Friday, February 19, 2010

Hunting with Diabetes; Episode 2

Blogging about Diabetes and Hunting; Episode 2

A little bit more on my “history” and then we’ll get to how it effects my hunting and the outdoors.

After I was diagnosed as a type II diabetic, started taking a couple of different medications and was instructed on how to eat…life really changed. First, being told how to eat as an adult and actually adhering to those rules are two completely different things. It is extremely difficult to break habits formed from over 35 years of eating. Finding out that when I was trying to eat healthier by drinking lots of juice was actually really bad for me….yikes! I need to count my carbohydrates and make sure I don’t exceed my limits, as well as what types of carbohydrates!?! I had to learn the difference between complex carbohydrates and simple sugars. I had to learn how to balance my eating and what to expect every time I eat. I had to learn what to do if my blood sugar was too high or too low.

On top of all the food issues, I had to learn what to expect from my body. I was more prone to get colds. Colds and flu’s were now much more dangerous to me. I healed slower, my circulation was in danger and worst of all…my organs were in jeopardy if I couldn’t get my blood sugar under control. Even then, I should expect complications as I get older. Eye sight, foot problems, fingers…Wow. For something I never gave a thought to, all the people who have diabetes, this is no little problem.

It gets worse…

For the first few years I worked on getting my life in control. I was on a new medication that was really helping me not only get my blood sugars were they needed to be, but keep them there. I had my own successful company but I found out that stress is a major issue with blood sugars and the stress of running my company in a high stakes arena put me in a position were I needed to re-evaluate my goals. I did not see an avenue were I could reduce my stress and keep the company going, so I decided my life is more important than a job. I closed shop and went back to work for someone else. Hard decisions are only hard when you make them hard. Live, life and my family vs. money and a quick death…. Easy choice.

Leaving a dream was hard enough but the next event in my life was out of my hands and one of my nightmares. The medication I was on was pulled by the FDA, the replacement meds were rejected by my body…results: Insulin injections. My one worse nightmare: needles. I hate them! When my daughter was born I stood and watched the C-section with no problems. When they injected pain killer into the IV I had to leave….I don’t know why I’m like that but I am. It’s just needles and now I had to give myself 2 shots a day…for the rest of my life.

First stop, insulin class. They taught me how to give myself injections. Seeing what happens to me with needles they told me to return the next day for my first real insulin injection to make sure I actually did it. Nightmares! I had a lot to think about that night. Another one of those “hard” decisions that should be easy. Injections equal life, no injections equal a widow and two children without a father, Parents without a son, Friends looking down at a grave stone. Doesn’t sound like so hard a decision now does it. I made my decision. The next day I walked into the doctors office, looked at the doctor and told her that I had made a decision. I needed shots to live, so shots I would get. I told her to just sit and watch, only tell me if I’m doing something wrong. I took my first shot of thousands, feels good to live. Just a note; even after 10 years, it’s still a decision I make every day. At least now I don’t turn white as a sheet and fall over anymore. The nurses are happy about that when I come in for my blood work…they all seem to be about 5 feet tall and 100 lbs dripping wet….yeah, catch me like a lumberjack catches a falling oak tree!


The first thing I noticed about having diabetes and hunting was that I started to get cold a lot easier. I used to be one of those guys that just never got cold. No longer. On top of the getting cold, I now had the issues with being cold. Cold fingers and toes equates to circulation issues and that’s bad for diabetics. I had to re-evaluate all my hunting gear. Heavier boots with more insulation, warmer gloves and coats and pants well insulated for the temperatures I would be hunting. Have you ever priced out those quality pieces that can really keep you warm?...OUCH! talk about a pain! It’s taken a few years to really balance out the equipment I need from what I had. I’ve learned what really works and what does not and how to avoid getting cold from the get go. I’m always looking for new technology that will let me stay out longer and in colder weather.

