Blonde on the Prairie: A Night in the Life of a Redneck Diabetic

I’m not a Catholic nor am I a criminal. Yet here I stand in an invisible confessional bearing my soul. In this life I wish to teach as much as I learn. I learned, for instance, sometime during the flood of 2009 never to set my keys on the shelf in a porta-pottie because it’s really not a shelf at all. If you look closely at the shelves in porta-potties they have a single hole in them. I learned it is not a shelf but rather a urinal. The hole has a purpose. The keys have since been washed. Trust me. I confessed that to you because I appreciate humor. Confessing things, I confess, yields appreciation.

I’m not a Catholic nor am I a criminal but I am a Type 1, insulin dependent diabetic. That’s not news to most of you who have read my columns over the years. I was diagnosed late in life throwing me for a loop. Nobody else in the family got it but then again nobody else has this other thing I have. I have an empathy that is not-worldly. This empathy pains me. Your hurt pains me and I don’t even know most of you reading this. I got this curse from my father. People with too much empathy tend to live stressful lives. We over-think all things from a level of sensitivity that can mess up the flow of mind, body and spirit. The mind and spirit take on a strength that chokes out the body and what is left over is an unhealthy slab of flesh. Hence: my diagnosis.

I spend my days caring and getting paid for it. I have a job which I appreciate because when I am caring more about other people I have no time and sense to worry about myself. My work days come to an end and so I find other little things to do. I get the mail, stop by to visit a friend, get my groom some chewing gum as a treat at the gas station or just drive around the City of Bridges. Gas costs good money and so the practical side of me drives home. We don’t know where home is right now as we’re having to move. There mere thought of moving means stress.

Stress to a diabetic makes a normal blood glucose reading go from normal (60-110) to a skyrocketing 468. I didn’t even get to eat a caramel roll for it to spike that high. When my readings go that high that fast I feel awful. My kidneys are affected and my life span decreases. A whole bunch of internal things happen and I confess that the Jodi-joy I show you is masked in immense, chronic pain. If you are not a diabetic and choose to eat badly, smoke, drink and stress please let me teach you that it’s not worth it.

In order to save someone else I’m going to share what this past Tuesday night was like for me. It was late and all I wanted to do was go to bed like all of you. But I couldn’t. I wrote about it to friends. I took a photo to share with you. It’s like watching reality television in print! I wrote:

“It’s sleep time and I am exhausted. Life is stressful but nothing this child of God can’t handle. I wish I could just snuggle up in my pajamas and relax for the night but I can’t. I’m like millions of other people.
I am a diabetic. Before I go to bed I have refill my diabetic insulin pump. First I have to find an insulin bottle with some left in it to fill the cannula. Instead of finding insulin I wish I could just find my slippers. I fill the cannula and tap out all the air bubbles by using a Sharpie marker. Anything blue in the photo is really a covered needle except for the insertion device. That’s the big round blue thing. I have to reset my meter by pulling the piston back. I fill the cannula with enough insulin to last me three days. Then I attach the tubing and have to prime it. Next I remove the needle guard and place the tubing into the insertion device. I pull back the device until it locks in. I’m like a certified auto technician talking pistons and such. I place the device firmly against my abdomen, back, outside leg or arm and press it as a needle crashes violently into my flesh. It’s like I’m performing surgery on myself. One should never perform surgery on themselves when being so tired. It’s risky. I unthread the needle and secure the infusion set with the sticky back it comes with. Sometimes it comes loose so I just use duct tape hoping this is not the night my health fails me so I don’t end up in the Emergency Room looking like a redneck diabetic with duct tape stuck to her abdomen or back. And if I ended up in the ER unable to talk I’d pray for the doctor who knows about diabetic insulin pumps and how they work. Better yet I’d pray for the doctor who has diabetes themselves because if you don’t have it you can’t truly understand it. Everybody is different. I was tired when I began this insulin pump hook-up but I still have to fill the tubing with insulin when all I really want to do is relax and go to bed. However, I am a diabetic. I am like a strong, single parent maintaining my life by myself. I’m the only one in charge in and capable in my cabin of making myself live before I sleep so I can awake alive. Before I sleep I have to find a place to attach my pump while I’m sleeping. I usually attach it to the waist of my pajama bottoms. In the event I wake up in the middle of the night to tinkle I risk the device falling in to the toilet. The device itself costs many thousands of dollars and it would be a shame for it to die drowned in Tidy Bowl! When I finally get to sleep I have to wake up in the middle of my sleep to make sure my blood glucose levels are not too high or too low. Disturbed sleeps disturbs me. I confess that. Depending on what number the glucose reading shines back at me I dose myself appropriately with insulin or drink juice. Diabetics have to have big brains. It’s hard to keep track of everything to live another sleep.

It’s even more difficult to afford to live another day. Every single piece you see in the photo costs money-lots and lots of money. I am frugal now so I can afford another needle, another box of tubing, another bottle of insulin later. You probably get to save your money for a vacation, a new fancy ring, purse, pair of shoes, perhaps a boat, or a new plow or lawn mower. Imagine what a remarkable groom who asked for my hand in matrimony. He knew he was marrying the bionic woman and has kept me nearly 10 years anyway.”

This is not a cry for sympathy-on the contrary. I am pleased and appreciative God chose me to get this. I have a strong brain. The MRI proved it! Rather, it is a lesson in perspective and survival. Eat well, stress less so you can spend your life snuggling and cuddling and not pushing needles into your skin. I am a diabetic living on the prairie for now. I am alive at this moment appreciating how confession clears up stress. Smiles hide lies. I’m not always as happy inside as I appear because I fear. Fear is stress. Stress leads to a faster death. I’m not a Catholic nor am I a criminal. I’m just a woman with a chronic disease trying to get by. You don’t have to fear if you take steps to stay healthy and stress free. Turn off the news. Spend less time on your computer. Be kind and do the right thing. If you’ve wronged someone apologize. Write a note if you don’t dare stand face to face. Forgive. Hold hands more. Eat fats and sugars less. View nature. Be still. Make good choices. For when you do these things you have nothing to confess. Appreciate life! Save yourselves from being a redneck diabetic so I can someday remind you not to put your keys on the shelf in a porta-potty!

Ingstad lives on the prairie near Valley City and writes this column for the Times-Record.