Saturday, August 25, 2007

Technological Medical Advances

The results of the blood draw are in. My A1c is once again 6.3%, the same as in May. I'm a little bit disapointed, but not very. 6.3% is not bad.
My meter, a different accu-chek aviva, read 103 while the actual value was 87, once again high, but this time not so much so. I had been hypo, my meter reading 56 but me being dizzy and losing my peripheral vision, about two hours later.
My endo and I had discussed how the meters are all inaccurate and there's nothing we can do about it and I was once again feeling really frustrated. After the endo visit, I had walked over to the Harold Washington Library Center, gone to the RC660 part of the library, and picked out a book.
A Gift of Life by Alfred Beckler, 1983
The title is taken from the slogan of a kidney foundation. Alfred Beckler was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1957, when he was fifteen years old. For reference to my life, he developed diabetes fifty years before me, the year my mother was born, and at approximately the same point in his life. He did not have the advantages of adjusting insulin for food intake, and he didn't have his A1c taken, and he didn't have a home glucose meter.
Fourteen years later, 29 year old Alfred Beckler, who never got screened for renal problems, as I can get screened whenever I want, was diagnosed with kidney disease because of the fluid in his legs. He had at that point three sons. He was given medications to treat the symptoms of kidney disease; medications to help his heart and his blood pressure, but nothing for the kidneys themselves. He got worse and worse and within a few years, he was told that he was going to die. He learned about that novel therapy, kidney transplants. He was told that doctors were unwilling to perform kidney transplants on diabetics. He persisted and found a willing center. Two of his siblings tested as matches, and he received a kidney transplant from his older brother. Alfred's kidneys had to be removed first, and he was put on dialysis. This sounds like an excruciating ordeal. Dialysis was in much earlier stages at that point.
Beckler's sight was totally gone within a few years.
Wanting to protect his remaining organs and his new kidney, Beckler sought a cure for his diabetes. He received a partial pancreas from his older sister, and it began to make insulin, but shortly after the transplant he got an infection and the immunosuppressants had to be cut back and so he lost the partial pancreas.
Eventually, Beckler received a pancreas from a boy who'd been in a car accident. The new pancreas was still producing insulin when this book was written. At the time that this book was written, only 57 pancreas transplants had been done. At the time of transplant, Beckler was still measuring urine sugar.
As I read this book, I found myself telling myself again and again that I have much much much better tools for controlling diabetes, that I have better diabetic control than Beckler could have dreamed of having. That drugs are available to protect my kidneys should I ever develop kidney disease. That dialysis these days has come a long long way. I am not particularly worried about my sight.
This book is slightly ablist in the introduction, where Beckler writes that he refused a handicapped persons award because he does not want to be thought of as a handicapped person, but it also presents the discrimination Beckler faced (faces?) as a blind person, as a person with kidney problems, and even as a diabetic. While learning to go out on his own, newly blind, Beckler had difficulty crossing the street and fell. The people waiting for the bus ignored him and his need of help, assuming he was drunk, despite the white cane.
I would love to know what happened to Beckler; is he alive? Did he get to keep the pancreas? Did it keep working?

5 comments:

Terri Frank said...

I enjoyed reading your article. But what specific drugs help kidney disease?

Jonah said...

Y'know, I think maybe I confuse where kidney disease actually starts. I have not been on any kidney drugs or had any suggested to me, but was under the impression that if I had protein in my urine or something, I'd be put on an ACE inhibitor. Is that wrong?

accu-chek customer care said...

Dear Jonah,

We are the makers of your ACCU-CHEK Aviva. To best assist you with your concern with your readings, we would ask that you call us at your earliest convenience. We are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-858-8072 and would be happy to discuss your question in greater detail.
Sincerely,

ACCU-CHEK Customer Care
1-800-858-8072
www.accu-chek.com

berberine said...

Thanks for sharing, I really enjoy reading this articles.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jonah,

I am Alfred Becklers' youngest son, I will forward this information to my mother Judy. As for my dad, he had another kidney transplant in the fall of 2001. I'll see if my mother can send you some additional information after the holidays.

Russ Beckler