Diabetes Forecast

Does It Hurt?


I get asked lots of questions when people see me go through my premeal routine of finger pricks and injections, but the most common is "Does it hurt?" What I want to say is "Yes, it hurts every time."

It hurts my wallet. I have excellent health insurance, but my monthly diabetes supplies alone cost as much as my Jeep payment. Low-fat, low-carb, locally grown organic food is also not cheap—and why does substituting steamed veggies for french fries cost more? It hurts to be denied supplemental health insurance. It hurts to have my life insurance premiums more than triple.

It hurts my coworkers. Meeting and meal times depend on my schedule, and the silent and overly dramatic "ahhh . . . sorry" mouthed to me while someone eats birthday cake at my desk makes us all feel uncomfortable. It hurts my fellow volunteer emergency medical technicians. They see true diabetic emergencies weekly, and I know they question whether my own blood sugar can make it through the most stressful of calls.

It hurts my parents. They worry about diabetes more than I do, and deep down, I think they wish they could have gotten the diagnosis, not me. It hurt to have the conversation with my 3-year-old on what to do if "Daddy won't wake up" and how to call 911—when she didn't even know her numbers yet.

It hurts my wife. There's the panic of rushing around in the middle of the night for orange juice after I wake up in a lake of sweat, and the worry of wondering what could happen when she leaves me home alone with our three young children. It hurts her to read and hear about the grim future that can await some people with diabetes.

And yes, for some reason, sometimes it just hurts. Bruises on the stomach and sore fingers are proof. But I don't tell anyone that. Instead I say, "Actually, it feels good."

It feels good to know that fast food is not an option. It feels good to bypass junk food at home and in the office. It feels good to always have low blood sugar as an excuse, whether for losing in Ping-Pong to my wife or for getting up and leaving a long, boring staff meeting. It feels good to always have the motivation to work out. Feeling like Superman feels good as I manage my blood sugar and get three young children fed, bathed, and off to bed at the same time.

It feels good to see the relief on diabetic patients' faces when they learn that one of the EMTs on scene also has diabetes. It feels good to have been diagnosed at age 33, with no family history, injury, or illness, meaning my own children are much less at risk. It feels good to be overwhelmed by friends and family concerned with my well-being and determined to keep me safe and healthy. Yes, it feels good every time.

Tony Hakes lives in North Liberty, Iowa. He is public affairs coordinator for the Iowa Donor Network and a volunteer emergency medical technician.



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