Diabetes Guidelines  
Succumbing to the D
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The final straw comes on arrival to Mr Courtier’s Religious Education class.


Turning up eventually, pale and ghost like on the verge of translucency: limps and spasm of cramps down my left hand side before bowing over a desk and chairs for breath. Eventually enough, even for him to take notice and write me a note to my mother, insisting she take me urgently to see a Doctor. Not so urgent, as he would drive me himself, not deserving of dialogue with the School Nurse. No. He is already pissed at me for having so many weeks absent from his Art Department in the run up to the preliminary exams period, through a consistent and personal epidemic of colds, bouts of flu lasting three weeks or longer and virus. Mixing comments on my talent with dismissal of health matters: that he gives his children sweets prescribed by a Witch Doctor to keep their colds at bay. He knows my portfolio will only take me so far, he doesn’t believe Mrs Swift has me performing under enough pressure. Urgent I’m like this in his presence, not so urgent to offend his character further: instead he lets me sit the rest of his afternoon, dissolving poverty on a chair and devoid of spirit. Then scrape my ass slowly back home for another half kilometre through the park.

My mother is vexed at this, ‘Stupid man’s interference,’ she takes me off limping, light headed and bursting back through the park gates; again with these never ending black iron gates, only this time it’s to the Doctors directly, which is situated right across from school in the first place. ‘Can I have an emergency appointment please? He has been sent home from school with a note.’ ‘Wit is it thits rang way im this time has he goat the cold again?’ says the cow behind the desk in monotone unfaltering sequence. “Tracey” written on her name-badge, she looks familiar, I’ve seen her around. My mother creasing her brow, ‘Just let me see the Doctor will you?’ Hanging off my chair twenty minutes later I observe Henny munching through a Toffee Crisp and a bottle of Irn-Bru awaiting his Methadone script; I am finally called *highly nasally accented, 'Paul Cathcart. That’s you. GO THROUGH.’ And with a single sniff of my sweet breath, an informed raise of her eyebrow and the prick of my finger, ‘Diabetes,’ I am denounced forever to a lifetime of exhaustion and discomfort, as she, ‘Cackles,’ and commands us off down to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Hospital and finally we have justification for a taxi. No more walks in the park.

An old castle-like building, Dr Joseph Lister pioneered the use of Carbolic Acid in the prevention of sepsis, whilst working here back in 1867. A procedure implemented to clean bacteria from the wound, the surgical equipment and surrounding air of the operating theatre: saving the lives of over fifty percent of patients who went under the knife. A procedure, which continues to save countless lives across the world today and the same fundamental solution adapted and prescribed in off-the-shelf mouthwash; helping stop gum disease and freshen breath. – What happened to those kinds of skill sets I don’t know?

Extremely thirsty, I sit and wait the long wait, supping carton after carton of Capri-Sun through pokey little straws. Teetering on the end of a paint flecked metal bench and listening to drunks argue with themselves, ‘WHAT? IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? WHAT?’ the room buzzing, but it’s as though I have blocked out the sound, everything has become a numb haze; lights are bright and dull at the same time, all the commotion frantic yet near linear before static, and I’m staring at walls then back on the floor, the stench of the place festering in my nostrils.

A numb shock that feels all too familiar. Though there is relief that I’m going to get better, and I’ve heard of diabetes before. It was on ‘Children’s Ward,’ a kid’s TV show, on when I was younger. One of the characters; a young boy found out he was not allowed to eat sweets anymore and would have to take a jab each day to stay better. I was ready for that. People often ask, ‘What’s it like having to jab yourself? Does it no hurt? Does it make you high?’ – How ignorant is that? Followed by, ‘I couldn’y do that to maself, I don’t like needles.’ Boo Hoo. For me it was the biggest relief of my life, nothing bitter, no broken promises; by that stage I thought I was going to be like this forever and for the chance to get better, well I would have done anything to get better.

Projectile vomit everywhere, tropical orange and stomach bile splashing white washed walls, my mum, my face and the floor. Very lovely Hospital Cleaners mopping it all up after us with minimal of fuss when a Porter arrives; all smoker’s grey skin lost behind navy uniform; with a chair to wheel me down endless corridors following painted green lines adorning subterranean walls and into what seems a giant service freight elevator heading six floors north for the Diabetes Ward. Mum’s looking down over me with a face of pure enduring love, anguish and despair. A slight jarring in the elevator; her hand rests lightly on my shoulder, too scared to touch she holds back tears. I was more in control at that point to say I was going to be okay. And as if by chance this friendly enough Porter asks, ‘What’s it you’re in for?’ and I reply quite proudly, ‘I have diabetes,’ to which he condemns, ‘Oh kidney problems.’ Metallic lift doors open and my heart starts falling through my chest because it’s not just giving up sweets anymore, it’s really serious.

This guy, why don’t they tell these guys to keep their mouths closed? He was the equivalent of getting a medical consultation from a member of the team at Currys Digital, and you would have thought the local witch, could have, should have and would have the common sense to instruct so simply not to have any more sugary drinks, saving on the severe vomit scenario. But maybe it’s at least almost comforting on some level to know that poor diabetes influence and advice started right from day one and has not been just an occasional lapse in professional judgment throughout the years. Actually no, that’s not nearly of any comfort at all.





