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What a Ride!
Iwas diagnosed with type; 1 diabetes six years ago at age 40. That day was a blur; it was as if I’d entered the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney. My world just took an unexpected sharp turn and dropped. I had been so thirsty I thought my tongue and lips were
made of sandpaper. I couldn’t drink enough water, and I felt
terrible—tired and irritable. A smart nurse would go to the
emergency room. Or call a doctor. I am a smart nurse, so why didn’t
I act like it? My only goal was to keep out of the hospital. Finally,
though, I got help and was told I had type; 1.
Much of the past six years has been like a roller coaster ride
that never stops. The worst part of being diagnosed was that
everyone assumed I’d know what to do because I was a nurse.
But I was a patient ;rst and an RN second. At ;rst, I was in denial.
Then one day my doctor told me my A1C was still 11;percent. I
needed to decide: Was I going to live a full life or a short, dif;cult
one? I spent the weekend in tears. A decision had to be made; I
decided to accept diabetes.
I needed to learn how diabetes affected my body—and to accept
my lack of knowledge on the subject. How does diabetes affect and
control me? What does it mean when I can’t think or tell time? It’s
my body telling me that my sugars are low and I am hypoglycemic.
I ;x that by drinking juice, but then I start to eat and eat. I know
this isn’t good, but my brain is in survival mode and I can’t stop.
I learn the “rule of 15” for when I’m low: Consume 15;grams of
carbohydrate (glucose is preferred), wait 15;minutes, retest.
If still low, eat or drink 15;more grams, and repeat until my blood
sugar is above 70;mg/dl. I learn to write
down the time so I can ;gure when
15;minutes have passed.
I start connecting my nursing education
to what I am experiencing. What does it
mean when I have a headache and am
irritable and tired? It’s my body telling me
my blood sugars are too high and I am
hyperglycemic. I check my blood sugar and,
if necessary, ;x it by giving myself insulin.
Each hypo- or hyperglycemic episode feels
like a roller coaster ride—the kind of ride
that when you ;nally get off, you feel wiped,
can barely stand, and want to leave the
park. I realize I need control.
Control came when I was put on an
insulin pump with a continuous glucose
monitor. My life changed dramatically. My
A1C is 6. 9. I work with my endocrinologist
and diabetes educator to tighten my control.
I’ve learned how to read my body and my
symptoms. I educate everyone around me.
At last, I’m off the endless roller coaster,
and I’m living my life to the fullest. Now
when I ride, it’s for fun!
PAULA AGOGLIATI, MSN, RN, PCCN, is a nurse at
Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut. She recently
received her master of science in nursing from the
University of Hartford.
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Paula Agogliati, ;anked by
daughters Donna (le;) and Lisa,
on an amusement park ride.