By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Something Wicked This Way Comes…

July 28, 2009


Actually, it is the pricking of my fingers.

Every six months or so, my doctor orders some tests for me, some involving drawing blood. As a person suffering from high blood pressure much of my life, I am an especially good candidate for kidney failure or diabetes.

I would go to the HMO’s lab door, take a numbered ticket, and wait my turn. As the phlebotomist struggled to find a good vein, I would grit my teeth, look the other way, and make a sour joke about drug addicts who stick needles in themselves on purpose.

Eventually, the HMO would tell me that I don’t have kidney disease or diabetes, much to my relief.

However, after my last test, my lab results said that I was “pre-diabetic.” When I emailed my doctor asking what I should do, he said I should be tested again.

A few days later, I had to go in for a pre-cataract surgery checkup. My doctor was away (probably goofing off), so I went to a substitute doctor. I asked him what pre-diabetic meant.

He told me it was a natural part of aging. “We all become diabetics eventually,” he told me cheerfully, ” though we can put it off for a long time.” He told me to eat green and blue foods and instead of junk foods. I told him we have a large garden and grow our own lettuce, broccoli, and blueberries.

“Good,” said the subdoc, with the weary air of someone whose patients lie to him all the time. However, in this case, I was telling the truth, though my wife’s nagging gets most of the credit. Also, I have lost about 40 pounds over the last two years, my blood pressure (which I now test myself) is at respectable levels, and my constant treadmill plodding has reduced my resting heart rate to something like an athlete’s, though I am not going to enter the Tour de France next year.

The subdoc also told me I should start testing my blood glucose levels and scheduled me with a nurse for training.

A few weeks later, I met with an eqally upbeat nurse who provided me with a kit of equipment and educational materials. She showed me the monitor. “First you program in the date and time. Then you draw some blood and test it with this little strip. Though first, you use a drop of control solution to make sure it is working.” She told me all this quite expeditiously, as if I understood what was going on.

She warned me that each pack of control strips has an identification number. The number on the monitor screen has to match; if it doesn’t I have to push little buttons until it does. Then she showed how the test results appear on the tiny monitor screeen.


Then she got to the good part. “Here is the lance. You twist this little cap off, then you insert it into the slot. Then you jab yourself in the finger so you get a drop of blood. You touch the end of the strip and after a few seconds your score appears. Then you can choose from various comments, such as if your test is before you eat or after you eat. This booklet will tell you more about the process.

“Here, you try it. Stick the needle into the side of your finger. Good, there’s some blood. Put it on the strip.” After a few seconds, a number appeared. “That’s a good number. You may not need to keep doing this very often” she said. That sounded too good to be true.


She also gave me a confusing plastic box for the safe storing of my used needles.

With the cataract surgery going on, I kept convincing myself to avoid sticking myself. But as my eye healed, I decided I had to force myself to confront this unpleasant task. Naturally, I had forgotten everything the nurse had shown me. The instruction booklets she had given me were written for diabetics, which also depressed me. After lots of blundering and smearing blood around, I eventually got the hang of the process.

It was not clear to me how often I should be testing myself or what score I was looking for. There seemed to be something about doing it before I ate and again two hours after I ate, and leaving notes on the monitor whether I had been exercising before the test, or ill (I presume with swine flue or the like).

I came up with six scores (recorded over three days), sore fingers, and considerable self pity. Today I am going in to see my regular doctor where I will discuss my scores and how often I need to stick myself. I am grossed out by the whole business, and no doubt you are also by now. I just wanted to give you something cheerful to look forward to when you grow old.

It is just getting light outside and I will look out the window for a bunny aiming to poach on our garden. If so…it will be the last garden it raids.


8 Responses to “By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Something Wicked This Way Comes…”

  1. I’m planning to just shoot myself when I turn 70, if I live that long, so I won’t have to worry about all this stickering and Cyclops surgery and who knows what-all.

  2. Pete Says:

    WOAH! Don’t by poking your trigger finger with that needle! It might make you miss! And I think I’m with David, though it will look like more of an accident…

  3. modestypress Says:

    Pete and David,

    I visited my doctor, who had pictures of chickens on the wall of his office, along with a picture of a Jack Russell Terrier, and a picture of his wife. The dog and the chickens were not in the same picture. He told me he owns four chickens and lives in the city.

    He also said I don’t have diabetes and I should do a fasting test once a week; that is, a test first thing in the morning before I eat anything.

    I suppose that will keep my self-mutilation skills in top condition, not to mention my skills at convincing people not to let themselves grow old. Perhaps they will hire me to direct the rumored remake of Logan’s Run, perhaps the worst science fiction movie ever made, about a world where people are forced to commit suicide when they reach the age of 30.

    For right now, my wife and I are both active and actively working on being very difficult old people, spending our child’s inheritance and leaving our granddaughter a forest and house overrun by strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and tayberries, with a few blueberries lurking around the edge, not a bad legacy if I say so myself.

  4. I’m just relieved that your doctor’s wife isn’t a Jack Russell terrier, which was what I thought for a moment when I first read your comment. It’s the heat, not your writing, believe me.

  5. woo Says:

    I have to go and have a blood test tomorrow. Now I’m looking forward to it even more.

    (That last part was a lie)

  6. I’m sorry your doctor is forcing you to poke yourself with needles. Ah, the barbarism of modern medicine. I’m quite glad to hear that you do not, in fact, have diabetes.

  7. spectrum2 Says:

    My dad has become a diabetic in his old age. He now gets to give himself insulin shots. I figure I’m headed that way when I get older, as I have issues with low blood suger from time to time.
    Of course, I give myself a shot daily, so that part doesn’t bother me a bit, and I’ve poked my finger before for a blood sugar test. It was surprisingly normal.
    On your sharps container, just wait until it gets full. I worried and worried over how to dispose of the container. There were online places that said they would pick it up, but I thought surely there would be some type of place that took them that was local. I mean, one would think that with so many people who inject themselves because of diabetes and MS and the like, then there would be some type of drop-off for sharps containers. After much research and calling around to places like the local health department (who acted as if I were trying to pull something over on them), I discovered that there are NO laws in my state regulating the disposal of sharps containers! When the container is full, you close it up and throw it in the trash. I can’t help feeling a little grossed out by that.

  8. modestypress Says:

    The “good” news is that I persuaded my doctor that I only need to prick myself once a week. My HMO told me it will dispose of my sharps container for me. I now have so much medical equipment around my house it looks like a hospital.

    “Getting old is not for sissies.”

    Unfortunately, I am a sissy.

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