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Now we’re in the Diabetes Ward and it’s as though a curtain has veiled over my consciousness. We’re lucky enough in the first instance though as some nice old fella’s given up his private room to us so Mum can stay over. I think it even has a TV. Nurses, Doctors and others come in and go on through the wee small hours; back and forth of swinging doors they prick my fingers over and again to test for sugar levels, whilst filling me with bag after bag of drips and having me pee syrup liquid into grey cartons. Mum strokes back sweat-laced hair from my clammy cold forehead and this comforts me completely, as I ache and cramp and skin burns on the surface, burning against hope and bone. Pillows soaked through in sweat; tucked up and changed. Fluid lines pull back against deep blue veins set beyond translucent skin no longer trying to protect itself before the amber gloom of sleep finally takes over as exhaustion wins over from panic.


Sharp pain as thick needles pierce thin pasty skin on far sides of my fingertips: pushed in hard and deep by a nurse showing all the bedside mannerism of a Rhinoceros. A pain that routinely disturbs me: offering no reassurance. Every fifteen minutes this spike removes me from the solace I have found in unconsciousness. A rhythm only broken by spasms in my hands and retracting calf muscles which interrupt to wince and awaken where I see my mother sat aside; she has clearly not slept a good night’s sleep in years, and even now looking down over me as she did when I was a child. Always there for me she grimaces and prays to God that she could only absorb my pain; her empathy connecting to my millions of tiny shattering nerve endings. This is what it means to be a parent.

All so obvious now, my never-ending colds, parched mouth, cramps and weight loss; combined with a growth spurt all largely overlooked by a nervous and highly-strung guardian, agitated and acknowledged instead only as growing pains and natural teenage development. But how; how could she possibly have known how bad this was; how could she possibly have stopped long enough to identify it? She was the one dealing with the everyday countless issues facing us, holding us together and fighting for us to survive.

The following day following the longest night; people scuttle, things are tucked in, shutters lift to crisp low winter’s sunlight, highlighting an already sterile white room, whiter sheets and plastic furnishings; bedside cabinets, coppers in change and diluting orange the fixtures of the day. My eyes feel awake for the first time in forever, everything is so clear, the detail, the colours so distinct and all so bright and rich. I can almost remember seeing like this, – and just in time to take in a view over the Necropolis. I’m shuffled out onto the main ward with the change of shift, it looks more like a prison yard populated by sick old men coughing, hacking and smelling of buttery mucus. I’ll be here for a couple of days at least they let us know, I can’t imagine ever getting out. And Mum’s not allowed to stay over anymore, not now we’re in the open ward in case she excites the old men. I’m shitting myself but when she pops out to go home and change from her tropical vomit tie-dye, I slip into a real deep grateful sleep for what seems like an eternity. Close my consciousness for a little while now, for a long while, let me heal.

Later I’m awoken by two male Nurses; both twice as tired as the other; both far worse off than I, both struggling through day four of four sleep deprived twelve-hour back-to-back sequential shifts. Yet still they manage to make time to chat, still joke, still genuinely care; which combined with being some of the kindest people I have ever met makes me completely calm and all my worries are melting away. They enquire as to how much I know about diabetes and they give me their best shot, to the best of their training; to the best of my understanding, or as much as I can cope at this feathery stage. I ask hypothetically if me now eating Mars Bars would be the equivalent of someone taking Speed? And my knowledge of the drug and others terrifies them. Quickly they take some extra time out of their day; plucked from obscurity to explain with great caution, ‘As dangerous as those drugs are for normal people: with your condition they would be ten times more so, so keep very, Very clear of them.’ So enamoured am I by their calm and selflessness, the care I feel whilst being under their wings, I draw a picture of them in my sketch pad and even think about becoming a Nurse.

In bed menu selection for the day is doing nothing to win me over, having been carefully edited to remove joy from life, a real dying faster than I’m living selection in meeting with the wards special dietary requirements: this being achieved by scoring through with ballpoint pen anything with sweetness, flavour or texture. Not scored out completely; I can clearly see what the others are having; spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry, jelly and ice cream. Nurse Rhino is back doing the rounds; my wounds barely healed, my fingertips perforated like tea bags, my apologies when she makes clear she is in fact Head Sister. Check her out. Has she been using leeches on me? Going on to make it abundantly clear to all; staff included, when overviewing my menu selection: that as a diabetic I would be allowed, ‘No treats forever,’ for risk of making myself desperately ill. A stark warning of which to concede as I try to console myself with thoughts of, ‘It’s all for the best, I will regain my health and eventually be gone with these tasty memories.’

Day two and I feel starved, hollow, as I have never been. How I crave for hot dogs and banana ice cream milk shakes. All of the comic books, sketchpads, new PJs, army starched Grandad’s handkerchiefs that can stand up by themselves, Sister’s tears and hugs from my family can do nothing to distract from the hunger. Though it’s great to see my gran and Victor, ‘God give me some jelly and a Mars Bar please.’ Angela does go on to make a good enough effort though, changing my focus momentarily as she tells me the endings to ‘Terminator 2’ and ‘Home Alone 2,’ both films I had been excited to see all year round. I’m shaking and weak, I need food so badly, anything not consisting of between two and four units of slow release carbohydrate.





square point Preface
square point Heads, diabetes
square point Tails, diabetic
square point Succumbing to the D
square point How did this happen?
square point Dating, late 20's
square point Love
square point The talk, human resource
square point The three bears
square point Sugar levels ill, sugar levels well


Blood sugar test strips. My cat swallows these.  
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