Luckily, I haven't had any major illnesses. But several years ago, I had to help my Dad, who almost died from a diabetic coma. He had stopped playing basketball and tennis, and had put on 50-60 pounds, maybe more -- over a period of 7 to 8 years. He was taking Lipitor to lower his cholesterol, but he didn't have any major health issues. My Dad had started to urinate more frequently, but the doctor thought maybe it was his prostate. My Dad had just taken a physical 3 months earlier, and his fasting blood glucose was 103 mg/dl, so his doctor thought everything was okay. But he scheduled to have my Dad come in for an appointment the following month.
But before that appointment, my Dad woke up one morning and found it difficult to get out of bed. He called 911 and the ambulance took him to the hospital. I had to take a leave of absence from my job and fly to Rochester to find out what was going on. I remember it was difficult getting a flight to Rochester because there was a severe snowstorm. But something down deep inside told me that I had to get to my Dad.
The doctors told me things didn't look good and that my Dad may not come out of the coma. But, with God's help, he surprised the doctors and came out of the coma.
When I first saw my Dad in the hospital, I didn't recognize him. He was severely overweight and puffed up in his face.
I realized that my Dad needed my help. But, I could tell he felt a little embarrassed to have to depend on his daughter to help him.
When my Dad left the hospital after 13 days, I had to drive him home because of the damage done to his legs and eyes. I was in tears but I had to be brave for my Dad -- because for once he now needed my help. My Dad was on insulin (4 shots a day) and other drugs.
The doctors wanted to cut off my Dad's legs because of the blood clots in his legs and the deep vein thrombosis (DVT). They tried to convince my Dad after he came out of the coma that amputating his legs was the best thing for him. But, I disagreed and convinced my Dad to wait a few weeks. I could tell he didn't want to go against the doctors, but for some reason, he sided with me. It made me feel good that my Dad trusted my judgment, but I was afraid at the same time -- what if I was wrong and my dad dies from a blood clot from his leg?
I had to buy the glucose meter, lancets, test strips, insulin, and all the other stuff my Dad needed after he got out of the hospital. It was a little overwhelming, but this is my Dad! I had to do everything within my power to help him.
I helped my dad with his insulin shots, the blood glucose testing, data collection. I could tell my dad was having a lot of difficulty with the insulin shots because of his fear of needles. Sometimes his hands would shake and I could see the fear and anxiety in his face. My dad tried to hide his fear and anxiety by telling jokes, but I could hear the quiver in his voice.
Sometimes I would have to leave the room so that my Dad didn't see me cry. Grandma hadn't flown in yet, so I would call her and my mother almost every night to tell them things didn't look good. My Grandma and my mother were so supportive and so helpful to me. Grandma told me to pray for my dad, and she told me to tell my dad that he should pray also. Grandma reminded me that my dad grew up in the church and knew the power of God was everlasting and cannot be denied.
Aunt Margo and I did most of the cooking but eating food created a lot of anxiety and more fear for my Dad. The doctors and the dietitian put my Dad on a 1200-calorie diet, but it wasn't working. My Dad was gaining more weight and he had difficulty exercising because of the problem with his legs (DVT). My Dad knew he needed to exercise. I convinced him to get a treadmill, but it hurt him to run on it. (Later he got an elliptical machine that doesn't put a strain on your feet and hip joints).
My Dad also had difficulty using the computer and keeping track of his blood glucose readings, because of the blurry vision. I bought him a magnifying glass, but it didn't really help.
So I helped with the record keeping and setting up the insulin syringes with the right amount of insulin. Because my Dad had to take 4 shots a day, I decided to prepare the syringes for 3 to 5 days ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. I helped my Dad set up a nice little lab, where he could test and inject himself in peace.
I saw the light return to my Dad's face when he was working on his computer, and analyzing the data. We could tell from the data that something didn't seem right. But, the doctors and dietitian assured us that we didn't have enough data to draw any realistic conclusions. So, my Dad (being a typical engineer ) decided to increase his blood glucose testing from 3 to 4 times a day to 7 to 8 times a day.
Luckily, my dad was able to use his engineering background to understand the data, and figure out what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. In the meantime, I continued to help with his meals and recordkeeping.
