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Kingston, Massachusetts, United States

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011

As most of you can tell by now, Linda was pretty special in my life.  Linda was probably my first real hero…ok, so Jim Rice from the Boston Red Sox was maybe my original hero when I was ten…but when I knew better, it was Linda.  She put up with a lot, not only from Tommy and I (playing the role of annoying little brothers), but in her struggles with Diabetes and how she pushed through those struggles to realize her dream of becoming a nurse.
Linda after receiving her Nursing Degree from Simmons College
But several years before she graduated nursing school, she used her keen intuition and her many years of experience with Diabetes, and saw something in me that I was not going to like, nor would she want me to experience.

To this day, I still don’t really know how, but something told Linda, or was nagging at her, that she should start testing my blood sugar.  At first, I just thought it was novel…she was in her first year of nursing school, and she was going to be using me as some college mad-scientist experiment.  Then, it started to hurt, all of those damn finger pricks.  After a few days, I wanted it to stop, but Linda would have none of it.  This constant testing would go on for two weeks, leading up to, and through, Christmas.  Linda, of course, had a suspicion that I was either developing Diabetes, or already had it.

On the morning of December 28, 1983, I went to work.  I had a job at Sweetser’s General Store – at the time, it was the oldest operating general store/retail store/food store in the country.  It was actually a pretty cool place – I worked in all of the departments, produce, bakery, grocery, and the liquor department…you name it – except for the meat department, they were very particular about who used the meat slicer…it is for that reason that today I still have all ten fingers!  One time, I was up in the old storage attic, which in the old days was used to store bails of hay that were sold and hoisted down onto waiting carriages below.  And while I was poking around up there, I came across several boxes of receipts, and I was amazed that most of them were dated in the late 1600’s/early 1700’s.

So, on this particular morning, when I went to work, Mom was going to be calling Dr. Gaynor, our pediatrician.  She did so, and by 9:30 she was at the store looking to take me down to see Dr. Gaynor.

I sort of had it in my head that this was going to be the case.  In fact, I remember not wanting to talk to anyone or be around anyone, so I volunteered to go to the upstairs stock room and put away the weekly Coca Cola® order that had come in. 

I was in my own little world, secretly hoping that I wouldn’t have to go see Dr. Gaynor.  Then reality struck…as I was taking cases of club soda and ginger ale off the conveyor belt and stocking them neatly, I heard Charlie, the store manager, yell up to me saying that Mom was here.  As I poked my head around the corner to look down the stairs, there was Mom standing with Charlie, and Mom telling me that we had to go see Dr. Gaynor.  I said that I would be right down, and I stepped away from their view.

I went back to the area of the conveyor belt where I was working and just stood there for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was only about 30 seconds.  I needed to let my frustrations out, but I did not know how.  Without realizing it, I had put my hands in the handle cut outs on a case of club soda.  When I knew that I had gripped it, I didn’t want to let it go.  But just then I took a deep breath, and in one motion, picked up the case, turned and threw it as hard as I could against the back wall, which was about ten feet away.  The case tore apart as it hit the wall, sending one liter bottles in all direction, cracking at least one cap so that now I could hear a “SSSSsssssssss” sound as club soda was being sprayed all around.  I then removed my apron and went down stairs and Mom and I went to see Dr. Gaynor.

Sitting in Dr. Gaynor’s office about a half hour later, Dr. Gaynor looked at me and said, “Based on what I see what Linda has been doing with you, I would venture to guess that after we do some blood work, it will confirm that you have Diabetes.”  These are not the words a sixteen year old wants to hear, let alone, anyone of any age.

Trying to reassure me that everything would be ok, Dr. Gaynor then told me, “With all of the advances in Diabetes being talked about, it would not surprise me if there was a cure for this in five to ten years.”  He truly believed that, because what was being talked about a lot back then was the possibility of islet cell (insulin producing cells in the pancreas) transplants.  However, now almost 28 years later, the advances in islet cell transplants as a means for a cure, have been few and far between.  As of today, there still is no cure for Diabetes to speak of.

Dr. Gaynor then sent me to Jordan Hospital to be admitted, and he said he would be there in a little while to check on me.  After being admitted, I was sent up to a room in Pediatrics, one of the various rooms I had been in over the years because of my asthma when I needed treatments.

One of the first things one of the nurses did, was check my blood sugar…it was 810!!!

And so began my journey with Diabetes.  After getting my sugars under control by the next day, one of the nurses came in and said that she was going to teach me how to give myself an insulin injection – she had with her a syringe, a bottle of insulin and an orange…yes, an orange.  She was actually very good in her explanation.  She explained about the syringe (why one is a 1 cc and others are ½ cc), then she moved on to the insulin.  I first started out on pork-based insulin, so she explained to me the differences between pork and beef insulin.  Then we practiced drawing out varying amounts of insulin, making sure not to have any bubbles in the syringe, and if there were, how to get rid of them.

Once the nurse felt I had a good handle on drawing up the insulin, it was time to give it to myself and out came the big naval orange.  She had me inserting the syringe into the orange about 20 to 25 times.  Apparently the orange was suppose to simulate my skin and how I would inject into myself, though I don’t ever remember my skin feeling like the outside of an orange!  I was still very bummed out by the whole thing, but my solace came later that evening when the hometown Boston College Eagles, and miracle quarterback Doug Flutie, took on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the Liberty Bowl.  Unfortunately, BC lost 19-18, but that wasn’t the worst part of it.  The worst part of it, was that I had to watch the game on a tv the hospital provided – so, not only was it not a very clear picture, it was only a six inch screen!!!

In the years that followed, leading up to 1989, there were a lot of ups and downs, but through it all, Linda was right there with me…I learned so much from her.  Linda was the first to save my life, and now, by providing the gift of one of his kidneys, Tommy, has again saved my life.  One could not have asked for a better brother or a better sister.  Tomorrow, August 18th, would have been Linda’s 47th birthday…wherever you may be Linda, Happy Birthday!!!  I Love You!!!

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing that Michael. She sounds like she loved you very much and certainly had a second sense about you.

    While this is a time of sadness for you (those anniversaries of departed loved ones are always hard) this is also a time of looking to the future. You are going to feel better and better over the next months - even though you may not believe that you can feel better than you do now). And if/when you decide to have a pancreas transplant, you won't believe the difference in your life. The sky is the limit for you and you will have loving family members to thank for it as well.