Last November, while I sat in a hospital bed trying to figure out what happened to my foot (spoiler alert: it’s broken), I received even more distressing news.
My diabetes – which I thought I had kept under control – was completely out of whack.
And one of the biggest offenders … was my A1C level.
The A1C measures your blood sugar over a three-month period. Normally an average A1C should range below 5.7%. If you have a 6.5% A1C level, you have diabetes. And if it’s too high, then your blood won’t coagulate and you won’t heal after surgery.
And when I visited the orthopedic surgeon a few days after my hospital stay, I expected to receive a scheduled day and time to repair my broken bones in my foot.
Instead, I received this.
“We’re not operating on you, Mr. Miller. Not now.”
“Your A1C levels are way too high for us to safely consider operating. You have an A1C level of 12.1. You should be dead right now.”
So are you saying I’m too sick to get well? Do you have a relative that wrote Catch-22?
“I’m saying that you need to come back in another month. We’re not touching you until your A1C’s drop.”
How long could that take? Months? Years?
“Yes, months, years, as long as it takes.”
Years? I could walk around with a broken foot for years? How low do they have to go?
“They need to be lower than 12.1.”
But what? 10? 9? 8?
“Listen to me. You need to get your health back to normal. Come back in a month and we’ll decide what to do then.”
I left the orthopedic surgeon’s office feeling as if I had been kicked in the kidneys. I needed this surgery, and now I’m looking at not receiving it for weeks – months – years?
Phone call to my endocrinologist. We need a new plan of action. I need to get these A1C levels down and fast. There must be a pill, an injection, a something that will help.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Miller, but you can’t just drop your A1C levels that quickly. It takes three months for blood cells to circulate from life to death in your body. If you have blood cells with high amounts of glucose in them, they’ll stay in your body for three months whether you like it or not.”
Shaft that. I need a plan of action. I’m not wearing this damn Franken-boot for the rest of my freakin’ life. And I’m not walking around with broken bones in my foot. I need to heal and I need to heal now.
Okay. Step to the plate, Miller. This is the fight of your life.
And by “fight of your life,” I meant that I was going cold turkey. I reduced my diet to portions that would barely feed a starving chinchilla. Seltzer water was the new beverage of choice. Veggies. Meats. Sans carbos.
I acquired new medicines – including one that gave me the nasty side effect of uncontrollable diarrhea. One night I had to make nine trips to the bathroom. Nine trips. The worst part? I was fast asleep when I needed to make a tenth trip. That tenth trip turned into a 3:00 a.m. run to the laundromat with soiled sheets.
But I couldn’t let this stop me. I countered the diarrhea with probiotic pills. I countered the nutrition deficiency with multivitamins. I countered the ennui by binge-watching the entire 60+ episodes of Breaking Bad. You ever see this Breaking Bad show? It’s pretty intense. So far I’ve got this chemistry teacher who develops cancer, and decides to counter it by manufacturing crystal meth. Interesting…
One week later … another trip to the endocrinologist. A1C test run. The result … a drop from 12.1 to 10.4 in two weeks. So it was possible. But I couldn’t give up now. 10.4 isn’t low enough.
More pills. More medications. More diet. Walter White just rescued Jesse by throwing some sort of explosive mercury on the floor of Tuco Salamanca’s hideout. Damn.
One week later. Another trip to the endocrinologist. Another A1C blood draw. The latest number – 9.9.
And during this time, I’m receiving phone calls from my insurance company’s hired nursing team. They are monitoring me, they want to make sure that I’m following all the necessary medical rules. I explain to one of the nurses that I’m doing my best. She says that my dietary habits are wrong. I told her what I’ve done so far. She’s not impressed.
I explain that I want to participate in a Thanksgiving Day tradition, where I deliver turkey dinners in my neighborhood. She says I should not do that, because I can cause damage to my broken bones in my foot. I reluctantly agree. Thanksgiving is a miserable holiday this year.
Another trip to the orthopedic surgeon. I told him that I had dropped my A1C levels down to a 9.9 in the span of three weeks.
“Come back in another month,” he growled.
Crap. I did everything I could in three weeks, and it still wasn’t good enough.
“Get your A1C levels down to the 8’s and we’ll talk about scheduling surgery.”