I think I put the wrong (lower) dosage of insulin in some of the needles, but my Dad and I didn't discover this until a few days later. We were really concerned so we called the endocrinologist. He told us not to be overly concerned and to return to the original dosage.
I told my Dad it didn't make any sense because his blood glucose level was stabilizing even though he was taking less insulin. I don't think my Dad wanted to go against the doctors, but the data said otherwise. My Dad wasn't sure what he should do, but because I was there, I think it helped him take the risk to go against the doctors.
Surprisingly, my Dad's blood glucose kept coming down even though we were reducing his insulin dosage each day. We were very careful and only reduced the dosage by 1-2 units. Plus, we were testing his blood glucose 7 to 8 times a day, because we were expecting his blood glucose to eventually start rising again. Then, that would indicate that we should stop reducing the insulin dosage.
My Dad's glucose level kept going down. We were really excited! So, we called the endocrinologist to tell him what was happening. He wasn't happy about what we were doing. He scolded my Dad and told him he was putting his life in danger. When my Dad asked the doctor to explain, the doctor told him what was happening was an anomaly, and it would be a matter of a few days before is blood glucose level would start to rise again.
I could tell my Dad was disappointed by what the doctor had said. I could tell he didn't want to go against his doctor, because he didn't want his doctor upset with him. I think a lot of diabetics have these same feelings. (For some reason we revert to being a child when we're in the doctor's office). But, I knew that the data was telling us something important. I could see my Dad was torn concerning what to do. His 30 years of engineering was telling him one thing, but his doctors were telling him something else.
So I said, "Dad, didn't you always tell me that mathematics is very important, that numbers do not lie? Shouldn't we do what the data is leading us to do?"
My Dad said, "Yeah, sure, but if we're wrong, my doctor will be very upset."
I said, "Dad, what's more important? Getting healthy or keeping your doctor happy?"
My Dad had this frown on his face. He knew I was right, but he was conflicted.
He said, "OK, daughter, you make a good point, but let's increase my glucose testing to be on the safe side."
So, we continued reducing my dad's insulin. He had gone from 60 units a day and 4 shots a day to 5 units a day and 1 shot a day. We were so happy.
My Dad went to see the endocrinologist with the good news and all his data and charts. But, unfortunately, the doctor was not happy. He warned my Dad that he would eventually have to increase his insulin dosage within a month or so.
Luckily, my dad's primary care physician was more supportive and encouraging. So, my Dad continued with reducing his insulin 1-2 units each day.
When my Dad returned to see the endocrinologist a month or so later, he had gotten down to zero (0) insulin! But, again the doctor warned him that his blood sugar would return to the high levels within 1-2 months.
When my Dad returned the following month, the endocrinologist refused to see my dad. The physician assistant said, "I'm sorry, Mr. McCulley, but the doctor says that you are in denial of your diabetes. He can't help you until you agree to listen to him and take the insulin that he prescribed. He said it is just a matter of time before your glucose returns to the high levels. And, when it does, you may have another coma episode, but this time you may not survive."
My Dad left the doctor's office really shaken because he felt that the clock was ticking and one day very soon, he would see his blood glucose level start to rise and return to the high levels.
Well, it's been more than six years now, and we're still waiting ...
Way to go, Dad!
My Dad won't admit this but he was really fat! He thought he was "a little chunky" but my dad was fat, really fat -- in the face, and he had a big belly! My Dad never had a belly before!
But somehow my Dad lost over 60 pounds even though he was eating more than the original 1200-calorie diet the hospital dietitian had put him on.
After doing some research, my Dad discovered some interesting things about insulin and why he was fat and getting fatter with the insulin shots:
-- Excess insulin triggers the body to store fat!
-- Excess insulin prevents the body from burning fat!
-- Excess insulin depletes the body of magnesium, potassium, calcium, chromium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and other nutrients
-- Excess insulin triggers the liver to produce more cholesterol
-- Excess insulin inhibits homocysteine metabolism
-- Excess insulin leads to thicker blood and increased blood pressure
-- Excess insulin triggers an increase in homocysteine, fibrinogen, CRP, and other inflammation markers, which can lead to plaque formation and heart disease.
