The Proof is in the Lab Work

I haven’t written a post in what seems like forever.  I will be totally honest, it’s because things just haven’t been good, but are looking up (fingers crossed).  I will only give a brief summary of the events that led up to this post as I am just not ready to confront the issue totally (publicly) just yet.  I was informed that Judah was no longer welcome at my place of employment.  This stems from him having a less than favorable reaction to someone cornering him (while sleeping) up against a building while they were wrapped in a hose (from head to toe).  He didn’t bite, lunge, or otherwise put anyone at risk, he did however bark and jump back trying to get around her.  Upon me saying, “Judah no, down.” His belly hit the ground and I took his leash and led him out of the tight space he had been backed into.  I am a behaviorist and don’t expect all people to see what I see when it comes to dogs so I can see how this reaction by Judah may have caused concern but the outcome was simply devastating to both Judah and me.  After this took place I took Judah home and wrapped him in a garden hose and did a multitude of desensitizing exercises.  My employers took this opportunity to express ‘concerns’ about his level of training and my ‘claim that he is a service dog’.  I was both surprised and hurt by the outcome of this event.  A place that I have worked at (grown up at) since I was a young child, that I thought cared about my well being and health took the opportunity to shank me.  Sorry, but no one thought to discuss with me any alternative to banning my dog from the property.  In a later post I will explain further the situation at work and the things I did and what more I could have done.  I will also explain in more depth the circumstances that led to Judah’s reaction (100% a product of the situation, a product of people NOT respecting his status or our partnership).

Judah goes on visitations to schools, hospitals and wellness fairs.  He has been buried under a crowd of 15 squealing kindergartners with nothing but love and trust coming out of him.  He is a good boy and is no more likely of causing harm to someone than any dog (service dog or not).  Sure, he is trained to not react to most stimulus in any given situation but he is after all a dog.  They do make mistakes, and then when those mistakes are dealt with the dog has learned from the experience, as has the handler.  Judah showed no aggression, he did not put his hackles up, growl, show his teeth or make a move to stop this person from doing what they were doing.  He was startled and reacted how he thought he needed to in order to stay safe.  Was his reaction appropriate?  Of course not, he should have stayed down and waited for me to remove him from the situation.  He immediately responded to my verbal correction and had no issue from then on out.

Of course as with all things there is a lot more to this story and it hasn’t been pleasant for Judah or I.  After everything started to unravel at work I made the decision to remove Judah indefinitely from this particular working situation because he began to show serious signs of stress resembling PTSD in dogs (it really happens).  He stopped alerting, would hide from me as I got ready for work in the morning and actually was hiding his head whenever we drove past my place of employment.  To me the most important thing to deal with immediately was the health and wellness of my dog, I owe him that much.  

So I have been going to work without my lifeline and it has been a long, sick, tired, high, low, dehydrated kind of summer.  I have missed on average one work day a week all summer due to various diabetes complications.  I have ‘unawareness’.  Most of the time (more than 90% of the time mind you) I feel the same at 110 (perfect) as I do at 40 (SO bad) and 400 (SO bad).  I act normally until, WHAM- I can’t think, can barely walk and feel so sick all I want to do is sleep.  This is why Judah has been such a valuable partner for me.  He is the part of me that is missing, he is the rest of me.

As I said before there is a lot more to this story and errors were made on both sides (them and I).  I will certainly follow up on this further when I am ready to tackle it as an educational post on workplace accommodations and all that.  My goal is to use it as a teaching exercise and NOT make it a personal issue that I express on my blog (at least I will try).  I think it is an issue that is bigger than just the dog- but we will get to that some day.

The point of this post is to give some hard numbers involving the impact Judah has on my care.

