Diabetes and Me
St. Vincent De Paul: A great way to get help - A great way to help people!
This is going to be a longish post. So if you don't want to read it through, just please, do me a favor and make a donation to St. Vincent De Paul. You are helping me and you are helping others in need. This is a charity you can believe in!
When Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) was implemented, I really was happy. I had a sticker on my car and it read: I LOVE Obamacare! I took some flak for it a couple of times, but I was all for it. I had no idea that the program would abandon me and cast me into some serious doubts about my nation, my self-worth and my future!
I had no idea that many, many Americans would be left out in the cold when it came to medical insurance. How? Because first of all many "Red" states refused to take the Obamacare money or even use the insurance marketplace system the program set up. The states were allowed to make changes to the original law or to reject it completely. This left those of us in the Red states without a real marketplace that had low prices. When I signed up the Federal government wanted me to pay out $360.00 a month for the cheapest insurance Arizona had to offer. That was $100.00 more than my car payment! Like many in the now apparently dead Middle Class, I had a job which forced me to take shorter hours so they didn't have to pay for medical care. There was no way to move into full time. Arizona has few Unions, so there was no Union health insurance. I made too much money to get Medicare or Medicaid and could not go on Arizona's health insurance called "Access" because my wife, being on Social Security and also unemployed at the time, still made too much money per month.
Meanwhile my diabetes had (after 14 years of not seeing any doctors or being on any medications), decided to kick up. I had been diagnosed in 2001, Jan. 1st with blood sugar levels at about 485. I had insurance through my wife's job at the time. I was put on medication, given counseling, and I began a diet and exercise regimen that drove my blood sugars down to normal. I weighed 280 pounds. At 5'5" this was 130 pounds overweight! So I began biking everywhere, eating half my meals and saving half for later, getting into cinnamon, Tahitian Noni juice and other alternatives. I then of course lost my insurance when my wife lost her job. So without any doctor's supervision I did on my own what they said could not be done. I exercised and dieted my way to health. I lost 140 pounds! I did have a few retinopathic spots in my eyes. But overall I was doing well.
Unfortunately without a way to keep testing for sugars (the test strips back then alone cost $90.00 without insurance, the drugs were over $600.00!) I was unable to check my progress. But I felt good, had no symptoms (constant thirst, constant urination, no energy, open sores, etc. etc.) and so I figured I may have beaten it. Just last year I began using Stevia as a sweetener. For some reason I began to have some tingling and feeling loss in my feet and hands. I bought a diabetic test kit on-line and found my blood sugars had once again risen to over 400!
It turns out, by the way, that Sugar Free does not mean "no sugar." The body takes sugar free sugar substitutes, takes the alcohol molecule off of them and turns them to sugar anyway! So sugar free cookies, candies, sodas, etc. all turn to sugar anyway! We cannot ever be free of sugar because every living thing lives on, and is fueled by, sugar. So the Stevia (which was cut with another unnatural sweetener), may have even impacted my liver to make me produce MORE blood sugars! As the body becomes starved for sugar due to low insulin production, it makes the liver collect sugar and dump it into the blood stream. The kidneys help by not taking out most of the sugar and recirculating it back to the liver. Then when the liver can handle no more the sugar is deposited onto organs, blood vessels, nerve sheaths, anywhere the body can stash it. Results: Bacteria LOVE sugar, so they begin to eat the nerve sheaths away and you get neuropathy. They corrupt the blood vessels so you get diabetic lesions. The body builds new blood vessels where it doesn't need them, like the eyes, and you get bleeding that causes retinopathy! Eventually the buildup of sugar corrodes something important and you die.
So I began my personal regimen as best I could again, lowering my blood sugars again, but they never got lower than 275. And then they slowly began to go up. I tried homeopathy, bitter melon, you name it. Nothing worked. Even my homeopathic doctor from India said I had to get on insulin immediately!
Insulin? You don't even want to know how much that costs with no insurance. I tried to get on Obamacare two more times, but it was always the same, pay out $360.00 per month for the world's worst low-ball insurance or basically die. Because a doctor will NOT see you anymore in America if you have no insurance. Period. I know. When my wife, between jobs, cut her head badly in a fall, I took her around and no doctor would even look at her, even in urgent care! I'd heard that Emergency Care could be provided but some people were billed five thousand dollars or more for a shot or some stiches! So now I was scared. To me insulin was a lifetime thing. It was hugely expensive. And it must be prescribed by a doctor. Or so I thought. So I was feeling very much like my community, my state and my nation were in no way concerned with my health or anyone else's. It was all about the money. I had lost my job as well by this time. All I had was unemployment and that was a mere $160.00 per week. Still Obamacare demanded I sign up and pay $360.00 a month. I was at a loss. Struggling with fear of dying or worse...yes worse...being hospitalized with a stroke or heart attack, the debt from which I would never get out from under. I already had $30,000 in student loans for a degree that never helped me get a job once! An illness would destroy me. Full Time Jobs were gone since the crash in '08. All there was was part time, low pay jobs which sucked up everything in gasoline and time, not to mention killing your self-esteem.
