I make one of the world’s worst cheerleaders, but right now I’m shaking some imaginary pompoms (they’re blue, of course) and cheering for JDRF and their efforts to make the artificial pancreas happen. Yesterday the FDA issued draft guidance designed to help investigators and manufacturers as they develop and seek approval for the artificial pancreas. (See here and here for more on this.) This is just a first step, but we’re on the road to somewhere and I couldn’t be happier about it. Last week low blood sugar caused Mike to pass out at his desk. The artificial pancreas could prevent such things from happening to Mike and everyone else, so please, bring it closer. Bring it on.
In addition to Mike’s passing out, we’ve had quite a bit of sickness going around and during times like this I get very unsettled. I get nervous. I won’t get Freudian or anything on you now. I’ll just keep this simple and say that my unconscious mind is hard at work.
For example, the other night I got into bed just after midnight. I shoved a few cats out of the way to make room for my head on the pillow, and a few tears slipped out of my eyes. I don’t normally converse with my bodily fluids (imagine if I said hello to each drop of blood from my fingertips!), but being exhausted and completely startled by the tears, I almost asked them where they came from. My first guess was sort of reasonable. Adam had just gotten over a contagious eye infection, and he had been all over me throughout it. Perhaps watery eyes were a precursor to pink eye. My second guess was a little more far-fetched. My tonsils are infected and for days I’ve felt like crap and it really hurts to swallow. Tears from the pain in my throat? Not likely. My third guess: I was worried about Mike sleeping on insulin after his dangerous low the other day. Yes, I’m worried, but not the kind of worry that would make me cry.
When those tears arrived, everything was quiet in the apartment except for the obnoxiously loud purring and social grooming taking place at the foot of the bed.
But my mind wasn’t quiet at all. With a quick burst of clarity, I figured out what it was up to. Without having consciously acknowledged the date, I knew it was the anniversary of my mother’s death. The tears came out as if someone had set them on a timer. This is what I call a diving into the wreck moment, after the Adrienne Rich poem. (The wreck here refers to the memories of my mother and her illness.) And when I’m there, visiting the wreck, I really feel lost and broken, like some of the images in the poem. I need to pull myself out of depths of the water, out of the depths of my mind, fast. I focus on the “treasures that prevail.”
Luckily, that night the “treasures” quickly helped me out. Adam coughed himself awake (three days later he was diagnosed with pneumonia). I carried him into bed with me and Mike, where he prefers to sleep. Just as he became calm, Tom appeared in the room. He was standing right over Mike’s face as he said, “I feel like I’m going to throw up.” Mike thinks fast, even in his sleep. “Then, you’re in the wrong place,” he said. “Go to the bathroom.”
Within seconds, the vomiting began.
The noise woke Guy, who also got out of bed.
So we were awake, my boys and I (and those damn cats), and had I not been thoroughly exhausted with the rawest tonsils in town, I might have felt vital. Instead I felt misery, but blessed misery. And this is where I swing back to the artificial pancreas after that long, personal digression: Diabetes is pretty much miserable, but I really do believe we are blessed with the treatments and tools that we have. And I love that they keep getting better. And safer. Maybe five years from now the artificial pancreas will be old news, and companies will give them away like glucometers, and islet cells will be easy to come by and easy to transplant. And the only injection that has to do with children and diabetes will be a vaccine – a safe and effective vaccine – that protects them from the disease.
*You can read the full text of Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck here. I highly recommend it. You can easily read “diabetes” into it.