I awoke utterly disoriented. My throat was on fire, raw as though I hadn’t had anything to drink in days. The lights above my head were blinding me, forcing me to squint. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t situate myself. This wasn’t my bedroom. It wasn’t my living room. Where was I? I remembered being at home and in bed, but this wasn’t my apartment. I was beyond confused. I was still extremely weak, and not able to move much, yet I tried to stir.
With the images around me still blurred and confused and my body unable to physically get up, I had only one last recourse – to cry for help. My parched lips parted but nothing came out. I tried yet again and managed to push out a tiny croak of a sound. I mustered all of my strength and tried once more. “He…lp…”or something remotely resembling that whispered out. Again…“…help…” I was slowly finding my voice. It was getting a little stronger, a little louder. “Help. Help me.” I needed someone, anyone, to find me. I tried to move again and felt a sting in my hand. I looked down and could see tubes sticking into my hand. “What are those?” I thought to myself. “Help me… Please, someone help me.”
I don’t know how long that went on, but eventually, a nurse appeared. I knew it was a nurse, and I could see that there was an IV attached to me, but I was still severely disoriented. I remember the nurse being happy to see me interacting. I managed to mumble that I needed water, that my mouth and throat were so dry and aching. She agreed, but told me I could only have a few sips for now. “I’ll take anything,” I thought to myself.
This scene repeated itself a few times. I’m not sure If it was over several hours or several minutes. Bit by bit, the picture was becoming clearer though – I was in the hospital. I didn’t know how or why, but here I was.
I remained in the ICU for the next few days as I started to regain my strength. The picture was becoming clearer all the time. I was told that I had been diagnosed as a Type-1 diabetic. I was moved into a private room, and would end up staying there for about 10 days in total.
A few days into my stay, my family doctor was on call at the hospital and dropped by to visit me. After a few minutes of idle chatter, inquiring how I was feeling and what I remembered, Dr. Chiasson dropped a bombshell on me. He looked me square in the eyes and laid everything out.
“You’re a type-1 diabetic. Essentially, your pancreas isn’t making insulin, so you’ll need to inject yourself for the rest of your life.” He paused to let that sink in and turned his eyes to the chart in his hands. “When you came in, they took your blood sugar levels. A regular, healthy level is between 4-7 mmol/L. When they checked yours, it was at 77.” He again paused here, letting that info work its way around my brain. “I’ve had a few patients who’ve reached twenty to thirty and I was afraid for their life.”
Then came the line that has stuck with me for the past 10 years: “I’m honestly not sure why you’re still alive right now.” Bombshell. I didn’t know how to react. What did he mean that he didn’t know why I was still alive? “By all rights, you should be dead. Or at the very least, you should be in a diabetic coma. You must have a guardian angel watching over you, because the fact that you and I are having a conversation is an honest-to-goodness miracle.”
Hearing these words was a sobering moment for me. In a matter of seconds, I was pushed into a new reality. My shift had happened. It was entirely unconscious, and required no effort on my part. I just knew that everything had changed for me. Over the next week or so, I was seen by various healthcare practitioners – dieticians to help me understand food choices, a psychologist and social worker to help me through the trauma that I had lived, nurse practitioners to help me with my diabetic tools. Each one of them asked me the same question. “How are you doing?” They all approached me as if this transition of my life and my lifestyle was a challenging one. Everyone wanted to be sure I had a strong support structure around me when I went home.
Except this was not a difficult transition for me. At all. I think this is partly due to the shift that occurred to me. It all comes back to Dr. Chiasson’s words – “I’m not sure why you’re still alive right now.” That was it. This was not a choice for me. There were no alternatives. It was either accept this new life or die.