As a last resort I tried to get on a diabetic clinical trial. I went to downtown Phoenix only to be told that my blood sugars were so damned high for so long that I needed to be on insulin immediately, and that no way would they put me in a study for a drug that works on diabetes unless my blood sugars were lowered. (OK, you tell me how that works? If your blood sugars are already normal, how can they tell a drug would be working to lower them!?) So instead of being the perfect test subject. I was rejected. The Dr. at the clinical study said he had once volunteered for the diabetes clinic at St. Vincent De Paul medical center in downtown Phoenix. He said I should try them since I was getting no help from anyone else. I went home and called them up. The lady on the phone was really abrupt and harsh. Still she finally consented to get me an appointment...I had no idea what I was in store for.
The next week I drove downtown, to a very bad section of town, to find the St. Vincent De Paul Medical Center. It was basically filled with homeless and Mexican people. It was where they came to get services, food, doctoring and some free supplements and medications. I felt out of place, and yet, what else was there for me? I was about a hair's breadth away from being out on the street myself, since my wife had lost her job and had no unemployment. Luckily her last job had paid well and she was able to save enough to keep us going. Still I was worried sick. The way I had been treated on the phone was not sitting well with me. I was asked to fill out several forms and medical documents. However in no time they ushered me into the clinic and took my weight, height, blood samples, blood sugars (385) asked me my regimen, what I ate, did I smoke, how was my eyesight, etc. etc. I was actually getting more care in that few minutes than I had originally got from doctors 14 years previously! I was impressed the nurses were efficient, smiling, happy...Then one of them called in the doctor's assistant Stephanie. She was a young woman studying to be a doctor and volunteering time. She was very nice and gentle with me. Helped me calm down a lot. I told her I had problems with anxiety, nerves and depression. She led me to a small doctor's room and had me sit down. Just as I entered I saw a tall, Black man in a hysterically day-glo green Grinch outfit! He had his Grinch head on the table beside him. He had his head in his hands and seemed really upset or depressed. "Poor sap." I thought, "Probably got himself into a gig where he had to be the Grinch for a day and had a breakdown or something..."
I waited for about twenty minutes. Stephanie came back in, saying she would bring in the doctor shortly. She then asked me a series of questions about my life, health, well-being, etc. I asked her about her life as well. She seemed so kind and helpful. Only three months and she would become a doctor herself. She loved St. Vincent's and loved her volunteer work. Finally she stepped out. A few minutes later I overheard a conversation about from the guy in the Grinch outfit saying that he was really upset, that he hated office parties, was forced to be the Grinch because he refused to be Santa. He hated Christmas and was pretty down. The door opened up and in steps the Grinch, with Steph behind him saying, "David, this is Dr. Lee. He'll be seeing you now."
I nearly lost my teeth! I had to stifle my laughter. Of course! I was now going to be tended to by the Grinch Who Stole Christmas! (Seriously this type of thing is my weird life in a nut shell! And I do mean Nut!) He shook my hand. I had to tell him what I thought and had overheard. He just laughed. Asked me some more questions, told me what my blood sugars were and that he was going to immediately put me on insulin. He had this space-age pen device, showed me how to use it. Asked me to show him what I had learned and I got my first dose of insulin right there. He thought it was odd that it hurt going in. He said he'd tried the "insulin pen" on himself and hadn't felt anything. (Oh well, that's me, hypersensitive.) But it was not that bad and I said I could do this without trouble, having had to give myself testosterone shots for a long time...(I had Low Testosterone as well, with no way to get that except in Mexico, but that is another story for another blog).
After a few moments of conversation Dr. Lee had Stephanie check my feet for neuropathy. Then they scheduled me with an appointment with the Dietician and an optometrist! All this was free. And the doctor prescribed Metformin and Statin, even though he said my cholesterol was well within normal limits. He described about how I might get some stomach troubles with the Metformin. However I was sure it wouldn’t bother me too much, as I had taken it many years before. The Dr. then said goodbye and Merry Christmas and Stephanie led me back to the clinic staff who told me that I was to watch my diet and good luck. Then I was told to sign up for free insulin! Free? Not only that but now I found out WalMart sold insulin for $24.00 for a thirty day bottle, over the counter! Their diabetic supplies were super low priced, including those once hugely expensive testing strips! WalMart, my nemesis and the nemesis of all that is good in this world, was now, after ruining my life years back when I worked for them, going to save my life with cheap insulin! I was scheduled for the diet clinic and the optometrist. I then looked in their give-away bins. Holy Crap there must have been a couple of thousand dollars' worth of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, supplements, Breathe-Right strips and a number of other goodies! We came away with what seemed to be at least $200.00 worth of supplies! What an unbelievable day! My stress rolled away, my worries died and I was at last at peace. Obama didn’t help. The Republicans didn't help. The State of Arizona didn't help. Only St. Vincent De Paul's was there to help me. I am forever grateful and they will remain my personal favorite charity.
If you have medical problems and it seems there is nowhere to turn because you have no money, call up the St. Vincent De Paul Society at: (602) 261-6868 and set an appointment. Give as much as a donation as you can to these kind, generous and talented people truly doing God's work.
Within one week, by the way, my sugars went from resting 400 to 100! Within two weeks I was within normal sugar levels for my body weight, etc. I had no other problems and I found out through the optometrist that my eyesight was not as bad as I suspected it would be. A lot of my fears were assuaged because I was finally, after so many years, able to see a doctor. One who wasn't in the business of pushing needless meds or agendas set by insurance companies. They call about once every two weeks to check up on me and my progress. I've never had a doctor's office do that. I really feel that they care for me. My diabetes is under control. I am now living a normal life, eating normally, sleeping better, and enjoying life more, thanks ONLY to St. Vincent De Paul!