Family Matters: How My Dad Informed My Life with Diabetes
Seeing the signs
It was the spring of 2018, and at the age of 44, I wanted to get in better shape. I ran my annual 10K in April, but my pace was slower than usual. I increased mileage after the 10K with the plan to run more races, but the more I ran, the slower I was. Over Memorial Day weekend, I felt fatigued and started waking up a couple times a night to use the restroom. Over one week, I lost 12 pounds with no effort. With dropping weight, I thought I should feel better but as physicians know, we don’t always put our needs or healthcare first. After another week of symptoms I decided I needed to check my blood sugar.
On Monday, June 11th, I waited until the nurses left the clinic in the hospital where I work as a cardiologist and checked my blood sugar with a glucometer. This isn’t the best idea when you are expecting the worst, but in your heart don’t believe this can be happening. It took a couple attempts, but I finally figured out the glucometer and saw a value of 15.8 mmol/L284 mg/dL. I thought it had to be wrong so I repeated it, but at the same time knew it explained what I was feeling. I was overwhelmed with emotion that now I was facing the same disease that took my father.
My dad was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child. He was on insulin but the importance of tight control was unknown. He would check his urine for blood glucose and went to the doctor’s office once a month for a blood sugar test. He ended up suffering from many diabetes complications. We had to move from the farm as he was losing his eyesight and developing kidney failure. He ended up undergoing two kidney transplants, an amputation and was blind. Ultimately, he passed away at the age of 32 from the complications—I was 12 years old.
When I realized what was happening to me, I mustered up the ability to go home and talk to my wife. But as I arrived home, I was called and told that there was a patient coming to the hospital experiencing a heart attack. As an interventional cardiologist, this means I have to go urgently to do a heart catheterization and put a stent in to abort the heart attack. I was able to refocus and everything went well. Afterwards, I called my friend, a family practitioner, and explained my situation. I was started immediately on insulin and had blood work done. The bloodwork confirmed that I was not producing enough insulin.
Diabetes has had a profound affect on my personal life along with my professional life. On a daily basis, I see cardiovascular disease in young people with diabetes. Since my diagnosis, I have taken a deep dive into nutrition. I follow Dr. Bernstein’s method to maintain normal blood sugars. I cannot go so far as to say this has been a blessing, but I am now a better physician and try to spread the knowledge I am gaining. I feel great and have lost another 25 pounds eliminating carbs which has reduced my insulin requirements by two-thirds.
I ran a half marathon this spring that was 12 minutes faster than my last one six years ago when I was not a person with type 1 diabetes. Around that time, I was following Beyond Type 1 and heard about the Beyond Type Run Marathon Team. I had always wanted to run a marathon but had never committed to it. I am a fairly private person so I knew that this would mean my friends, the community and my patients would learn of my diagnosis. But I now have a lot of skin in the game and want to help make a difference with this great opportunity. My family has been completely supportive and I have received a lot of positive feedback on this new adventure, but more than anything, I want my three boys to see that it is not what happens to you in life but how you respond to adversity that is important.
Doug Kosmicki is raising money for Beyond Type 1 through Beyond Type Run—his fundraising will make a real difference in the lives of those living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).