Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

8 February

How Covid Sent My Diabetes Out Of Control. My Primary Care Nurse, My Iphone And Some Amazing New Technology Are Saving My Ass

by Jon Katz

It’s my healthcare story of the year, perhaps the most serious since my Open Heart Surgery in 2014.

About three months ago, Covid finally reached Maria and me on the same day.

She recovered quickly; it took me longer. And the virus almost instantly doubled and tripled my hard-fought and low blood sugar levels.

There are many kinds of Covid and different ways to be affected by it.

My Covid hit me hard, especially when it came to diabetes. I was always a bullseye for the pandemic. I’m 75 with heart disease and diabetes, the combination that has killed so many people worldwide and came close to killing me.

I am lucky to be alive. If not for doctors and scientists and vaccines, I wouldn’t be.

I didn’t get the mild version; I got the mean one.

I was short of breath; my joints were on fire; I started gaining weight, feeling dizzy, and suffering from nausea and vomiting for weeks. Because I was vaccinated and bosted, my doctors said, I held my own. Covid struck almost every part of my body.

But there were plenty of side effects, most of them are gone now, but some remain.

Almost everyone has gotten it, and I didn’t want it to be the focus of my life and work, even though it was just that. So I didn’t write about it. I didn’t want my health to define me, and it never kept me from writing on my blog or taking pictures.

One of the most severe effects of the virus on me was its effect on my blood sugar, which instantly doubled. It was a setback.

I’ve proudly and tightly controlled my diabetes for years now.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a blood sugar level of 200 or higher is a clear symptom of diabetes.

An A1C of seven or higher is a warning sign for stroke and heart trouble. I always kept my blood sugar well under 200, mostly below 100. My doctors were pleased; they told me I was a great diabetes patient. My A1C was six or seven, sometimes higher, but typical of men my age with my chronic illnesses.

I paid close attention to what I ate and how much, and I lost 15 pounds last year before Covid came. Most of it came back quickly, and I could not lower it.

Covid floored me for weeks. My blood sugar was in the high 200s and sometimes up to 300. My A1c shot up to eight.

As recently as two weeks ago, my blog sugar hit a lifetime high of 350 one night, the highest it has ever been. I was frightened and discouraged. Nothing I did caused me to lose weight or lower my number. My blood sugar no longer seemed anything I could alter or control.

I saw Amy Ethridge, my primary care nurse, and my diabetes counselor.

I told her I was afraid I had reached a point where my diabetes could not be controlled. The Covid was just too strong. It was hard to keep my morale up; I couldn’t see a way out of it. And I was too easily tired.

Nothing I did could bring that number down.

Amy is resourceful and very encouraging. She was unflappable, and we came up with a new plan.

She told me I could handle it; I had done it for years.

She changed my insulin, altered the dose,  prescribed a new bi-weekly monthly home injection for me, reviewed my diet with Maria and me, and waited eagerly for my new orthotic so I could walk every day again.

I was doubtful, and I was stumped, I told her.

No matter what I did, the high numbers wouldn’t change.

And I felt I was running out of time. You don’t want to see numbers like that daily at my age or with my health issues.

I thought I had dodged Covid, but now I wasn’t sure.

Amy came up with another idea. There is a radical new testing system called Libre 2.

You stick a self-attaching button onto the back of your lower arm, where it stays for two weeks (I have more in reserve). It stays on by itself and needs to be replaced every two weeks.

You don’t need to stick yourself with pin-prick needles and draw blood any longer.

I just point the front of your Iphone at the top of the button, and it instantly transmits your blood sugar to the Libre 2 App, which is now displayed in the Libre App. I can see it anytime you wish.

It’s a remarkable thing to see and the simplest thing to do. No more finger pricks, test strips, or meters. Another big score for the Iphone.

The Libre2 shows my numbers. Green and blue are good, but red is not.

At its worst, I felt exhausted, although I never tired of writing or taking pictures. My body seemed to leave me behind. I worked early in the morning and late at night when my energy and focus seemed strong.

 

 

Amy understood that part of my problem was my Dyslexia, and part of it was how I think and process information. I’ve never mastered the intimate and intricate connection between what I ate and how it affected my diabetes. Generally, I ate very well in terms of health. I never ate meat or fried and processed foods.

But something I told her was off. It turns out that something was me, I couldn’t blame it all on Covid.

She reasoned – Maria agreed – that the new Libre 2 system could change the dynamic. First, I love instant gratification and new technologies because they are often calm and easy to use.

Secondly, because I was testing my blood only once a day, I didn’t know how all the foods I ate affected my blood sugar. I knew what I read on labels and soon realized that many were inaccurate. We Americans are gullible label readers.

We always assume corporations can’t get away with lying. But that was before corporate billionaires controlled politics and spent billions of dollars lobbying government agencies and people in Congress.

With the Libre 2 device, I test myself eight or nine times a day. I can know instantly how I react to food or movement.

I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but Litre 2 is easy, painless, and bloodless; most insurance covers it.

