“We’ll just stop at the hospital on the way downtown, and the rest of the weekend will be a blast,” my mother said. I noticed the hesitation in her tone, but I didn’t think about it for too long. I was too excited about our trip.
Each year, my family would take a long-weekend jaunt to downtown Chicago. Although we lived only twenty-five minutes from the nation’s tallest skyscraper and a lake so large it’s often mistaken for an ocean, we’d spend the weekend in a fancy hotel, walking along the Magnificent Mile and snacking on the sweet and salty Garrett’s popcorn mix.
The sun shined brightly through the car windows as we cruised along, and I smirked in the backseat imagining all of the fun that was to come. It wasn’t until the huge brick wall of the hospital blocked the sun that I remembered my mom had wanted me to have a blood test. She had sensed that something was wrong for a while, but I was only ten and felt invincible — I thought I was thirsty all the time because I was growing. I figured we would stop at the hospital on the way downtown, and then continue on with the trip.
I hopped out of the car and proceeded through the big automatic doors in the front of the hospital, hoping that the quicker we moved, the faster we could get to Chicago and on with the weekend. I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my adventure in the city — definitely not an impromptu blood test. I tensed slightly as the nurse stabbed a long, shiny needle into my vein. I ignored her forced smile as she left the room with the blood samples, already annoyed that this was taking longer than I had anticipated.
After what felt like hours, a group of people wearing scrubs came into the room. I perked up out of the bed thinking that we could finally leave, but the mood shifted as the doctor gazed right over me and signaled for my parents to come with him. Peeking through a crack in the curtain, I stared wide-eyed as they chatted outside the room. It wasn’t until I saw a tear stream down my mother’s cheek that the panic set in. What is going on? Why is my mom crying? Why is no one telling me anything? Questions flew through my head one after another as my parents and the doctor continued to converse outside the room. My dad shook his head while my mom’s cry turned into a blank stare.
“Your blood sugar was five hundred and twenty four,” whispered the doctor through pale lips, after gently pulling back the curtain that had been separating me from the reality of the situation. “I’m sorry, but you have Type 1 diabetes.” His mouth continued to move, but I heard nothing.
Isn’t that the disease from those scary commercials?
Didn’t the old babysitter have that? And didn’t she have to take…SHOTS?
The walls felt as though they were closing in. I sat there feeling alone even though doctors, nurses, and my parents surrounded me. I couldn’t get any words to come out. I couldn’t even shed a tear. Before I could even ask what this all meant, an IV was shoved into my arm, my finger was pricked for another blood sample, and a needle containing a clear substance was jabbed into my thigh.
After I finally came to my senses, the doctor explained the endless shots, finger pricks, and carbohydrate counting that my life would soon consist of. My parents comforted me as he told me I would need to be transported by ambulance to spend the weekend in a different hospital.
I asked him where this other hospital was located. “Oh, it’s downtown,” he said, and, suddenly I felt much better.
That was the strangest part: even after everything I’d just been through, spending my weekend downtown was all that mattered to me. Once the initial shock wore off, I still felt invincible — even after the doctor termed diabetes a “chronic illness.” And though in the weeks and even years that followed, I’ve had plenty of fears and moments when I was unsure of what was to come, now at 20, that feeling of invincibility hasn’t entirely left me. I’ve managed to win a state championship in a sport and even make it into an elite university. Battling diabetes has given me motivation to pursue my goals. It’s humbled me. It has made me who I am today.