The Brimstone Monster: Battling Diabetic Neuropathy
Every night it is the same. The routine of pain to occurs in my body. Some days are better than others, but every day is a bad day.
It starts in the hands. The hands begin to feel tingly followed by the feet. The tingly sensations become vibrating annoyances that branch out ever so slowly through my nervous system. Then the pain travels up the legs shocking and jerking along the way as if something is clawing its way up as it rises around my shoulders encompassing my entire body! It feels as if a slow burning fire scorches my flesh, yet it will not burn. It is my very own brimstone inferno, my body.
As the pain is incessant, constant, my mind adapts to avoid overloading my already taxed pain receptors causing me not to sense pain so acutely. As soon as my senses have dulled sufficiently, I experience a sharp stab of pain somewhere that causes me to yell out! My senses cease to be dulled, and I experience this personal hell repeatedly until mercifully it seems to diminish to memory before the next storm. At its zenith, the pain becomes so intense that I must remove all of my clothing and prevent air from circulating around me so that I can find some measure of relief, which never comes. The pain lasts all night and most days. It only seems to subside when I sleep--if I can sleep.
I am used to pain if anyone can ever become used to feeling like this. In fact, as I type, I feel the pains in each of my fingers and my hands. I can feel it building in my core. It is enough to make life seem less important. It is enough to sap all hope and will to try more. It is enough to destroy ambition. The pain interferes with work and school. It interferes with family and marriage. Chronic pain can be the source of so much emotional trauma for family members.
Each day I notice a few of the things that I did before become more challenging to do because this monster that burns within me constantly, the disease of diabetic neuropathy.
Did You Know?
Currently there exists many brands of insulin to choose from for Diabetics!
It can be brain-draining to decide which is better
Artificial Human Insulin (made in labs form bacteria) or
Natural Animal Insulin (taken form the pancreases of animals).
You should consult your health professional about which one works best for You!
Which Insulin works better? Artificial or Animal You Decide!
Diabetic Neuropathy means damage to the nerve endings caused by excessive high blood sugar levels due to diabetes and intercommunication between the brain and the pain sensors throughout the body--usually the extremities. My Brimstone Monster is the result of diabetes. It is important to understand diabetes to understand diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetes is a disease caused by the pancreas
- not producing insulin,
- not producing enough insulin,
- or cells in the body becoming insulin resistant.
Insulin is the hormone in the body produced by the pancreas that allows the body to metabolize sugars from the food we ingest.
In a healthy normal human, the pancreas regulates the amount of insulin it needs to produce in accordance with the amount of sugar in the blood to help the blood cells carry the needed energy to all the cells of the body. All food is metabolized into sugar and used as energy or stored as fats within the body to be used at a later time.
A pancreas which does not produce insulin does not provide a way for the cells to receive energy from the food a person ingests. Over time, the blood is saturated with non-metabolize-able sugar until the body starts to dissolve itself for the needed nutrients from the bones and organs. If left untreated, this blood coagulates possibly leading to many complications of health such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and death--just to mention a few!
Artificial human insulin, synthesized hormones, or animal insulin is the current treatment for this type of pancreatic issue. Generally, people born with this disorder are called Type 1 Diabetics though those with Type 2 Diabetes can also suffer from full pancreatic failure.
Not Producing Enough
Due to genetics and a number of environmental factors, some people's have a pancreas that produces insulin insufficient for the needs of the body. The pancreas, unaided, cannot produce enough of the hormone to metabolize all the glucose in the system.
Though this is better than not producing insulin, the same dangers apply to the damage that will occur to the vascular and other systems if the disparity continues unabated. Artificial aid such as pharmaceuticals that stimulate the production of insulin in the pancreas is one way to treat the victims of this disease. People who suffer from this pancreatic disorder are usually referred to as Type II diabetics and are not usually born with a pancreatic problem. It usually appears in adulthood, USUALLY!
Viva La Resistance!
The pancreas may function within normal parameters, but for some biochemical reason, the insulin does not metabolize the glucose into energy for the cells. It is as if all the employees of the Company of Pancreas is on strike. Everyone is there, but no one is working!
With this unfortunate situation, the same complications will occur as if the body produces no insulin at all and the same treatments artificially will apply. Along the spectrum of diabetes exist many of the sufferers to one degree or the other needing differing artificial intervention to assist them in living productive lives.
