Discovering the Dragon
When I was seventeen months old, I almost died. My parents watched me weaken and wither away as I lost so much weight my diapers (soaked and saturated with urine) kept slipping off. They watched me collapse on the kitchen floor even after they had taken me to the doctor. “Just a cold,” the doctor had told them after perfunctorily checking my eyes, ears, nose, throat. “Just a bug going around. He’ll get better soon.”
But I didn’t get better. My parents searched medical manuals, looked up my symptoms—I was thirsty, so thirsty, always thirsty. I could barely walk. Vomit stains covered my shirts. Their search was in vain, though, as the medical textbooks told them nothing about the dragon growing inside me.
Finally, they took me back. Once again, the doctor said I’d be fine. Nothing wrong. Just a bug. And my father’s temper flared. Anger lit his eyes, searing the doctor who cowered in the face of my father’s rage. “Check him again!” my father demanded. “There is something wrong. He’s peeing a lot, drinking a lot, can barely move. Check him again.”
At last, the doctor suggested I pee in a cup for a urinalysis. He wanted me to go home and do it. My father said he’d take me to the bathroom there. Within minutes, I filled the cup, and the doctor had it analyzed. When he returned, he informed my parents that they needed to take me to the hospital right away. I might die if they didn’t. I might still die even if they did. My father told me about the thoughts that ran through his head. If anything happened to me, he said, he would’ve done something that would put him in jail. He would’ve blamed the doctor for being so stupid, for not recognizing the signals, just treating me like a paycheck—for not caring enough to consider my symptoms, analyze the signs, realize that I was a diabetic.
So the dragon nearly killed me. But for whatever reason, I survived. I had to stay in the intensive care unit for a while at the hospital, but eventually they stabilized me. Calmed the dragon enough to let me live. Thankfully, I remember none of it. None of the pain, the anxiety, the feeling of having your world turned upside down because of a diabetes diagnosis. My parents felt it, though. They felt the dragon’s hot fire. The intensity of watching their infant son nearly die because of it. And I can’t imagine what that must have been like for them. For everyone diagnosed later in life. For parents watching their children suffer because of the beast. For those who succumb to the dragon in battle, who fall prey to this disease.
But through it all, we must be warriors. We must fight this dragon every day to survive, to chase our dreams, to live “normal” lives, whatever “normal” means. My father always said that everyone in this life battles something, some demon or monster, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. We all have “something,” and so we are all “normal” as we carry our burdens and struggle with them each day. Because we don’t give up. We don’t give in. We never let the dragon win.