Before our partnership was put in turmoil I RARELY ever had a reading below 70 because Judah was catching my lows before they were dangerous.  This summer I averaged 4 lows BELOW 70 A DAY.  Anyone who deals with diabetes knows that once you have a true LOW it’s a roller coaster for the next 24 hours or more, I have been doing that ALL SUMMER.  Not only that but there are days where I come home and Judah is going insane, I check and discover that in the last hour or so of work my glucose has shot up to over 300 and I don’t sleep all night fighting it back down just to go back to work and do it AGAIN.

I just returned from a recheck after using my pump for over three months.  Upon first receiving my pump my A1c was 7.1% and I was incredibly excited to watch it go down with the added control of the pump.  Not only did my A1c shoot up a percentage point  but this happened with a ridiculous number of low blood sugars (which really should give me a falsely low A1c).  Pump Doc and I had a pretty serious conversation about why my graphs and numbers were so terrible.  I explained my situation and told her that I just didn’t have a choice and NEEDED the job (just as my employers were aware that I had no other options).  Pump Doc. wanted me to leave the job immediately (I SO wish I could have) but there are only about 3 weeks left and I need the money so bad…  

SO we compromised and I went to work and informed my boss that I would no longer be able to work full days, no more mornings at all.  I told him that I couldn’t be separated from my dog for that long without causing serious complications.  Pump Doc. also informed me that it is time that I stop playing the tough girl.  “If it’s low, you treat the low and you SIT for 15 minutes.  End of discussion.  You don’t keep treading water, you don’t keep paddling, playing, or whatever else.  They need to see what is ACTUALLY going on.  Too bad if it is inconvenient for them.  This is YOUR LIFE they are playing with and I hate to say it but they won’t ever understand unless it happens to them.  Do you need me to go down there and do some educating?”  (I LOVE this Doc.)  I opted out of Pump Doc going down and giving them a piece of her mind, I am almost done and I don’t think it would change anything anyway.  It’s incredibly obvious that no one there cares about my well being so I will bow out as gracefully as possible at the end of the season and they will have to deal with losing someone who is EXCEPTIONAL at her job (don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I LOVE that job and I am EXCEPTIONAL at it).  

After going to work and telling my boss that I would no longer be able to work mornings he replied, “Well I think if you just stay out of the water and stay hooked up to your monitor you will be fine”.  Oh boy….

“It’s not a monitor, it’s a pump, it only does what I tell it to.  It is simply a delivery method so I don’t have to stab myself all the time.  AND staying hooked up to my pump isn’t the problem seeing as how my issue is lows and more insulin would make that worse.”

I wanted to hand him my time card and my keys and leave right then.  I hate being a victim of my situation and I can’t wait to be in a situation where I can tell them to shove it.  It’s almost over, I am almost done.  I already have some part time work lined up working in a friend’s horse barn and she knows how amazing and trustworthy Judah really is.  She knows he is the missing parts of me and she respects that, and really that’s all we need as a team- respect.

The reality of this situation is that Pump Doc. immediately knew from the numbers on the page in front of her that something wasn’t going well.  The proof was right there on the paper in front of her.  Not only has Judah gone back to alerting and doing his job as perfect as ever but he once again proved himself sitting in the office alerting to a low at 85 mg/dl while I was talking to Pump Doc.

Judah and I have managed to continue changing lives this summer despite being apart more than usual.  Including a young man I met at the river while working one day.  Judah wasn’t even there and we changed this young man’s life just the same, I will write all about it soon.  Needless to say it’s been a rough summer and now my only goal is to get well.  Regain control over my body, regain my health and confidence and get back out into the world trying to help.

We will be alright.  It doesn’t matter what happens we are a team and anyone who matters knows that.

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The Ground on Fire

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Well here is a post a little off topic, but totally worth mentioning (at least I think so).