I get to look at a nifty chart that marks my blood sugar level (see graphics)  before and after eating.

For the first time, I could see precisely what my favorite wheat-basted and organic pasta from Italy does to my blood sugar as opposed to a piece of fish or a salad or vegetables.

Intellectually, I knew all this, but the Libre changed how I understood my diabetes and how my blood sugar responds.

I didn’t depend on the once-a-day testing to tell me how I was doing. I had to learn this hour by hour, which is working for me.

Last week, I had the highest blood sugar count ever and was worried. Yesterday and today, it plunged rapidly, almost back to normal. I am under 200 now, sometimes under one hundred.

At this rate, I’ll be back to the pre-Covid level in a few days. I’m eating differently, thinking differently, and learning differently. This new approach leaps right over my Dyslexia and confusion and rubs my face with what I eat, how much I eat, and when I eat. No more guessing or dodging.

Amy knew it would motivate me if I tried Libre 2.

I am almost there, and I shake my head in wonder every time I point my Iphone at this button on my arm and get an instant blood sugar reading. I’ve altered a lot of my diet, much of which I thought and was told was healthy for me.

The books and nutrition guides are often wrong or incomplete.

Next to my heart surgery, I believe this was the most critical healthcare challenge of my life. Once again, I can thank a caring and skilled healthcare worker who guided me along with a supportive and loving partner. Once again, I learned to never give up on myself and take responsibility for my life and health.

You might think I should know this by now, but I am all too human and distractable. I don’t often think long-term or absorb information the way I would like. Amy says I am one of those who sometimes need a kick in the butt to pay attention.

But I am breathing more efficiently and more determined than ever.

I can learn something from anything, especially trouble, and difficulty.

My strength and focus have returned. I took my longest walk in months this afternoon.

I feel strong and clear.

Life is full of these moments; there will be more. I am not the producer of my own life.

Between them, I will practice joy, try to do good, and give thanks for another chance to get my whole life back.

8 February

Dog Love In The Morning. The Only Way To Get Started

by Jon Katz

Every morning we sit down for a few minutes to talk about the day, perhaps meditate a bit and gather ourselves for the morning. Every day the dogs gather around us hoping for a scratch, some attention, or a chance to show some love.

I wear this surgical boot, and sometimes I ask Maria to help tighten it. Zinnia sees it as a chance for a love fest.  I love to start the day smiling. Zinnia can deliver.

It is a wonderful way to start the day.

I’ve started a dog support program for people who need help or counseling for problems they are having with their dog, new and old. If you need help with your dogs, take a look. I might be able to help.

8 February

Bud Challenges A Beautiful Visitor, A Bald Eagle

by Jon Katz

We heard Bud (our Boston Terrier) barking furiously out in the backyard, and since Bud is fearless, we often make sure he isn’t annoying something that could eat him. He was. Maria spotted the giant bald eagle and called me outside. He was a beautiful and regal thing sitting high up in our maple tree behind the farmhouse.

Bud I was at the bottom of the tree, barking furiously and insisting the eagle get out of our tree. Since the eagle could have swallowed Bud like a cracker, we got Bud inside and watched in wonder. The eagle, who perhaps didn’t want to challenge this crazy little creature, took off slowly and grandly flew right over the cars and trucks and up the road.

This is the kind of thing we often see up here at the farm, making life memorable and uplifting. People need to be around nature and animals, I believe. It isn’t healthy to get too far away. When I moved here, I realized living in cities was exciting but unnatural.

But it is a remarkable little creature, the Little King. He has no idea how small he is. We were grateful for the visit.

7 February

Flower Sharing, Tuesday, February 7, 2023

by Jon Katz

This morning, nine degrees, and this afternoon 39 and raining. So it goes. Every day, people write me to thank me for my flower pictures. What a gift to know they mean so much to people, and what a surprise that I am a person doing that. I am not a likely flower person, at least not for most of my life.

I never grew flowers or knew the names of any, I helped Maria once in a while to get donkey manure into her gardens, and I began to water them.

That was my first connection to flowers, and I guess it grew and grew until photography opened my eyes to their beauty and individuality.

All good. And now I can take great pleasure for giving other people great pleasure. It seems fair. Thanks for your good words. It is an honor and a pleasure to share my flowers with you. I hope every one of you gets your water and gardens back, wherever you are.

7 February

New From Fiberland: The Peasant And Dove Quilt. It’s Already Sold.

by Jon Katz

After weeks of scarf painting, Maria has eagerly and happily returned to her first love, quilt-making. She wrote about it on her blog today.

She hasn’t named it, but I call it the Peasant and Dove quilt because of the vintage doves and “peasant” sketches along the perimeter. It has a soft and reflective feeling to me. It’s already sold and not on sale. A piece of the quilt has been hanging up on her studio wall for a while, and a follower of her work bought it on sight weeks before it was finished.

She plunged right into it and is very happy to be making another quilt. But then, she was also pleased making those scarves. I should be the first one to break it to her. She is always delighted to make her art.

 

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