The next thing I noticed is that while I was never surgeon class, my ability to stay steady was rapidly declining. Even when I was on the rifle team at college I was more of a movement shooter than one that tried strictly to hold still on a single point. Now I’m glad I’ve had the practice. Diabetes not only effects the circulation but that circulation is what keeps things like nerves and muscle control functioning. If I try to stand still and make a bulls eye shot, I might come close. If I just point and shoot or draw and release, then the chances are I’ll make the shot. I just can’t hold steady anymore and if my sugar gets too low I could get a job at a paint shop as a “mixer”. Add in the issues with the cold and you can see there is a lot of concern about ethical shots when I’m hunting in the cold. More practice so I don’t even think about the shot anymore. My Colorado mule deer was shot without trying to put the pin on a specific point. I had practiced enough that I knew where the pin would be. If you watch my video you can see my shakes and then the shot. Diabetes, my practice coach. Right through the heart.

Blood sugar levels can also effect your eyesight. I wear glasses now but if my sugar is off, my vision is off. Having your vision change during a hunt is always a challenge. In my next episode I’ll talk about some of the ways to help vision management as I discuss pre-hunt requirements and planning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Diabetes and Hunting; Episode 1

After talking to Mike, he told me that Chico and him were talking about my diabetes and how I should blog about it. Living with it for this long it’s kind of second nature for me to make sure I’m prepped and prepared for any of my outdoor activates. I guess that after those guys had to get the “prep” talk when we were at the ATA, it might have opened their eyes that Diabetes really is a life changer.

For this first episode, I’m going to give a little back ground on how I discovered that I was diabetic and some of the initial changes that I had to make in my life. Then we’ll chat about how that changes your hunting and out door activities.

I, like so many others, simply missed the first signs that my body was trying to tell me that something was wrong. All through my school years I was always a “bean pole” as my mom called me. At 15, I was 6’2” and 135 lbs… High winds just went right around me. Growing up with horses and hunting, I was always extremely active. During those teenage years I ate constantly and drank enormous amounts of pop and juice… never knowing I was showing the first signs of diabetes. When I got married I had finally made it up to 165 lbs, which still didn’t help my final height of 6”3” look any bigger than a cedar post with cloths on. My appetite was still voracious and I drank like a fish (what a ridiculous euphemism). It wasn’t until 1992 that I started to wonder about my health.

In 1992, with assistance from Mike, I decided to build my own house. After 8 months of using up vacation days at work and working late into the night, the house was done. However, during this whole exhausting process, I noticed that opposite of what you would think, my weight ballooned up! Huh? I never changed my eating habits, I was continuously exhausted (no time off work, working on house, new baby….yikes) but I put on over 45 lbs. Then, within months of completion, my weight dropped back down, losing all the weight I gained. Again, my eating habits never changed. I was still drinking constantly…and what goes in must come out…a HUGH sign of diabetes that I did not know about.

Over the next few years I constantly dealt with living with a bottle of pop in my hand and a restroom close by. Then there were the changes in attitude…I was moody and angry, I snapped at people and was overly aggressive. Another sign of diabetes I knew nothing about. Around about this time, my eye sight was getting off. I’d always had perfect vision so it was something that really concerned me. So, I went to the eye doctor for a full check up. Since I went to an Ophthalmologist instead of a general Optometrist, my exam was more medically oriented than corrective. During this check up, the doctor asked me if I’d had any blood work done lately. No?, then let’s just send you over to the lab and have it done, just because. Later that night I called the lab to find out what the results were and what the doctor was looking for. The lab tech sounded a bit concerned and was surprised I was home…. Huh? They instructed me to call my doctor, asap, after I got to the ER.!?! What had shown up on my blood work was a fasting glucose level of 333. Since a healthy person’s glucose level should be between 70 and 115, I was just a tad bit high…to say the least.

The nightmare begins:

Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit accident prone and I’m quite familiar with hospitals, quite. After hours of waiting and finding out that I was severely dehydrated (How? I drink constantly!) and after receiving 3 bags of saline solution to rehydrate me, I got the bad news;
Welcome to the world of diabetes.

I guess one positive thing was discovered… I did not have diabetic retinopathy. My eye’s were just getting bad naturally. So, I guess I should be thankful for getting a little bit “fuzzy”, it saved my life. I found out that the excessive drinking was my body’s way of trying to flush the over abundance of “sugars” out of my system…before my kidneys gave out. It explained the weight gain while I was building my house… I was so active that my body was starting to store more sugars as fat. Stress was shooting my sugar storage to whole new hights. Most diabetic discoverys of type II diabetes, is found in excessively over weight individuals. The first step in taking care of yourself is weight control. Some diabetics even stop being diabetic after they’ve lost the excess weight. My being so active all the time was what kept me alive. I had enough activity to keep burning those carbohydrates enough that it prevented me from going into a comma, for years.


