Living with type I diabetes is hard enough; finding yourself with no health insurance and living on minimum wage can be downright deadly. I've been asked before how I ended up that way and how I survived. Here's a rundown of the seven years I spent in diabetic perdition.
How did I end up with no health care and no money? As for the money, my husband changed jobs and the one he ended up in didn't offer insurance. The original idea was that he would only stay in that job until a better one came up...who knew it would take seven years! He then lost this temporary job and spent a couple years on unemployment. I had a job too, but it wasn't anything to smile at...and I never found a better one, either. And then I lost mine as well and spent a couple years on unemployment. Thanks to the bad economy.
The health care problem was as follows. Our jobs didn't offer insurance. And believe it or not, I never qualified for any kind of government aid to help with health care, medications, etc. And I looked and applied! I even had friends and family who worked in social services that tried to help. Nothing, there was always some issue that disqualified me.
So, how did I survive for seven years?
1. OTC insulin - Novolin N and Novolin R require no prescription and can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy. They are expensive for us poor people. $25-$50 per vial depending on where you buy them. So I made them last. I stuck to a strict regimen and never bolused (unless I was so high that I felt almost DKA).
2. Stocking up - I knew I was going to lose my insurance ahead of time, so I stocked up on what I could; syringes, lancets, test strips, etc..
3. Making supplies last - I would use a syringe over and over until it was so dull I couldn't even pierce my skin anymore...yeah. Same with lancets. Can't re-use test strips so those were gone first and that's when I no longer tested. At first I just didn't test unless I felt low or high, then the strips were gone and testing ended altogether.
4. Know other diabetics that can share - My brother is also a type I, so he helped with supplies when he could, but he was tight on money at this time as well and also went a couple years without insurance. But we did help each other as much as we could. It didn't help that we used different meters, and he eventually got a pump, etc.
5. Food - Heh, food, yeah, when you're poor you kind of don't follow a diet. You buy what's cheap and learn to ignore your health needs and issues....
6. Clinics - There are clinics that take patients without insurance and don't charge too terribly much. I did make use of these places on occasion, but even with the low cost, it was too expensive for regular visits, etc.
7. Exercise - This was a great way to try to keep my BG down. Of course I never knew how well it was helping because I couldn't test, but I did get as much exercise as I could handle.
8. Coping - Well, uh, I chose some very bad ways to cope with the stress and fear, and the knowledge that my body was giving in to the diabetes. My vision was getting worse, my chest hurt all the time, my legs hurt when I did any activity...I coped by partying. Hookah and booze were readily available due to the high stress and depression of everyone around me (the terrible economy was taking it's toll on everyone). Junk food as well. So I smoked to relax and drank to forget. It only made things worse but I didn't have any way to make my health better so I just spiraled downward.
[Me, drinking my problems into the future.]
I am amazed that I survived at all. But eventually things did get better and I did get health insurance again and have been working very hard at cleaning up these years of neglect and abuse.