While we were on vacation we decided to lay low for most of the trip, taking it easy, sleeping in, that sort of thing. There was one thing I wanted to do while in Pennsylvania. I wanted to visit Centralia. I had seen a documentary on the town via Netflix, “The Town that Was” I am pretty sure was the name of it. So here is the story with Centralia; in 1962 the town was burning trash at the landfill (pretty standard in those days) before the Memorial Day celebration that was held yearly at the near by cemetery. This particular year the fire wasn’t put out properly/completely or otherwise traveled down into the ground. Well Centralia was a mining town, coal actually. This fire caught one of the veins of coal on fire in the ground which eventually led to the entire mine becoming a huge underground fire. This fire swept through town (under the ground) and cause damage and high levels of carbon monoxide. The short version of the story is that after being unable to stop the fire the government bought the town and told the people they had to leave. Most people did and as they left their homes were knocked down as well as most of the other buildings.

There are a few die-hard citizens who refuse to leave. This is their town, where they grew up, had families and imagined their futures. Recently they sued to try to get their property back but their suite was denied. The fire still burns under the ground. It has moved outside of town and now burns in the hill behind the cemetery but the damage has been done. There is a large section of highway 61 that was closed and re-routed because of the fire damage.

We walked down that highway, looking at the graffiti as we went and then marveling at the damage that the coal fire had caused so many years ago. It was both eerie and exciting, it was like a scene straight out of The Walking Dead. Miles of divided highway stretched before us, partially overgrown, covered in spray paint and so very quiet. It was amazing (though covered in broken glass and oodles of spray painted penis’) and led my imagination to try to picture what it was like when this town was full of families and pets. The town street are all still in place with driveways and all, but the buildings are gone and the lots are becoming overgrown. What an amazing place. Apparently the movie “Silent Hill” (never seen it) was based (loosely) on the town of Centralia, and I could see how this setting would work well for a horror movie.

It IS right out of the Walking Dead!

It IS right out of the Walking Dead!

broken

After walking the highway and driving through town we decided to walk up the hill and try to find evidence of the fire. With Judah on leash and Musher’s Wax on his paws (to protect him from the heat and other things on the ground) we headed past the cemetery. It didn’t take long and we began to see puffs of smoke rise out of the hillside. We poked around for a while and found several small sink holes with condensation on and around them as well as steam and smoke rising out of them.
hole

It was amazing. It was a cool windy day and we decided to sit down and take in the view (which was GREAT as long as you didn’t face the opposing mining operation on the far hill) and so I could test my blood sugar. The ground was warm, to the touch, it reminded me of sitting in a heated seat in a car. I mean, noticeably warm to the touch, incredible.

The view from our seat.

The view from our seat.

While we were there we also saw several areas where the fire had broken through to the surface and scorched some things. So much of the area was overgrown but still identifiable that it seems to have effected me. I can’t get it out of my mind, what a place! It’s filled with so much history, hope, sadness and emptiness. I know that I want to go back and spend MORE time there, for sure.

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Show and Tell

I recently recieved a phone call from a little 6 year old voice.  It was excited but nervous and I could hear each little breath catch as it was drawn in, “Hi, Auntie Em- this is D-man*.  Could Judah and um, and you come to my school… uh on Friday?  For my show and tell?  Mommy will pick me up…”  Now I can hear my sister in the bakground, “No, tell her, ‘My mommy will pick you up’ “

“My mommy will pick me up…”

“No D-man, ‘pick you up’.”

“That’s what I said, ‘pick me up’.”  Then my sister laughed and picked up the phone, “Hi Em.  Did you get that?”

“Yes, that’s fine.  I’m in, see you Friday.”

