.
This is where my own diabetes education and experience came in handy for the sake of someone else: subcutaneous injection? I can do that! After demonstrating to the medical staff that I am, in fact, quite capable of giving this sort of injection, I brought her home. For the next few days it was just Granny and me and our twice-a-day injection. She didn’t like getting the shot (and I’d worry if she did – seriously, none of us do), but she took it like a champ and was so thankful to not be in the hospital any more.
Not Your Typical “Granny’s Home Cooking”
Once we came home, I also realized that the “diet change” that I’d heard Granny had made really was a big change – and a healthy one, too. A few years back she had decided to cut out most dairy, fat, red meats, and just about any processed food. Instead, she started eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. In short, she’s been eating the stuff that’s recommended for most people who want to follow a healthy diet – including people with diabetes (either type 1 or type 2). For Granny, it wasn’t an easy choice to make, but it was a necessary one. She kept with it because she’d found that it was the only stuff she could eat without getting sick. While I was staying with her, I followed her diet (for the most part) – and my blood glucose levels evened out noticeably, so much so that the graph on my CGM looked more like a dessert map than a roller coaster.
On the drive home I thought a lot about my granny and the conversations we’d had; she said she couldn’t have done the injections herself. For me, giving myself injections was a necessity, not a choice. And despite my steady blood glucose levels while I stayed with her, I’m not sure I could change my diet in the extreme way Granny has, but I suppose I would if anything else I ate gave me acute stomach pain. We all make the changes and adjustments we need to make when the time is right, but fortunately for both of us, we didn’t need to make any permanent changes this week. Instead, we were able to show one another what it’s like to have made the changes we’ve made in our lifestyles, and best of all, we were able to be there to and support each other in taking another step toward better health. And for that, I am thankful.