Accomplishments Big and Small: Huge for Me!

Today’s topic for the 4th Annual Diabetes Blog Week is:

Diabetes Blog Week 2013We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you’ve made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small – think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.).

I didn’t have to think very hard about this one. I wrote about it last December! In 2005, I applied for disability because of neuropathy. I have no feeling in my feet and my balance is bad so I have to use a walker to walk. I have both peripheral and autonomic neuropathy. In 2006, I had a wound on my foot and the doctor decided to put stitches in it. Since I had no feeling, they did not need to numb my foot and I didn’t feel a thing.

Being on disability also gave me the time to get online and I found the DOC at the end of 2006. I was coming up on my 23rd diaversary and learned a ton of things that I did not know. One huge thing that I learned was that I did not need to take all my insulin for a meal at the same time. That “novel” idea is what really helped me manage the blood sugar swings from gastroparesis and get my blood sugar in control.

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The Delusional Optimist Returns: A Flicker of Hope

Kelly Booth looking out door - a Flicker of HopeBack in the mid-90s was when I started having some signs of complications. In 1995, I had an upper GI that showed slow stomach emptying – at the time, I didn’t realize that I had the beginning stages of gastroparesis. In 1995 and 1996, I also had a lot of laser surgery for retinopathy. During that same time period, I started getting neuropathy in my feet that got progressively worse.

Sadly, it took going on disability in 2005 that gave me the time to get online and find the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). It was late 2007 when I first found the DOC. By the time that happened, my neuropathy was so bad that I had to use a walker to get around. In 2006, I had stitches put in my foot without needing to be numbed. I had zero feeling in my feet up to almost my knees.

When I found the DOC, I not only learned tips on how to manage my blood sugar, I found hope that my neuropathy could be reversed some day. There were articles posted about nerve regeneration and discussions that followed. One very interesting discussion was how our mitochondria can take 2-3 years to reach our feet in a person of average height. And of course, most of them get killed off on the journey from our spine to our feet.

Yesterday I had an appointment at the wound center. Because I had left and then decided to go back again, I was treated as a new patient and had to go thru the health screening part for a new patient. The nurse practitioner joked about having to do the filament testing – she knew that I had zero feeling in my feet but was supposed to do it as part of the process.

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Neuropathy or DUI?

Antique Car with SmileyLast week, I had a doctor’s appointment in Pittsburgh. We had the radio on and there was a commercial for one of the Pittsburgh news stations. They were advertising for an upcoming segment about the tests that they do for DUI. Apparently, some people think that those tests are designed to have people fail.

I have never been pulled over for a DUI, suspected or otherwise, and my only experience with the field sobriety tests is what I have seen on TV. Back in the early days of neuropathy, I felt like I could walk normally and I didn’t have any balance issues like I do today. However, when I would see people on TV having to walk with one foot in front of the other or stand on one leg, I used to wonder if I would be able to do that because of the neuropathy. I know that I can’t do that now, but I also don’t drive anymore because of the neuropathy so I don’t need to worry about it.

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Neuropathy and Driving

Antique Car with SmileyI watched several of my older aunts and uncles continue driving when they were no longer safe to drive. Like others, I heard numerous stories on the news about older drivers losing control and causing an accident. Prior to filing for disability and moving back where I grew up, I lived in Mechanicsburg outside of Harrisburg. My mother’s sister and her family lived there. I used to go home for lunch so that I could let my dog out. One day on that trip home, I witnessed my Aunt Ruth run a red light with her two step-granddaughters in the car. She also told me about other close calls she had, but she did not want to give up her license. I always said that I hope when I am no longer able to drive safely, if I don’t have the sense to give up my license, someone else has the sense to take it away from me.

When my neuropathy started getting worse, I realized that I was no longer a safe driver. One day I was driving down the road when a car decided to pass cars in a no passing zone. He pulled out facing oncoming traffic to get around a car. A bunch of us hit our brakes and fortunately, no one got hit. I realized at that point how much slower my reaction time was. Another time, I ran an errand one day for work when it was raining out. My shoes were wet and my foot slipped as I was backing out of the parking space I was in. Because I had no feeling left in my feet, I was unable to find the brake. Fortunately I was able to get my car stopped before I hit another car, but I went pretty far before being able to stop my car and came within inches of hitting another car. It was time to either put up or shut up.

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Neuropathy, Drop Foot (aka Foot Drop) and Walking

Drop FootDrop Foot is also known as Foot Drop.  I tend to call it Drop Foot because that is the term that I first heard in relation to my foot so that song is stuck in my head forever!  This is the definition from the Mayo Clinic:

Definition

Foot drop, sometimes called drop foot, is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. If you have foot drop, you may drag the front of your foot on the ground when you walk.

Foot drop isn’t a disease. Rather, foot drop is a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem.

Sometimes foot drop is temporary. In other cases, foot drop is permanent. If you have foot drop, you may need to wear a brace on your ankle and foot to hold your foot in a normal position.

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Autonomic Neuropathy and Hypo-Unawareness

On Monday, I read a post on TuDiabetes where someone had asked about hypo-unawareness. Hypo-unawareness occurs when you lose the ability to detect that you are low. When most people see the term hypo-unaware, they think that the cause is always from too many lows and their response is to tell the person to raise their blood sugar for awhile and their awareness will return. Lows are not the only cause of hypo-unawareness. It can also be caused by autonomic neuropathy.

Most people are familiar with peripheral neuropathy that affects your feet, but a lot of people are not familiar with autonomic neuropathy. Autonomic neuropathy is nerve damage that affects your internal organs – it can affect your heart and cause blood pressure problems, it can affect your stomach (gastroparesis is a form of autonomic neuropathy), it can affect your bladder, it can affect your lungs, it can affect your blood sugar and ability to feel lows, it can affect how you sweat, it can affect the pupils of your eyes, and in men, it can cause ED. Just because it is affecting one organ, that does not mean that it is affecting every organ in your body.

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