So Friday came and we headed to the school.  Now, this was a little bit of an unfair situation for Judah.  I have a terrible back problem and it’s been flaring up pretty severly lately (The result of a nasty ski crash when I was 13, additionally I’ve gained weight recently and added too much stress on it I’m  sure…).  Needless to say Judah hasn’t had enough exercise lately.  That coupled with the fact that I have been learning about the pump (definite learning curve…) and testing A LOT trying to see the exact patterns (I begin to get more and more interested in a CGM, I want to see the graph!) I haven’t been doing much training with him either.  Now, I am going to take him to a kindergarden class.  Oh, boy…

He was actually pretty good.  Excited, certainly but he did alright considering he was sitting in the circle on the floor with the kids.  (As a matter of fact we were sitting between D-man and a little girl whose parents I am good friends with, so he knew her too.)  He was fidgety and wanted to go see the guinea pig on the other side of the room (the last time we were there, he really didn’t care that the guinea pig was there) but he wasn’t crazy.  He did his tricks, he let the kids pet him and was a doll even as they stepped on his tail and fought over who could touch the soft part of his ears.

Well it turns out that we were in for a little more of an adventure, we ended up in two more classrooms and Judah got loves from A LOT of kids that day.  He was a pretty happy husky, even when an entire third grade class engulfed him at once for petting.  He sat there with his head back, eyes closed and a big husky smile of his face.  He wasn’t perfect- at least not by my standards but he was GREAT and it was a great tool to teach.  I gave a brief and simple explaination of diabetes, showed them my insulin pump, explained why I took insulin, how I could get sick if I had too much or not enough sugar in my blood, what Judah does for me.  I explained how to behave when you see service dogs in public, why you behave that way.  Covered a lot of stuff briefly but managed to not lose anyone’s interest before I answered questions.

It was a very fun day.  After the third classroom Judah was a bit over stimulated but held himself together until I released him from ‘work’ at the car and he bathed my nephews in kisses.  It was a good day for all involved I think-  I hope to do more of it in the near future. 🙂

Here We Go!

Alright the time has come, I am about to head to the diabetes center and get hooked up to my insulin pump!  I promise to keep you updated and tell you all about it when I get home, perhaps after celebrating! 🙂  Judah will probably find this entire afternoon incredibly boring but I hope he appreciates what this means for us, he may not have to spend quite so many night staying up and staring at me while I sleep because my sugar is all over the place… oh won’t that be grand!

 

Happy New Year

Well it’s a new year!  Hopefully I will take this time to get back on track.  I haven’t been eating as I should and have conveniently used the holidays as my excuse.  I haven’t been keeping records, basically at all- not really advisable.  I am pretty sure that all my insulin requirements have begun to change recently and I have totally failed to keep track enough to actually get my ratios worked out again.  I have been slacking on my training sessions with Judah as well, he still does his job, but in a nonchalant “oh by the way” fashion.  His alerts are less definite, almost suggestive lately.  Not the certain, multistage alerts that we had worked out so that these things would be clear.  Certainly, Judah is not the one to blame.  It is me in my laziness and a bit of a depressed mood lately.  The short days and the cold have helped to increase my hermit like behavior to a sickening state, I admit it.

Lately I’ve been struggling to stay positive, about anything.  I am critical of everything and have been feeling a little hopeless.  Stress is obviously a major factor in control of my diabetes and I have enough to ruin the blood sugar of a person with a fully functioning pancreas.  So, I am going to take this opportunity to try and jump start a change.  I hope to go back to logging my sugars appropriately and doing a food log at least 2-3 a week.  I need to get back on a good diet and start a regular and reliable exercise program.  Walking the dogs just isn’t cutting it, I mean I have great legs but that’s never been my problem ;).  Time to tone and tighten.  Time to get up and get out.  

It is very easy to have this conviction when I am sitting cozy with the laptop and a cup of coffee, but I am really hoping that I can actually get back on track.  It is clear to me that my feelings are changing the air around me and it is time to stop letting it happen.  This may mean that I reduce what little time out I get to avoid situations (I’ll be honest, people) that don’t help to lift my spirits.  The truth is in most cases doing things with my dogs is the way to give me a boost, so I will try to get back to it.  I have been struggling with pain in my foot (short version, I had reconstructive surgery when I was 13and am in desperate need of some GREAT foot beds.  Hopefully I can work all that out…  

These are my “resolutions” of sorts, though I hesitate to call them that because don’t we always forget to keep out resolutions?  I don’t really have that option, I have to keep mine, for my health and sanity!

