Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Why of it All Part II

I've been here before.  There really are reasons to be the captain of a bike team...sometimes I just need a reminder.  I have to thank my wife Chris for the inspiration.  She was very, very right.

If you've been around the Home at all, you know that the team takes up a pretty good chunk of my off-time.  Sometimes more than I bargained for but I keep on doing the captain gig because...
A:  There really is a Why of it All as I wrote before.  And...
B:  Because of people like Angie:

Let me explain a bit.  Ang was one of our original 'charter members' the first year we ran the team.  It took a little doing but we got her interested in biking and as always seems to thing led to another.  After some small amount of pressure from certain quarters, she bought a hybrid, learned to ride all over again after years off a bike and just sort of took off from there.  Mileage and upgrades ensued and it was fairly obvious that she'd been bitten by the bug.

Last year on her second go at the Tour, she was determined to make a Century on that hybrid.  It turned out to be more than enough miles and after a fight that left me in awe, she finally agreed to get in a SAG truck just before she outright collapsed from sheer exhaustion.  She didn't give up though.  At the end, she got back on and rode the last leg in to the finish line and came through the gate with the team.  I was most impressed to say the least.

Now comes around another year.  Angie has a new bike, time to train, inspiration and motivation.  This time, I have no doubt that the Century will fall.  But as I found out, there's much more to it for her than just a ride.

I've known Angie and her husband Elton for years.  She's my sister-in-law after all so it isn't like we'd never met before the two-wheeled adventures began.  She and Elton were always around but somehow, he and I never talked too much...different backgrounds and whatnot.  I did notice that he was ever-present whenever Ang rode with us.  We couldn't convince him to try it but regardless, he was always just hanging out, waiting for Angie.  Always supporting, always encouraging.  I never realized that Angie isn't just riding; she's on a mission.

I can't tell it any better than she does so as a special guest at the Wayward Home...Angie in her own words.  It's a pretty amazing read:

"This is why I ride"

"When Chris and Harold first asked me to ride with them I thought sure this will be fun.  I hadn't been on a bike since I was like 16 and I was now...well a lot older.  I had been living with diabetes for about 5 - 6 years but I hadn't really realized how many people this devastating disease really affected.  I knew the struggles of the disease but it just seemed normal by that point in time.  The more I became involved with the ride the more it made me realize that there are lots of people out there who don’t understand the struggles that a diabetic and their family faces everyday.  My personal goal is to finally ride my 1st century but the real reason I ride to for my husband Elton and everyone else that battles with this disease every day.

Elton was first diagnosed with diabetes about 8 years ago.  It happened on a Friday night in January when we were playing cards with some friends and he all of a sudden got really pale and said it was really warm in the house and went out on the porch.  Then we heard a thump! He had passed out on the porch.  We all ran out there and got him up on the bench and he came to for about a minute and passed out again.  We got him to come to again and got him something to drink and got him in the house.  Of course being a typical man would not let us call the ambulance! So We got him some more to drink and some food he started to feel better but not right. By Monday he decided he needed to go to the doctor.  They of course thought it was his heart so we were referred to a cardiologist.  In the meantime they did blood work and the results changed our lives forever.  When the doctor told us he had diabetes we were both just shocked.  They said he had type 2.

Over the next 2 years we went through nutrition education, countless doctors appointments, numerous blood tests and several different medications.  They were still concerned about his heart so we also went through several appointments and tests at the cardiologist, including a scare that he had a blockage, which turned out to be false.  He still goes to the cardiologist every 6 months to make sure everything is OK because diabetes can raise your chances for stroke or heart attack.  During this time we changed our diet and carb counting became a way of life.  Even with everything we did to control his sugar it was nearly impossible to keep in under control.  The doctors kept changing his medications and nothing appeared to be working. At this point, 2 years later, we were referred to an endocrinologist and on the first visit the doctor did blood work and came back and told us the current medication was not working because he does not have type 2 diabetes he has type 1!!

