Diabetes Is Not A Death Sentence


She was a well-known and respected matron in Orange County who called at 10 PM with a “health concern” so I called her right back so I could sleep easier.

The problem was an easy one.  She had her first “abnormal” blood test and had been diagnosed with what those defeatist doctors call “prediabetes”  and started on metformin which is about the safest thing that exists to lower blood sugar.  I mean some blood sugar medicines and lower blood sugar so much that they make people nervous and shaky and worse.  But this one wouldn’t hurt her.

It was late, so I spared her my usual lecture about fighting diabetes to escape the usual descent into severe illness or death from complications of that illness which is the best prognosis American Medicine can come up with while some docs here and LOTS of folks in other countries and I can reverse this demon diabetes.

Her “medical concern” was numbness and weakness in her hands.  It had started at the fingertips and was moving up her hands and arms.

Neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes, and may or may not get better with diabetic control.  But this seemed too fast for someone who just had their first raised blood sugar.  Besides, that kind of neuropathy is a little more likely to start in the toes and feet.

I told her to go to the Emergency room.  She declined, insisting it was “not that bad.”

I told her to get some tests from a neurologist.  It can be a lot of things; secondary to some medications, hereditary (like mine): Lots of stuff.

I heard the pen against paper.  She was taking notes furiously.  She was really worried.

She could ask for a referral from her primary care doc.

“Yeah, I have learned at least a little about how insurance works!

To my amazement, she said, “He doesn’t answer the phone at night.  You do.”

I wished her well and told her to keep me informed.

I saw her a couple of weeks later in the office.  Of course, I asked if she had seen her neurologist yet.”

“It’ll be at least three or four months before they can get me in for an appointment,”  She answered, laughing it up and making happy shaky wiggly “jazz hands”  in the air.

“It went away the night after I called you.  I’ll bet my insurance company planned it on purpose, to give it time to go away.”

She had not yet canceled the proposed appointment, “just in case it comes back.”

It is really amazing and almost touchingly naïve how much faith some of my beloved patients seem to have in the American Medical System.

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