I still remember everything about the week of my diagnosis.
I was ten years old. It was the summer of 1990 and it was crazy hot. We'd been doing day camps in the heat and I'd fill a gallon water jug up several times throughout the day. I had been lethargic. I'd been wetting the bed.
Around the last day of June, I got sick with some kind of flu or something, we thought. I remember that the only thing that sounded good to eat was sliced turkey lunchmeat, so I'd eat it by the package as I lay in my parents' bed where they were keeping an eye on me. On July 2nd, my mother decided I needed to eat something with sugar in it and she made me eat a McDonald's ice cream cone.
I woke up the morning of the 3rd with one thing on my mind. WATER. My brother was asleep in his room with the door shut, my dad was on duty (paramedic/firefighter), and my mom had driven our international houseguests (some teenage Boy Scouts from England) to their meetup point for a day at Six Flags. The house was pretty much empty.
I rolled myself out of bed and crawled to the kitchen. They found me laying in front of the refrigerator where I'd been whispering my brother's name for him to come help me get some water. Mom: "Melissa, get up or I'm going to take you to the hospital." Me: "Okay." Mom knew right then that this was real.
The whole way to the hospital in our minivan, my brother kept shaking me, trying to keep me awake. I was incredibly annoyed. I just wanted to sleep.
I was so thirsty. All the local ER would give me was ice chips. I kept pulling the oxygen out of my nose. It was cold and wet and annoying the hell out of me. Why wouldn't they let me sleep?
Hours and hours passed that I don't remember. In and out of a coma. Blood sugar over 1000. I remember seeing my grandfather's silhouette. I remember a paramedic crying as he kept redoing the IV, trying to find a vein in my miserably dehydrated little arm. I remember telling my mother that it was okay - that I was glad it was me and not some other kid because I could handle it. Then passing out again. I remember the blinding brightness of the daylight as the ambulance doors flew open when we arrived at Children's Medical Center of Dallas.
I remember the way the endocrinologist and all of his staff kept testing my neurological functioning by asking weird trick questions. "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" Yes, a brother. "How old is your sister?" I don't have a sister. "Who's Roger Staubach?" Umm... I have no idea. My elderly Jewish doctor panicked. My mother laughed nervously. "We don't do sports. Ask her about Madonna." "Who's Madonna?" She's a singer. I had no idea that they were afraid the first ER staff had caused brain damage by trying to push my blood sugar higher to make it drop suddenly.
I still remember my Nana's presence in the dark hospital room the first night (because she made my mother go home and rest) and how upset everybody got when I didn't eat breakfast the next morning. (Nobody told me I had to eat because I'd had some kind of shot. I don't like oatmeal.)
I remember the names of most of my doctors and nurses that week. I remember Mark, the man who made me count backwards from 100 by 7s (at age 10), a feat that required mathematic skills at 2am that I still haven't mastered. I remember the nurse who hadn't had a bathroom break in nearly 24 hours. I remember how pretty I thought the dietitian was - Jancy - and that she reminded me of Lt. Yar from Star Trek.
I remember my food pickiness being the bane of everyone's existence. They brought me every variety of crunchy vegetable with ranch dressing before they found out it was the ranch dressing that grossed me out. There was a vending machine cheeseburger that was reheated about 17 times before I finally won the battle of wills.
I still remember watching my dad and brother give themselves (saline?) injections as if it were nothing, and the way my mom sat, terrified, unable to poke the needle into her skin. It was at that moment that I knew no one but me would ever give me an injection.
I remember, on day 7 or 8, being allowed out for an outing to the mall with my family and buying a cool gel ball painted to look like the earth at some toy store. I remember the board games and starlit ceiling of the teen game room and learning to play pool. I remember learning a list of over 10 names for sugar to watch for in food ingredients. I remember my Hello Kitty autograph book (I think options were limited in the hospital gift shop) where all the doctors and nurses wished me luck.
I remember being sad to leave. To leave the attention. To leave the education. To leave the nice nurses and doctors.
Strangely, what I don't really remember is how life changed once we came home.
This post was written as part of NHBPM - 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J.