That isn’t me in the picture, but you get the point. It’s been over thirteen years since this day, but I still remember it. I was really angry, because this was the second time we’d had tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera and I wasn’t able to go for the second time.
February 27, 1997:
She stayed home sick that day, barely able to get out of bed. She’d never felt this weak before. She couldn’t even stand up in the shower, so she had to take a bath, and it was so hard to move it took over an hour to finish.
She slept most of the day, in between bouts of vomiting and experiments of different foods to see which ones would stay down, but nothing worked, not even the water she craved so much. Once she was awakened by an argument. Two people, trying to decide if it was better for her to have orange juice or soup. She opened her eyes, but no one was there. After a moment, she got up to get some more water and to go to the bathroom, then went back to sleep.
Again she was awakened, this time by a strange urge for an orange. She had to have permission to get this orange, she decided, and she knew just who to ask. She got out of bed and went to the bathroom, straight over to the toilet.
Sadly, the little man she needed to ask wasn’t in view, but she knew he was down there, just around the bend.
“Can I have an orange?” she asked.
“Yes, you may,” the little man replied.
The girl stumbled her way down the stairs, and down the hall to the kitchen where she collapsed on her knees in front of the refrigerator. She raised her hand determinedly, eyes on the door handle. She was grateful for the produce drawer at the bottom of the fridge; she wouldn’t have to stand up to reach her prize.
She doesn’t remember peeling the orange, only eating it like an apple and feeling the refreshing coolness of the juice on her tongue. She doesn’t remember finishing the orange either, because the next thing she knew, her sister was home, bending over her to ask if she was okay.
“Can I have an orange? The little man in the toilet said it was okay…”
“Um…I’m going to call Mom.”
“Okay. Can I have an orange first? They’re so sweet and cool.”
Her sister peeled the orange as she got the phone. Their mother was already on her way home, or else she gets there faster than the girl realizes, and immediately calls a nurse.
“We’re taking you to the hospital,” her mother said.
She leaned against the window as her mother drives, staring out at the mostly melted snow piles on the side of the road. I’m so thirsty, she thought, staring at the dirty, blackened snow.
“Can you pull over so I can get some snow?” she asked, still staring hopefully at the pile of icky snow.
“Honey, you don’t want that,” her mother replied. “Don’t worry, we’re almost there.”
They immediately put her in a bed in the emergency room, but they had to empty one for her. She remembers seeing a child’s shoes and coat on a chair in the room she was led to, and then looking up at the ceiling, staring through the curtain at the doctor and someone else standing not too far away from where she lays. She thought they could see her, thought that they were watching her laying there but not doing anything about it.
Her mouth was so dry by this point her tongue felt like sandpaper. The horrible feeling consumed her, even worse than the pain that was starting to set in her muscles, making her twist and contort on the bed to try to find a comfortable position. But they wouldn’t let her have any water, no matter how much she begged.
“Please, just a little swish! I’ll spit it out!”
Still they said no.
Finally, as she was writhing and moaning in pain on the bed, someone let her have ice chips. She ate them off a spoon her mother held for her. It was the only thing that kept her from screaming.
She remembers hearing someone say, “Her white blood cell count is up”, and her first thought was oh, no, it’s leukemia.
Later, the doctor leaned over her to say, “You have diabetes.”
“Sacre bleu!” she cried, and must have passed out.
The next thing she remembers is waking up in the darkness of a room in the ICU with her mother sitting beside her bed. Nothing hurt anymore; they had started an IV drip with insulin in it. She was still weak and couldn’t move, but the pain was gone.
Since that day, she has never gone back to the hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis. If she has anything to say about it, she never will.