Wake Up Call

(A Personal Essay)

by Tameko L. Barnette

The symptoms of diabetes are very similiar to other types of illnesses. The symptoms of diabetes can include increased thirst, increased urination, feeling edgy, tired, sick to the stomach, repeated or hard-to-heal infections of skin, gums, vagina, or bladder, blurred vision, tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet, and dry, itchy skin. Sometimes these symptoms can be so mild that one canít even notice them. Half of all people with diabetes donít know they have it. Unfortunately, I was one of those individuals who had some of the symptoms of diabetes, but when I went to the doctor to find out what was wrong I was told that I had the flu or a fever. My symptoms started about six months before my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, which used to be called non-insulin dependent diabetes, the most common type of diabetes found in African- Americans.

The first few symptoms I started having were feeling edgy, tired, and sick to the stomach. I woke up one morning and didnít feel like getting out of bed to go to work. Suddenly, I felt like I had to vomit and broke out into a cold sweat. Of course, I thought I had the flu or a cold. So, I called in sick at my job, went to the grocery store and got some medicine, fruit juices, and went home to take care of myself. Eventually those symptoms did stop after a couple of days and I felt like my usual self again. Except I continued to feel as though all of the energy was drained from my body. Of course, I would feel tired after a long dayís work, but the fatigue I flet began to get ridiculous. It persisted on the weekends when I was less active and stayed home more. Even when my best friend would call me up to go to a movie or to dinner, I would say no because I was too tired to get dressed up and leave the house. I didnít want to think that something was seriously wrong with me. After all, we had been working overtime at my job for a few weeks coupled with taking college courses at night after work. I figured that I was just tired, exhausted and completely stressed.

After a few months went by with those same symptoms popping up here and there in between those months, I started to get yeast infections. After I would get over- the-counter medicine to help, a month later Iím in the drug store again getting more medicine for another yeast infection. Then the skin on my forearms, neck, face, and chest began to get very dry and itchy. Yet, after all of these symptoms started not once did I feel that something terribly wrong was going on inside of me.

Finally, the week before Valentineís Day this year, I was out of work for about three days because I was very tired, very dry, itchy skin, sick to the stomach, and I had chills. I also suffered with mood swings as well. Ultimately, I decided to go to the doctor hoping he or she would shed some light on what was wrong. I sat in the doctorís office for such a long time before I was even in the exam room. The doctor arrived and I explained the symptoms including the most recent one, which was aches and pains in my sides and lower back. The doctor thought it could be a kidney infection so they got a urine specimen from me. The verdict was the sugar level was very high confirming that I had diabetes. The average blood sugar level should be 90-126 milligrams per deciliter. My blood sugar level from my finger read 222 milligrams. My urine specimen read 300+ milligrams. The doctor prescribed a medicine called Micronase. Theyíre pills that help keep the blood sugar level down. I have to take one pill per day.

Of course, diet and exercise are as essential as the pills. All three of these entities compliment each other. The doctor advised me to lose about 15-20 pounds, exercise regularly, and of course, watch my sugar intake very closely. I had to quit smoking also. Because smoking and diabetes are a deadly mix. The smoking causes problems with the circulation in oneís legs and feet, which results in some individuals having their legs and/or feet amputated. That was all I needed to hear.

And with Godís help and an enormous amount of discipline I will reach my goals. I want to live a long, healthy, full life. I want to be able to wake up in the morning.

Wake Up Call by Tameko L. Barnette

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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