Thursday, August 11, 2011

Diabetes: A Sibling's View

This blog post came to me from a very dear friend of mine that we'll call "Lola." Lola and I have been friends for over ten years and she is a amazing person. For a pretty decent amount of time after I met her, I had no idea that her older brother had diabetes. She never mentioned it. I think I actually found out when I went to her house (she still lived with her parents at the time) and her mother mentioned it to me when I had to give an injection.

Lola has never been one to push me about how I care for my diabetes. She listens when I complain and never gives unsolicited advice. She follows all of the proper diabetes etiquette rules. Maybe it's because her brother has diabetes, or just because she's such an amazing friend. Either way, she rocks. This is her view of have a sibling with diabetes:

I remember the day my brother was diagnosed with diabetes, I was four years old, he was 14. He was skinny as a rail, loved surfing, and was just getting ready to enter high school, and hadn’t been feeling well for a while. The lead up to it is fuzzy I remember lots of trips to the doctor, lots of worry around, my parents had just gotten divorced (my Dad is his Step-Dad and there was physical abuse involved) and we were living in a motor home in the church parking lot in San Diego. It was 1985 and my teenage brother did not take the news well. I remember him crying (a very rare thing) and my Mom looking scared and holding him. I remember watching them learn to use those BD needles with the bright orange caps on plump oranges. My mom broke a needle off in one of them, not an encouraging sign. I remember gashed fingers from lancet lessons. I remember my Mom trying to get enough skin on his stomach to pinch together for the needle, and looks of pain as he learned this whole process he would have to do for his entire life just to stay alive. But mostly I remember being scarred, scarred of losing a brother I loved VERY much.

My brother is one of the most compassionate loving people I have ever known. He will give you the shirt off his back and his last bite of food, and won’t even make you ask. He is intuitive to other peoples feeling and problems and getting a hug from him is the warmest happiest thing I can think of. I think he is, partly because of this, very prone to depression. I think there is a very special reason he is on this planet because after he was diagnosed, an already troubled boy became rebellious, angry, and self-destructive. He began to drink and use drugs. His dream to be a pilot was gone because the FAA and military won’t allow diabetics to fly. He moved out when he was 16 and failed to graduate with his class from high school. He did make up his class in summer school and got his diploma, but I think his hopelessness just increased. He moved around a lot, and became a construction worker. Occasionally we would live in the same city, and then I remember emergency trips to the hospital for diabetic comas and Ketoacidosis. We were told he would lose his feet by the time he was 25, that he wouldn’t live to see 30. He refused to take care of himself and lived as though he didn’t have a chronic illness. His health care coverage was spotty, at best, and at one point he was homeless and living under a bridge in New Mexico. What do you do as a parent or a sibling when your adult D-sib or child refuses to take care of themselves? Yet he is alive. He is going to turn 40 next year. To me he is the REAL boy who lived. Harry Potter has nothing on my brother and Diabetes makes Voldemort look like a fussy little girl with a bad nose job. There is a reason he is alive, there is a reason you all are alive, there is a reason you fight everyday and test and do math that would make some of my college students cry, just to stay alive. Find that reason and go after it, whether it is advocating, or researching, or fundraising, or getting married and living a beautiful life filled with happiness and love.

I also remember when we first started hearing about this thing called an insulin pump. I thoroughly believe it has saved my brother’s life. As someone who has a hard time admitting he has an illness, it allows him to live life a bit more normally. Now as opposed to shooting up in the middle of a restaurant before a meal, he just does some mental math (probably SWAG-ing more than is healthy) and clicks some buttons on an unobtrusive device. I am not saying they are for everyone, but for my brother, and for me, the sister who doesn’t want to lose him, they are a little Engineering miracle. Now if only I could get him to test more. :P


Katie {Always, Katie} said...

That is neat, well-written, and gut-wrenching... I'd love to know my siblings' views. Lola sounds like a wonderful and non-judgmental support for her brother. I know we all know how important that is, and I hope she knows, too. Thanks, Lola, on behalf of all the scared diabetic teens :-)

Karen said...

What a powerful post. Lola is completely awesome!!!!