A glimmer of hope.
Let’s keep this going. More pills. More medications. More diet. More Breaking Bad. Wow, I know that girl Jesse’s dating, the one where he’s renting a house and she’s his next door neighbor, didn’t she used to be in a sitcom called Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23?
A short week and another trip to the oncologist. Another A1C blood draw.
Now down to 9.7. And I’ve got two weeks before my next orthopedic surgery visit.
Must keep going.
Reducing my food intake to the bare essentials. Minimal carbs. Lots of vegetables and proteins. So that’s what Los Pollos Hermanos is. I remember this question from last May, when it was part of the World Tavern Trivia championships and one of my teammates on the Stir Crazy trivia team knew it cold. Los Pollos Hermanos is the chicken restaurant where Walter and Jesse meet Gus. Hmm. Gus seems like a nice guy.
One week later, another blood draw. Now it’s down to 9.1, with one week to go before the orthopedic surgeon visit.
I just need two-tenths of a point. If I can get it down to at least 8.9, then I can show the orthopedic surgeon that I’m healthy enough for the surgery, that I’ve shown positive progress towards a surgical procedure … and then we can get those broken bones in my foot fixed.
More diet. More monitoring. More pills. Holy crap Gus just cut that guy’s throat with a box cutter while Walter and Jesse watched in horror! Damn!!
Trying to stay motivated. The diabetic diarrhea has subsided. My body is adjusting to the new medications.
The insurance company nurse calls me back. I explain that I need this surgery. She says I should not be so concerned about the surgery, that I should be monitoring my diabetes. I told her that I was. She said I should pay more attention to the diabetes, it’s a gradual process to lower one’s A1C levels, and that I shouldn’t worry so much about my broken foot. “You can walk for months on a broken foot, it’s okay.” Mind you, this is the same insurance company nurse who told me to skip my Equinox Thanksgiving Day tradition because I shouldn’t walk on my foot.
She tells me she’s my advocate, that she is trying to help me out. But her vocal demeanor sounds as if she’s reading off a checklist, like a telemarketer. She offers to send me education materials, and finishes each sentence with, “Would that be okay with you, are you agreeing to let me send you these materials?” as if it’s some sort of verbal contract.
And that angers me even more. An “advocate” should not be treating me like an alphanumeric checklist. You want to advocate for me? Answer these three questions. What is my favorite pro football team? What is the nickname of my automobile? And what do I want for Christmas every year? If you can’t say Pittsburgh Steelers, Dracourage, and Lynda Carter, then you are not my advocate. Hell, even casual blog readers know these answers. Ugh.
I watch some more Breaking Bad. Holy crap Gus got blown to smithereens because Walt wired an explosive device to Hector Salamanca’s wheelchair, and Hector triggered it by tapping repeatedly on that call bell? And Walt manipulated Jesse with some plant called the Lily of the Valley? And I only have about 16 more episodes to go? Damn this binge-watching is fun… I gotta try this binge-watching with that zombie show next.
Another trip to the endocrine. Another blood draw for A1C.
Well, it dropped down past last week’s 9.1.
Now down to 8.7. Holy Heisenberg, Batman, I’m in the 8’s.
Made it. Made it through hard work, clean living, motivation and lots of Breaking Bad episodes.
The endocrine doctor says that I’ve done well.
Now let’s hope the orthopedic surgeon feels the same way.
Last Thursday, I met with the orthopedic surgeon. He checked my foot again. And then he said the words I thought I might never hear.
“Let’s get you scheduled for surgery.”
So the plan now is to remove the broken metatarsal bone, or at least shave it down so that the broken parts aren’t piercing my muscles and tendons. A week of bedrest, then casts, splints, the return of the walking boot, and some physical therapy.
In other words… road to recovery.
Which totally works for me.
But I can’t give up now. I’ve worked this hard. What if I was able to push my A1C levels down to the 7’s? That could eventually increase my recovery time.
You know I have to do this. I have to keep the momentum going. I want to be able to ride out to the sunset, off toward the West Texas town of El Paso.
So … there’s that. 😀
Besides … maybe during my recovery, I can check out the Spanish-language version of Breaking Bad, a show called Metastasis.