So, it didn't take my Dad long to figure out that the insulin shots weren't helping him to get better. The insulin (in the short term) saved my Dad's life -- but in the long term, it was causing more problems. In fact, the shots were creating a biochemical dependency, something my Dad calls "the insulin addiction trap".
Once my Dad got off all the drugs, and maintained a blood glucose level of a non-diabetic, this has shocked the doctors. They still maintain it's not possible to get off insulin so easily. The doctors were shocked when my dad survived the coma with a high glucose level. The doctors were shocked when my dad's legs got better and didn't have to amputate them. But the doctors continue to believe that what happened to my Dad is not real, it's just not possible. In fact, it turns out that my Dad had other complications that further threatened his health and his life.
My Dad's story started to spread around the community. I think one of the nurses or the physician assistant started telling people what happened to my Dad in the hospital and what happened when he reduced his insulin.
When the local newspaper wrote an article about my Dad's miraculous recovery, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) invited my Dad to speak to a local diabetic support group. That led to my Dad running the support group for 2 years. When several members of the group tried my Dad's breakfast (actually it was Grandma's breakfast ), their blood glucose level came down, and they were very excited. So, they (along with me) encouraged my Dad to write a book about his experience. But my Dad refused -- he didn't want to take that kind of time to do the research. After several more talks at local churches, more and more people kept asking my Dad to write a book. Finally, with Grandma's help, we convinced my Dad that God saved his life and that he had no choice but to share his story and write the book. I helped my Dad with the book's outline, and kept nagging him until he had finished his first draft manuscript.
It was kinda funny -- when I thought my Dad had stopped working on the book, I would call Grandma. Then, Grandma would call Dad and ask him why it was taking so long to write the book. Then, Dad would complain to me that his mother was being unreasonable and didn't understand how difficult it was to write a book and get it published. Actually Dad had some really good points to not write the book, but his points sounded like excuses to Grandma. I knew Grandma would win out. Dad knew it too ...
In addition, Dad would complain that he didn't have a good idea for a book cover or a book title, and he didn't know of anyone who could do the book cover design. I reminded him that he did have a good idea for the book cover. He had a nightmare when he was in the hospital about a graveyard. My dad thought the nightmare was God speaking to him and telling him that he was going to die. But Grandma convinced me and my dad that he wasn't going to die and that God had other plans. The graveyard became the photo on the book's cover, with the word "Diabetes" on the gravestone. That led to the book title: "Death to Diabetes". And, finally, my dad had the book published by a small publisher in South Carolina, where Grandma was born -- coincidence?
Oh yeah, Dad found a graphics designer to do the book cover design when he was looking in the yellow pages for someone to do a poster sign for a health fair. It turned out that the young lady in the sign store was a graphics designer. When she talked with my dad, she said "Yeah, I know of the perfect cemetery to take the photo for your book cover." Another coincidence?
Grandma didn't believe in coincidences or accidents. She said, "Cynthia, your father didn't die in the hospital for a reason. God has other plans for your father. You and I have to make sure he does what God wants him to do."
About six months later, the small publisher was picked up by Amazon.com, one of the biggest bookstores on the Internet . They liked my dad's book and the cover stood out from the other health books, and within a month my Dad's book with the graveyard cover was on Amazon.com!. Another coincidence? Hmm-mm -- Grandma didn't think so.
A few weeks later, Dad received a check in the mail from Amazon -- strangers were buying his book! He couldn't believe it! I believed it because I was there -- I believe that people buy the book because of the story. I think that people like the idea that a layman (a non-doctor) who had the same disease that they have, somehow survived. And, they see hope for themselves in my Dad's story.
It's been over 2 years now, and strangers are still buying my Dad's book. He's tickled to death, but my Dad and I want to reach more people now.
And, now my Dad is helping other diabetics with workshops and seminars. I am so proud of my Dad, and so glad that (with God's help and Grandma's faith) that I was able to help my Dad when he really needed me.
This was a little difficult for me to write down, but I hope it helps someone out there who's struggling with diabetes. If you have any questions, you can send them to me or my Dad.
All of you (Type 2s) can do what my Dad did and beat this thing.
Take care and best of health -- one day you will have your own story to tell.
May God bless all of you.
p.s. Here's a video of my dad telling his story better than I can: