I wasn’t feeling well. Something was off. I noticed my distance vision was blurring, and my last exam was just five months ago. I was waking up all night to pee. And I had the strangest craving for grapefruit and grapefruit juice. I Googled the symptoms and found nothing for the last one – but was alarmed at what I found for the others. I had been putting off seeing my doctor at the VA but realized I better go in. He had put in an order for labs so I stopped at the VA clinic near my house, then went into town to see him.
You probably know where this is going. I got a diagnosis of diabetes. My glucose was 550, and he almost sent me to the emergency room, but he decided he could treat me himself better. He gave me some insulin, performed some other tests, and sent me to the pharmacy. It was a Friday, and he was supposed to go home at noon because he had a Saturday clinic, but he stayed on his own time until I was done at 4:00. He stayed in touch over the weekend. He had me return on Monday for some more tests.
The first reaction I had was shock. Even though I knew what the symptoms meant, I was still stunned by the news.
The second reaction I had was gratitude for the VA. You hear so many negative stories today, and those stories discourage many veterans from reaching out and accepting the benefits they have earned.
I got over the shock. I’m adjusting my diet and lifestyle. I’m seeking out information and talking to people who also have it. Fortunately, I have a brother who used to work for the American Diabetes Association, and a family connection is a diabetes educator. Both have steered me to good information. No matter the issue, support groups, and information help you see you aren’t alone.
And I’m using this as another opportunity to tell my fellow veterans—don’t delay. If you have VA benefits, use them. The halls and clinics of the Houston VA are always full, and that’s because large numbers of veterans trust the system. This story isn’t told as often as the stories of brokenness. It needs to be.
The unexpected news of health problems can be frightening—it doesn’t have to be.