by Cynthia McCulley
My Dad (DeWayne McCulley) and I (Cynthia) Talking to Diabetics After Lecture
I haven't had any major illnesses, but I had to help my dad (DeWayne McCulley), who almost died from a diabetic coma. He had stopped playing basketball and tennis, and had put on 50-60 pounds, maybe more. He was taking Lipitor to lower his cholesterol, but he had some muscle aching. 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 ealier, so we though everythign was okay.
Then, one morning he woke up and found it difficult to get out of bed. so he called 911 and the ambulance took 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.
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 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. But 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.
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).
He 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 recordkeeping 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 too 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 doctor. He told us not to be overly concerned and to return to the original dosage.
But 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. But, 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.
But, my dad's glucose level kept going down. We were really excited! So, we called the endocrinologist to tell him what was happening. But, 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. But, I knew that the data was telling us something important. I could see my dad was torn concerning what to do.
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 glucose 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 ...
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 dificult for me to write down, but I hope it helps someone out there who's struggling with diabetes.