Pasyenteng Pasaway - SUGAR FREE

MANILA, Philippines — Twenty years ago, I was rushed to the hospital. For several days before then, I had been experiencing excruciating abdominal pain, both on my right side and back of my waist. No amount of painkillers would help. It was only when I was brought to the emergency room, confined for observation and tests, and administered a dose of nalbuphine hydrochloride, did I finally get a full night’s rest. After a day of lab exams, the diagnosis was urinary tract infection. I was given the appropriate medication and the pain eased up. It was also due to this battery of tests that my diabetic condition was discovered.

Now, diabetes runs in my family, both sides in fact. My mother, aunts, uncles, cousins --- each generation is peppered with very “sweet” relatives. Our lifestyles were not too healthy either. We absolutely love our family feasting sessions, showing particular preference for meats and desserts. And then again, “sedentary” is probably my middle name; I abhor any form of exercise. I had made several attempts at the gym but sooner or later, I would slink out the back door and revert to my couch potato status with all sorts of excuses and rationalizations.

On the professional front, I worked late hours, late nights, sleepless days on end. I was young and driven; the word “rest” was not in my vocabulary. And when colleagues remarked how despite my healthy appetite I was still losing weight, I attributed all to stress. (Secretly, I was thrilled because I was getting slimmer without even trying at all.) I also noticed that I was always hungry, thirsty and urinating once too often, even in the middle of the night. I just shrugged it off, thinking all these will pass.

Little did I know that I was already exhibiting symptoms of diabetes. Yet after being diagnosed, I still went on with my life as if nothing happened. For one, I just loved my sweet munchies too much. I had a hoard of chocolates and cookies stashed in my desk drawers. I even baked them too! On the other hand, several reversals of fortune prevented me from regularly seeing the doctor and consistently taking my medicine. I could only purchase the prescribed drugs as far as my limited resources would take me. Along the way, I found the cheapest gliclazide and metformin; sadly, a generic line of insulin has yet to be developed.

As time went by and blessings began trickling in, I still continued with this nonchalant attitude simply because I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat. While I would see a doctor every once in a while, I was the quintessential pasyenteng pasaway. People around me were concerned and, with all good intentions, reminded me of my condition. I paid them no mind.

Until one day in November last year, when I went up to the City of Pines for an event coverage. After the assignment, I stayed for the weekend, and did what I loved to do in Baguio --- eat to my heart’s content. By the time I returned to Manila and back to work on a Monday, I already had a nasty headache that my usual ibuprofen and paracetamol cocktail could not alleviate. I chalked it up to lack of sleep and tired eyes. The next day, the headache was still there; plus, I was having palpitations and my vision was blurred. Unable to stand the pain, I finally went to the office clinic. The nurse checked my vital signs and judiciously decided to bring me to the nearest hospital.

At the emergency room, I was poked and pricked. Having confessed that I was a non-compliant diabetic, blood was drawn and tested. Alas, my sugar level was very high in the 400s; ketones were already present in my blood. Alarmed, the ER doctor put me on IV fluids and strongly recommended that I stayed the night for complete rehydration.

As I was unprepared and no one could stay in the hospital with me, I begged the doctor to release me. After much consideration, and when my sugar levels had already dropped to an acceptable level of 200, he asked me to sign a disclaimer and sent me off with an admonition to see my endocrinologist the very next day.

The very next day was a holiday and doctors’ clinics were closed. I was finally able to see an endocrinologist two days later. Like the ER doctor, she wanted me confined immediately and on IV fluids for at least 24 hours. She also prescribed insulin and other oral medication.

This time, I had a chance to prepare and arrange schedules with the office. I also found someone to stay in the hospital with me. Some six bags of IV fluids later, my blood was cleared of ketones and my sugar levels had gone down considerably. My doctor was happy and I was released from the hospital with promises to see her the week after.

After that experience, this diabetic is no longer pasaway. Finally, I learned my lesson. While my condition has aggravated, the diabetes could still be controlled. I now inject insulin three times a day, before each meal, complemented by oral meds to further bring sugar levels down. Likewise, I take medicine to ease the pain brought about by diabetic neuropathy. At this point, I am also seeing an opthalmologist to address diabetic retinopathy; as well as a nephrologist for kidney concerns. And because diabetes affects all the organs of the body, I have to consult with all the other relevant medical professionals.

Today, I take it one recovering day at a time. By God’s grace, I am getting well as I undergo major “repair”. And even if my life is now sugar-free, I know that it can still be just as sweet.

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