So here I am in the ICU on December 23. Worst. Place. Ever. I mean, people here are very nice and competent but it’s the holidays and I need to be home, baking cookies, wrapping gifts and enjoying my family. I took vacation this week and now it will be wasted listening to the drone of TVs, beeping IV units and rolling beds and carts in the hallway. But there’s a deeper epiphany here I’d like to share. It’s not a new insight, but I just wanted to share the story the way I came to it.
I’ve been here since the 20th. Long boring story about why. Just chalk it up to a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime epic screwup with an insulin pump and the sudden onset of DKA. Never had it before, and trust me you don’t want it and I never do again.
But as I sit here, now waiting 7 hours for discharge papers — they swear to me I’m getting out today, really they do — I think about the fragility of life. We all take this life for granted and just one wrong turn, one malfunction of our medical routine or one fluke accident could bring it all to an end. Because DKA is serious, my friend, nothing to play around with. I may not be typing this post to you all if not for the diligent efforts of several severely competent and uncommonly caring medical personnel. (Dr. Hoffman, Dr. Fackler-Chapman, Dr. Wucka who all tolerated me losing my mind yesterday when it was clear I wasn’t going home; the array of nurses who put up with me arguing with them about carb ratios, timing of insulin doses and bad lab results — special shout out to Brian on those last ones.)
One of the nurses who saw me last told me everyone is so happy I’ll be going home today because it is so rare to send someone from this unit back to their home for recovery. Many times it is to a rehab facility, hospital, hospice, and yes, even the morgue. Even though I’m stressed about the holiday wrapping, baking, cooking, stuffing stockings, etc. that still needs completion, I am so very grateful to be going home.
I’ve lived with Type 1 diabetes for 32 years and I have done a decent job taking care of it — never been hospitalized before for anything related to a diabetes condition. I have taken the treatments available to me for granted. I’ve taken my privileged lifestyle for granted. There are many who cannot afford the wonderful doctors and the wonderful therapies to which I can avail myself.
Life is a golden thread, folks. Appreciate what you have. Everyone has struggles — maybe not something like what I have but don’t waste this precious life on regret, revenge, hate or privilege. I watch the TV here —because there was nothing else to do but stare at the calves and feet and roller carts that passed before my glassed-in, half-curtained cage — and I feel sorry for the materialism, the wastefulness, the pettiness I see reflected in our culture. I see myself in the grousing I do over the smallest things. I see our friends in neighbors in the greediness of the Christmas season.
And outside my room is an anxious family who may lose a loved one today. The person is living what may be his last days in the room next to mine. There are flurries of relatives coming to whisper loving words and stand in the hall to share tears of grief. I feel almost guilty that I am so healthy and going home (sometime?) today.
I have already made the point, I think. Much love to all my friends and family. I am grateful to be able to spend another day with you.