October 18, 2010
My dialogue with God about Awakening to Diabetes continued well into and throughout the 1980s. I mentioned that I had prayed for a healing for my diabetes to become manageable and livable. The healing for me came in the form of receiving updated diabetes self-care information and meeting a remarkable women and role model.
In 1981, after spending 3 1/2 weeks in the hospital with poorly managed diabetes after having suffered a miscarriage, I made it my business to find a doctor who knew what they were doing in treating diabetes. I went to a peer support group at the local ADA, and learned about carb counting, A1c testing, home BG monitoring, the importance of physical exercise, effects of stress on BG control, and the effects of diabetes on pregnancy. Several of the group members were involved in diabetes research projects, including the early DCCT and Diabetes and Pregnancy studies. One of the group members told me about Dr. Lois Jovanovic, who was recruiting diabetic women who wanted to get pregnant for her studies on tight control during pregnancy. She gave me the phone number to call, and very shortly after that, I was enrolled in the study.
I had heard that Dr. Lois Jovanovic was an awesome woman. Everyone who met her spoke of her with such high regard, affection and excitement. I went to NY Hospital-Cornell Medical Center to meet with her. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was expecting a serious clinical encounter with a matronly woman in a white coat. Instead I met this petite, vivacious woman with bright eyes, a big smile and a warm heart. She greeted me so warmly, and with such enthusiasm, I immediately felt right at ease with her. She introduced me to her research assistant nurse, Molly, and I had some blood work drawn. As Molly drew my blood, she accidentally pricked herself with a needle tip. She looked at Lois and said, “What should I do?”At this point in my life, I wasn’t a nurse yet, but I assumed they were talking about the potential of getting AIDS from a needle stick. As they were conferring about it, I spoke up and said, “If you are worried about my state of health, the only thing I have is type 1 diabetes and it’s not contagious”. They stopped, looked at me, then looked at each other and burst out laughing. Lois reassured me that that they weren’t laughing at me – they were laughing with me because they both have type 1 diabetes! With that, I was enrolled in the study and arrangements were made for me to attend the Diabetes Self-Care Program directed by Lois and her medical partner, Dr. Charles Peterson.
I spent four years under the care of Dr. Jovanovic and her various staffs. She taught me sophisticated basics of everything I know today regarding my own self-care, how I care for patients I see as a CDE, and how I relate to others with diabetes, whether as peers or patients. I dropped out of the pregnancy study after a nasty and stressful divorce, but Lois kept me involved as a participant in various other diabetes research projects going on at the time. I had early stage retinopathy in both eyes. She believed in treating complications early, as soon as they showed up, in order to preserve function and prevent further deterioration, so as part of her research, I had my eyes treated with lasers early on, and they have been “quiet” and without bleeds since 1982. She pulled me out of the DCCT because she did not want me to end up in the randomized control group. She told me “you are already doing what we are striving to prove with this study – that tight control using multiple testing and multiple daily injection, or insulin pump, therapy, reduces complications and yields better health outcomes. I don’t want you to go backwards.”
I was disappointed for her when she was passed over for a big diabetes program promotion at NYH/Cornell Medical Center, and like many of her NY patients, at a loss of what to do without her in our midst when she moved to California to continue her groundbreaking work as a researcher and top clinical expert elsewhere. Over the years, I have managed to get by without her direct influence, but I always inform the doctors and endocrine MDs that I see that I am one of her “sophisticated diabetics”. It is because of her influence on my diabetes life, that I went into nursing as a profession, with the idea of eventually becoming a diabetes educator.