When I was in my early 30’s I worked so hard on the house we bought in NY. It was a fixer-upper and we got it cheap but the mortgage payments were still very hard to make. I was pulling a cedar post out of the ground one day and I did not realize that almost three feet of it were buried beneath the ground’s surface. The ground was soft so I thought I could do it. I pulled too hard though and I heard something pop in my chest and there was a sharp pain. That scared me and I went to the ER and my heart was in great shape. They could not diagnose the problem. My chest hurt for weeks. Ever since that day I am rather restricted in what I can do. I cannot do any activity that stretches my pectoral muscle that stretches across my chest. I think that muscle was partially torn when I was tugging on that post. I cannot carry more than 50 pounds, lift weights or even hug my wife very hard without causing that muscle to hurt for days.
In my late 40’s I began having pain in my arms and hands. I went to a neurologist and he had me report to the hospital for an EMG test. No one locally performed an EMG back then so someone from the Albany Medical Center, 50 miles away, came to Kingston one day per week to give EMG’s at the hospital. As a result of the EMG I was told that I did not have carpal tunnel even though the doctor thought that was my problem. Then I was given a body scan after receiving a shot of radioactive fluid. The scan showed arthritis in my arms, legs, back and neck. An arthritis specialist told me that my arthritis was probably due to my diabetes. Diabetics are more likely that nondiabetics to have arthritis. The only thing that really concerned me was the intense pain in my hands and lower arms. A couple of years passed and I went to a second neurologist and the results were the same. The same fellow from Albany gave me the EMG and I was again told I had no carpal tunnel problem. About five years later I saw a third neurologist and that time a member of their staff gave me the EMG. She said I had a bad carpal tunnel problem and I had had it at the time that the other EMG’s had been given. The fellow from Albany had not properly administered the test or his equiptment was defective. I was also diagnosed with ulnar nerve damage too. I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist and the following year I had ulnar nerve transposition surgery. I was told by the surgeon that the nerve damage was so advanced that the surgeries would keep the damage from getting any worse but it would not reverse the damage already done. He was right. I have had pain for the ensuing years but it has not become significantly worse. I asked the surgeon if the nerve damage in my arms was possibly due to diabetes. He said it was possible but there was no way of knowing. Many things can cause carpal tunnel problems and other nerve damage. Diabetics are more prone to have nerve damage than nondiabetics.
I had cataracts removed from both eyes when I was in my 50’s. I was also diagnosed with retinopathy then as well. The retinopathy shows up in little patches but then disappears in a few weeks. I have not needed laser treatment for that but I may in the future if it gets worse. I have breaks in some of the blood vessels in one eye at the present time. My eye doctor says that is probably due to my diabetes. It can not be treated by laser surgery because of its location. It will require conventional surgery. The doctor said I could wait until it gives me more of a problem with my eyesight. It is like looking through a wet pane of glass but it only bothers me when I am reading or doing close work. I have waited a year and it isn’t any worse. These problems are almost certainly due to diabetes. Even cataracts are more likely among diabetics.
I was diagnosed with gout in May of 2007. The medicine prescribed for inflammation caused me to have very high blood sugar for several days. I stopped the medicine but continued taking the other medicine that reduces the level of uric acid in my joints. My blood sugar returned to normal and I am not having any pain from gout now. Excessive uric acid in the joints is what causes gout. I have experienced gout in my big toe and the heel of my right foot. No other joints have been affected thus far. Gout is more likely among diabetics.
So I have arthritis, carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve damage, cataracts removed, mild retinopathy, broken blood vessels in one eye and gout. I also have neuropathy in my left foot and nerve damage in my ears. The neuropathy was quite bad and kept me up at night until I got very good control of my blood sugar. Pumping tightened my control even more and I rarely have any neuropathy pain now. I have partial hearing loss due to the nerve damage in my ears but I am not using hearing aids. It isn’t that bad yet. All the problems mentioned here, except for the muscle damage in my chest, are possibly due to diabetes. None of them, however, are all that bad. I can do almost anything I want to do, but with limitations. My arms may be somewhat weak but my legs are strong with a lot of muscle. I can walk 3 miles in one hour on roads with a lot of hills. That is my favorite exercise.
I have stated many times that after 62 years of diabetes I am very healthy and I have only minor complications. I have here discussesd my minor complications. I truly feel I am blessed and that I have very good health. There are very many nondiabetics who have health problems much worse than mine. I feel that my working so hard to have good diabetes control has kept me in very good physical condition. I therefore feel that diabetes may very well be partially responsible for my good health. Some people tell me that it is due to me having good genes. Maybe that is part of the explanation but I think all my hard work has been equally important in keeping me very healthy.
I taught at a NY state community college and my pension is paid by NY state. My secondary health insurance plan is the NY State Empire Plan. Medicare is my primary health insurance but there are so many things that it does not cover. Medicare would not cover my pump and some of the supplies and it does not cover my prescribed medicines. It helps in the reduction of prices of doctor’s office visits and hospital visits but Empire covered the pump, most of the supplies, the medicines and , in short, everything that Medicare does not cover. School teachers may not have great salaries but the fringe benefits here in NY state are great. There is a very big down side to the Empire Plan though. We must visit doctors and hospitals and labs that are participating in the plan in order to be covered in full. Outside of NY we are not covered in this way. The doctors and hospitals are not participants of the Empire Plan outside of NY state. That means we have to stay in NY for the rest of our lives to be able to afford our medical expenses. Our children and grandchildren live in Georgia and North Carolina. We are stuck in NY. We fly to Atlanta twice each year to see our loved ones. Our other son drives from Raleigh to Atlanta to be with us. It is expensive for us to fly and getting through the airports is hard on us. It would take almost 20 hours on the road to drive to Atlanta. We will not drive there anymore. We do not know how much longer we can make the flights. This is not fair!!! We see them on Webcam but that is a very poor replacement for being there. So whose idea was it to send my sons to Georgia Tech for graduate work? IT WAS MY IDEA! DOH!!! They loved the south and stayed there. They have wonderful jobs and we are so proud of them but we do not get to see them very often. I could have had them apply to northern colleges. The southern colleges are much less expensive and the state colleges are even more reasonable. Georgia Tech is highly ranked in computer education so that is where we sent our sons in order to be able to afford their educational expenses. I am afraid our grandkids will hardly know us when they are grown. This is one of my biggest regrets in my present day life.