I say ARTIFICIAL intervention because there are natural things that SOME, NOT ALL, people can do to avoid unnatural intervention of the system. Diabetes is a manageable disorder if strict adherence to glucose or sugar levels in the blood is maintained--between 80 and 120 mg. Blood sugar control is managed by diet and exercise, medications, machine monitoring of glucose levels, and visits to a doctor who assesses the patient's health. It is a team effort between Health Workers and the Patient.
Because Diabetes is a progressive disease that slowly damages the body over the years, after ten years of successful management of the disease, complication from having diabetes may start to arise--generally between the tenth and twentieth years. Whether the glucose levels are uncontrolled, a la HIGH, or normal this will occur; consequentially, the Severity of the complications developed depend on how well diabetic Patients manage their health.
My Brimstone Monster
I did not manage my health well. I was diagnosed one month after returning from my mission in the South Africa Cape Town mission December of 2000. I had been having symptoms since the last few months of my mission, but I did not know it. My missionary companion, Burkley Probst may have saved my life, because he insisted that we eat healthily. I had gained almost one hundred pounds on my mission. I was not actively exercising as a missionary and I would eat mountains of food!
Since both of my parents had Type II Diabetes, I was genetically disposed to the disease. Along with my environmental factors, my habits, I may have caused the disease to occur earlier in life than it could have, maybe?
Burkley would make us walk to places rather than drive each time and eat right. By the time he came along, it was too late for my health. One of the signs of having diabetes is frequent urination.
I remember when I first became aware of a health problem. Burkley and I were at a Born Again Christian's home in the middle of a prayer. The man would not stop praying, and I was sweating bullets because I could not hold my urine! I think I prayed the entire time for him to stop praying!
I bolted from the prayer circle when amen was said! Sadly, I had to urinate just 30 minutes later thinking that whatever Burkley made me eat that day caused this sudden problem.
The plane ride to the United States was gruesome for me because I had to go to the restroom every 30 minutes for 12 hours! I sat in the window seat, and the guy sitting next to me would not change seats with me! Horrid!
When I was at home, my mother took me to get tested, and I thought my life was over upon discovering I had the disease. I at least knew what was wrong with me.
Dealing with the Pain
I have suffered from diabetic neuropathy since 2008 when a neurologist diagnosed me after a trip to the emergency room.
After Thanksgiving I had come off of my four-month diet plan so that I could eat traditional Thanksgiving food. I had previously been doing P90X and my results were great. Going off the diet was not.
Following that episode in the hospital, my health steadily declined over the months until I came crashing down August of 2010. My body completely betrayed me. I could no longer run or walk for long distances. I could no longer exercise. I could do none of the things I had done before.
Neuropathy had already started giving me pain, but now it cripples me. I can barely stand for any person to touch me sometimes. On top of that progressive pain, in 2010 my daughter passed away in a terrible manner, and I had to quit my job because I could not perform it anymore.
The pain and depression solidified at this point forward, and that has been my lot since then: a round of pain here, depression there, and endurance everywhere. Every sense is heightened and emotions raw because of the constant pain. Hypertension increases because of pain. The immune system is taxed, and stress levels run high because of the continuous pain over all the skin. This is beside the other symptoms associated with other complications.
Each day I must rely on my faith to help me avoid lashing out at my family, which does not work every day. I always need to remind my kids that they cannot jump on Daddy because I hurt.
I have to allow my wife to know when I can be touched because randomly showing me affection is not an option because I could be in pain. She was the only person to know about my pain until my health became severe in 2010.
Neuropathy not just in the feet
Neuropathy does not just occur in the feet. It can happen all over the body as it does with me. The nervous system starts to malfunction, similar to Fibromyalgia.
The constantly overactive nervous system pain causes the most problems. Any person dealing with nerve pain alone has a stressful daily life, especially when medicines like Cymbalta only work partially to relieve the systems--I would rather have it than nothing at all. That is a whole other level of hell!
Cymbalta helps with the nerve pain and depression. Depression is a frequent companion for people dealing with chronic pain and health conditions.
If you are accustomed to being the breadwinner and can no longer do so because of circumstance beyond your control like I am, life can be tough to accept. It is essential to be aware of your feelings and what is the root of negative emotions to avoid undue mental anguish.