So this is a whole different ball game now.  Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, type 1 can not.  The difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is that type 2 is caused from an insulin resistance, the body is creating enough insulin but it is not being used they way it is supposed to.  This can be controlled by diet and exercise and medication if needed.  Sometimes people with type 2 diabetes may have to have insulin. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the pancreas not working, it is destroyed by antibodies and people with type 1 diabetes will always need insulin.  With the pancreas not working the body is creating little or no insulin.

So the doctor immediately started him on insulin shots.  At least now the control was better but still not good.  The amount of insulin needed depends on carb intake and what your insulin levels are at the time.  After still struggling with controlling Elton’s blood sugar levels the doctor recommended he go on the insulin pump, this was two years ago.  After looking at the different pumps we decided on the Omni Pump which is completely tubeless.  Which is great with the type of work he does.  The way this works is there is a small pod which he adheres to his side once he has filled it with insulin and when he activates it, it inserts a small mono filament line just under his skin which is used to feed him the insulin.  He has a controller that is a little bigger than a cell phone that is used to test his sugar and tell the pump how much insulin to give him.  The pod system is programmed to give him insulin every hour.  The amount of insulin it delivers changes at different times during the day.  When he eats anything he tests his sugar and tells the controller how many carbs he will be eating and it calculates how much insulin he needs, sends the signal to the pod and the pod delivers it.  So during the day Elton tests his sugar about 8 – 10 times and has to calculate the amount of carbs in everything he eats.  It has taken several adjustments to the pod settings to get the amount of insulin delivery correct.  Since getting the pod Elton’s sugar levels are a little more under control but there are still days that are bad.  When his sugar is high he will sit down on the couch and be a sleep in seconds.  This is dangerous because if his sugar keeps going up there is a chance that he might not wake up.  We struggle with is nightly, I never know if it is because he is really tired or his sugar is to high.  If his sugar is to high we have an emergency insulin kit that we can use to administer a quick dose of insulin to lower his sugar.  When it is low he gets very, very warm and could go into a diabetic coma.  When it is low we need to get something such as a glucose tablet or two in him to bring his sugar up.  Everyday is so different even if you don’t change anything such as exercise or carb intake.  His sugar levels can be affected if he is stressed or sick also.

Our scariest moment since Elton was diagnosed with diabetes was the night he woke me up at about 2:00 in the morning because he was breaking out in a cold sweat and didn't feel very good.  He checked his sugar and it was 30, normal should be between 80 and 120.  He got some juice into him and some crackers and maybe even some cereal to get his sugar up to a safe level.  If he hadn't woken up he might not be here today.  I pray to God every day that he will have a good day and he will be with us a while longer.  Diabetes is one of those diseases that affect so many things that you really never know what could happen next.

I could really go on forever but I will try to sum it up.  You need to test constantly, keep track of the carbs in everything you eat, carry supplies with you in case of high or low sugar spikes.  You have to watch your blood pressure and cholesterol.  If you are sick it takes longer to get over it so it is important to get your flu shot every year.  If you have a cut it takes longer to heal so you have to keep it tended so you don’t get an infection.  Diabetes can cause damage to your nerves, eyes, heart, skin and kidneys.  Living with diabetes is a constant struggle."

That sure puts things in a different light.  Now I'm really in awe.  Ang and Elton...I never knew but now I surely won't ever forget.

So to honor Elton's fight and Angie's mission, I'm taking the captain's privilege to announce that Elton White is who Team PowerTrain will ride for in August.

He is someone who quietly battles diabetes every single day.  He's one of the millions who live with it because for now, they have no choice.  He's one person among many who puts a face on diabetes and so shows that what we do isn't just about a cause or a disease, it's about's for people.

And I'm very happy and proud that we're going to ride our 2012 Tour de Cure...

...For Elton


Tim Joe Comstock said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Angie. When I was growing up my Dad had diabetes as well as one of my best friends in grade school. I know the rigors of always being on the watch for the signs of trouble.

Wayward, this was a great guest post and I am grateful for it. Diabetes seems to be the neglected stepchild of disease and the TdC and guys like you are helping spread the word. The technology for treatment has advanced considerably since those days back in the sixties but we have a long way to go. Thanks, man. tj

Wayward Son said...

It's always a pleasure TJ! People like Elton and Angie make it worthwhile!