The Price of Love and Diabetes

Published by Daleen Berry on

My husband could have died Monday morning. He didn’t, but he could have. With a blood sugar level of 37, that number was very near diabetic seizure or stroke range

Because I was sick Sunday, Butch made his own dinner—canned soup—after spending the entire afternoon cleaning out the garage. At bedtime I took medicine designed to help relieve the sinus pressure in my head and help me sleep. So it’s surprising I even woke up. How I awoke is more interesting. Butch calls it maternal instinct.

Personally I think it was divine intervention. I awoke with a start, reached over and when I didn’t find his warm body, called his name. His voice came to me from the edge of the bed, where he was sitting. Butch leaned across the bed and kissed my arm, then lingered as if he might stay there. Or like he was terribly tired and couldn’t sit back up.

All of this took place in a matter of seconds. The instant I woke up, I sensed something was wrong. I can’t explain it, but the last time it happened was in 2006, when my son went out drinking with his fraternity brothers and ended up in a hospital on a ventilator. I woke up with this intense feeling, this knowing, that something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Butch said. “I just can’t sleep. I’m going to take a shower.”

Normally I would have rolled over and gone back to sleep, since his nocturnal showers are quite common. Something made me get out of bed and walk around to where he was sitting.

I looked at the clock: 3 a.m. “Are you sure you’re all right?” I asked. Then I touched his arm. It was clammy. “You’re sweating. Are you sick?” I asked.

He said he wasn’t, but then seemed to reconsider. “Maybe I should check my sugar,” he said. Then he asked me to go downstairs to get his glucometer so he could check his glucose level. I did, returning upstairs with it. A prick on the tip of his finger, a drop of blood injected into the tester strip that we’d inserted in the plastic tool and voilà, we knew the problem.

“It’s 39! You could have a stroke!” I said, opening the nightstand drawer to find his emergency stash of candy and cookies.

Butch began eating and we checked the sugar level again. During those few seconds of waiting, I noticed the ashen pallor of his skin.

“It’s 37 now—I think I should call an ambulance!” I said. I had a fleeting image of him passing out and me trying to revive him while we waited for the medical personnel to arrive. If that was the case, the emergency team would never make it in time.

My husband refused.

“Then let me call Kevin,” I said, knowing that our nearest neighbor had enough strength to at least lift my husband if he fell unconscious. I also knew that in his line of work, Kevin had more medical training than I did.

“If it doesn’t come up in a few more minutes, you can call him,” he said, acquiescing a little. “Can you get me some juice?”

I went to get the ever-present orange juice. Except there wasn’t any. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—anyone who is a diabetic should always have orange juice on hand. This is the last time we’ll run out, I promised myself. The only beverage in the fridge was grapefruit juice. So I poured a glass and ran upstairs with it as quickly as I could.

He downed the juice and kept on eating M&M’s—dark chocolate, my favorite. Within several minutes, he was no longer disoriented—something I realized he had been earlier, when I awoke. We kept checking the sugar level. It rose, a little, to the 40’s. At least it had changed direction. I said a silent prayer of thanks.

“I think I’m better now,” Butch said. I took that as a not so subtle plea for me not to call 911, or our neighbors.

I offered to make him something to eat. “How about grilled cheese?” I asked.

“That sounds good,” he said. “Really good.”

We agreed he wouldn’t come downstairs until he felt stable enough to do so safely. By the time the sandwich was finished, he had done just that. It was 3:30 a.m. I know because I watched the clock. Wondering how many minutes it would take before he was truly out of danger. I worried that grilled cheese wasn’t the wisest diet. It was, however, one of the few things we had on hand that I could whip up quick.

While he ate we discussed how his sugar had dropped so low. That’s when I learned of his meager dinner and realized he had expended far more calories than normal, by working in the garage for hours.

“I just wanted you to have a clean space to park your car,” Butch said with a weak smile.

The thoughts that go through your head when you think someone you love might die are no doubt similar for everyone—you wonder if you’ll get a chance to apologize for some silly argument that meant nothing, or if your loved one will never hear the words “I’m sorry” fall from your lips. You think of all the separate pursuits you each took, and how that time could have been better spent together. You worry that you’ve gotten as many chances as you’re going to get to do it right, and that the time on your relationship meter just ran out.

Maybe the most important lesson you learn, once again, is how important people are. Not money. Not fame. Certainly not things. I’ve always known this; it’s what keeps me grounded. It’s the people part that sometimes fades into the background of my crazy, busy schedule. The people who are closest to me. The ones right here at home that I love the most, like my husband. He’s not perfect but when he does die—which I pray is decades from now—I hope I will have treated him in such a way that I have no regrets. My husband is a good man, a good man who loves me. He’s paid a very dear price for the mistakes of the men who went before him. It took me eight long years to realize that—which is why we’re still married. Because I figured it out, just in time.

* * * *
Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: November is National Diabetes Month. If you or someone you love has diabetes, please be aware of the warning signs of hypoglycemia, which can lead to seizures or stroke, and other serious complications from diabetes. If this someone is your husband and he tells you not to call 911, don’t listen. You might just save his life.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.” To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.” To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

If you want to read more than 100 reviews, go to free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel.


Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: https://www.daleenberry.com. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.

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