Because I know that I am prone to depression because of my health, I take steps to avoid slipping into depression bouts for long periods of time. It is a constant battle, and I am not always successful.
Did You Know?
Eventually, when the searing pain burns the nerves out in a particular area it becomes numb.
The numbness spreads and the damaged nerves die out which can take a lifetime.
Eventually, the numbness can make a person feel like he or she has prosthetic limbs since there is no sensation.
It is dangerous. Infections and damage still occur even if it cannot be sensed by the brain anymore.
Prone To Injury Unawares
I went into the hospital because my blood pressure was 264/190 and my glucose levels were above 400 levels. The averages respectively are 120/80 and 80 to 120.
I was on the verge of a stroke and a diabetic coma! I had gone to the emergency room by referral from the urgent care doctor because of a swollen leg and foot. Apparently, due to my lack of feeling in certain parts of my foot, I had injured myself somehow.
Three days it took to get my blood pressure and glucose level under control, while I took morphine for pain--caused by my swollen leg. Each time in the past that I went to the hospital, no doctor would listen to me if my blood glucose levels were high because I am a diabetic.
They assumed that I ate irresponsibly. This time, I told the nurses that
- my leg is swollen and painful, which is causing me to have high blood pressure.
- The pain prevents me from wanting to eat, so I starved and
- my liver dumps sugar in my blood, as a result, to give me energy--
- which cause my glucose levels to rise!
No one would listen. It is not as if the doctors were ignorant. It is common knowledge among doctors, or I hope it is, that the liver dumps sugar in the blood when the glucose levels get too low as a last resort for energy. The fact that my glucose levels were approaching 500 mg while the normal range is 80 to 120 mg made them suspicious of the liver dumping exclamation of mine.
It looked like I was about to be discharged once morphine took away the pain and the insulin-regulated my glucose levels enough for me to eat. I prayed all night that the nurse and doctors would notice my leg and foot, which I kept pointing out to them.
My wife called the nurses' station that night and explained to the nurse in charge why I had initially gone to the ER and to look at my foot. Personally, my nurse did and saw nothing, but felt impressed to call a wound nurse.
The wound nurse saw a small dot on the bottom of my foot and called the doctors. Four doctors saw my swollen foot, and leg and three did not want to act while one adamantly suggested surgery. Three days these four doctors debated whether or not I should have an operation on my foot putting the total up to six days I had been admitted to the hospital, Tempe Saint Luke's Hospital.
I felt the pain and used the morphine. I knew something was wrong. I have the unfortunate face and body type that no one can look upon me and tell that I am ill. I look healthy no matter what I feel!
The doctors met on the Sixth day discussing my situation. Two were against cutting into my flesh because it did not look like I needed it and all the tests and scans returned negative for a problem.
Two thought something needed to be done other than elevating my foot. One of the two told the other three that he believes I had an infection that could be going towards the bone!.
Another day passed with the team of doctors in disagreement. I prayed more. One doctor, the one who knew that I had an infection, went to my room alone and asked me to sign a consent form to operate.
He could not convince two physicians that anything was wrong because nothing showed on any test, but he was sure that he could see an infection--being that it was his specialty. The surgeon would not cut, so the wound care specialist decided he would. I gave him my consent, and he cut open my flesh.
Samuel Nwafor, M.D., FACP, FAPWCA
Out came a confluence of fluids that confirmed his suspicion. The nurse took pictures of the infection hidden beneath my skin and removed the necrosis from my body. God answered my prayer by inspiring this doctor, Dr. Nwafor, to look beyond the machines and test and trust his impressions.
I spent the next month in a nursing home getting intravenous antibiotics. It was a strange experience at my relatively young age to live in a nursing home, but God heard my prayer and gave me what I needed. And he did it for the entire month of September 2012 to the beginning of October 2012.
For information about Diabetes and how to increase awareness...
- American Diabetes Association Home Page - American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight against the deadly consequences of diabetes and fighting for those affected by diabetes.
If you have diabetes in your family tree take notice of your eating habits. You do not have to become a vegan, but you eat a balanced healthy diet to avoid the early onset of diabetes.
Most people get diabetes in old age.
- Native Americans,
- and Hispanics,
the rate of diabetes in younger people is exceptionally high.
Minorities are more likely to have the disease and must be aware of the genetic disposition. Native Americans are more susceptible than any other group.
© 2012 Rodric Anthony Johnson