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I have had a hell of a year and while I may not have been nice all the time I did my very best to be my very best self.  Did I say I have had a hell of a year yet?  I have worked hard to stay afloat and it hasn’t been easy so as a reward for not giving up I think I should get some things that are on my Christmas list.  Which goes as follows:

A blood ketone meter- please, please, please… I really think it would help me have better diabetes control- and therefore a better attitude 🙂

Ketone test strips- need I explain?

Blood glucose test strips for any of the following meters:

One Touch Verio IQ (I really like this one but the strips are expensive)

Freestyle Freedom Lite (this is the one I use all the time)

One Touch Ultra (Not as much a fan of this one but test strips are test strips)

A new service dog vest for Judah- I think I’d like to try one that is set up for a pack or saddle bags

Another new service dog vest for Judah- A mesh cape style one for hot whether, he is a husky after all…

Some money- so I can help Marshall pay off the gun that he had custom built for him and hasn’t been able to pick up because he is too busy spending his money taking care of me…  I feel pretty awful about it

A car- well I feel like this is self explanatory but, with a car I would be far more likely to find a job and with a job well, I’m on track!

Health Insurance-need I explain?

This last thing is more of a wish but Santa- we’ve earned it!

Please Santa,

Help us save enough money, help make sure that we finally catch a break, help us get a house so we can finally start our life together instead of struggling everyday to get by.  It’s been too long since we had a chance to stop and enjoy each other.  We were put through too much, too soon in our young relationship and against all odds we’ve made it this far.  Haven’t we earned a chance at something better?  So please Santa, spread some cheer to us this Christmas and help us start next year with forward motion, on the path to success and happiness.  I promise to be better and stronger next year- please help me get there, help me give Marshall the me he deserves and the me he’s been trying to get back.  You know where to find me (Marshall is here too!).

I promise milk and cookies…

Thank you,

Emilie

Confessions

Confession: I find myself hopeless as of late.  I find myself getting very discouraged and frustrated.  I don’t think that it really has anything to do  directly with diabetes but more a situational frustrated.

Confession:I am not confident.  I play tough and like I am prepared to take everything on head on, it’s not real most of the time.  I am a Capricorn, I enjoy structure, planning and control.  I have no job, no car, no confidence (at least in myself), and as a result I don’t have control.  I crave control of my own destiny and the power to determine it, this I do not have right now.

Confession: I feel like my dreams are out of reach.  I once knew that I could do whatever I wanted and knew what that was.  Now I feel defeated, discouraged and ashamed.  I am 26 years old, unemployed, living at my parents house being supported by my boyfriends who works VERY hard.  I am 26 years old and should be able to at the very least take care of my self.  Now I feel like my dreams are gone and the best I can do is just make it.

Confession:I want to give up.  Wouldn’t it be easier if I just didn’t try to fight my way out of the dark?  I often find that I move forward for others and not for myself.  There was once a time when I was supremely confident in my self, my decisions, my knowledge, and my abilities- this has moved away from me somewhere along the line.

Confession: I don’t feel like I deserve the help that I get and the guilt eats at me.  I know that people think that I am taking advantage of Marshall and the feelings of guilt often consumes me.  I often wonder whether he takes care of me because he knows I need help and he would never abandon someone or whether he just really wants to live this life with me.  These feelings are affecting out relationship.

Confession:I want to have my life back.  I continue to apply for jobs, I continue to try and stay busy, I continue to test monitor and correct, I continue to tread water.  My question is when will I be able to actually MAKE PROGRESS?  I am tired of “keeping my head up”, “putting one foot in front of the other”, “just continue swimming”, etc.  I want to actually take steps forward, I want to make strides toward the things that I want.

Well… that should cover my confessions for now…