After I was release from the hospital, I had a string of appointments already scheduled. First, with my primary care physician, then an endocrinologist, a dietician, and a diabetic specialist and training center. Let me note that I am very needle phobic. From all the blood testing done I’m surprised the floor didn’t jump up and hit me in the face….oh yea, I was laying down each time…. Whew. Anyways, from all the blood work done the “crew” of doctors decided to put me on a pill regimen. The dietician then opened my eyes on what was ok to eat and what was not. Imagine my surprise to find out bread of all things is really bad for diabetics… it’s full of carbohydrates. Those quarter pound cheese burgers and large fries……pull the buns and the fries and it’s closer to being ok to eat. The list of changes I had to make immediately is a long one.

For this episode, I just want to point out that something like diabetes can really sneak up on you if you let it. That’s the key, if you let it. Your body will tell you there’s a problem, we all need to learn how to listen. For diabetics, here’s a couple of warning signs that might indicate something is not quite right; mood swings, excessive thirst, excessive urination, vision problems, weight gain, injuries slow to heal and minor cuts and abrasions scaring easily. High blood sugars can cause you to be tired all the time or sleep a lot. Your fingers and/or toes tingle at times for no reason. Low sugars can cause you to shake and stumble. Get too high and you can go into a comma and your organs shut down. Get too low and you can go into a comma and your organs shut down….no, I’m not repeating myself. Think of blood sugars like cotton candy...what happens when cotton candy gets wet? That's kinda what happens when you have too much sugar in your blood stream....things clog up and circulation is destroyed.

Next episode – Changing my life and making a decision to live.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Benefits 4 Kids

Benefits 4 Kids

Saturday night several members of the UNJ team attended the 6th annual Winter Pig Roast fundraiser. This is the second time I’ve taken my family to this event and it will not be the last. Many folks are familiar with the Make-A-Wish foundation, the B4K foundation (a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization) focuses on the same type of support but while Make-A-Wish does not provide “Out door” type adventures, B4K does. It has granted the outdoor wishes of dozens of children with life threatening and/or life limiting illnesses since it’s creation in 1998.

The Annual Pig Roast it one of B4K’s biggest fundraising events and is usually sold out well in advance of the event. This years tickets were sold out in early December, shortly after they were announced.

While the Pig Roast is a great time for everyone with good food, door prizes, raffles and auctions, it is also a time to reflect on who the event is for…the kids. When you look at the list of kids you need to remember that these brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, grandchildren, these children, these growing young folks, are all part of this program because they face lives complicated by such things as sever burns, cystic fibrosis, tumors and Cancer (to name a few). They are sometimes restricted because they are unable to get around and even sometimes unable to survive without the support of a wheel chair and life support equipment. But they are people too and have the desire to experience activities we take for granted but B4K takes for a cause. We need to recognize these children and the struggles they face as they grow into young adults and eventually to adulthood.

We also need to recognize that sometimes they don’t even get that opportunity. Life.

The B4K event is also a time for tears. A time to remember and rejoice in the lives of those whom God has decided he has a need for by his side. For them to join him, in peace, without pain and for some, even to walk in his gardens once more. Saturday was an event that showed what B4K is really about. Dozens of supporters attending the event are the parents and family members of those children who lost their battles on earth, yet ascend to their “adventures” eternally. This event was even more so. I would guess that at least 30 attendees, if not more, were there for one child. His parents were there, his family was there, he was not. He had passed away on Monday. Monday! Six days before, yet his parents and family were there. If you would ask what a single adventure could mean to a child, ask this family. Ask all the families of these children. Sometimes, it means everything.

We can all help. Some by donating and giving to organizations like B4K, some by giving their time or their fields or boats, as guides, as mentors or just as friends.

Attend one of these events, you won’t walk out as the same person, only God could do that and he’d just look at you and say…. I told you so.

I know, He told me.