Monday, July 27, 2009

What the Numbers Tell...

Although it's questionable to assert that I have much of a "left brain," [or at least that it is fully developed], I do understand the usefulness, precision, and economy of numerical data.

"It is what it is," is nowhere more applicable than in the world of measurement and calculation. As with any other data, numbers provide information; they efficiently express quantity, results, implications, and the like. When they refer to some part of human experience, they tell a tale...good, bad, indifferent...

But my number story today has to do with our son, Ben. Those of you who followed our family's odyssey this past winter on Ben's [BenHollidayRunner] know that for several weeks, the numbers that resulted from all manner of medical tests on Ben told a scary and (thankfully) unanticipated tale. There were numbers that revealed his body was being assaulted by a powerful bacterial infection (MSSA); numbers that told us his blood chemistry was dangerously abnormal; numbers that revealed his kidneys had shut down, and that his lungs could not properly oxygenate his blood due to bilateral pneumonia. Numbers that specified medication dosing; how much longer What needed to be infused When....and how many staples closed up the third knee surgery. There's more, but I am repressing most of that...(a tried-and-true, if not exactly optimal coping mechanism).

Last, and perhaps least welcome, because of it's long-range implications, was the number that told us Ben's blood glucose was far, far above normal...necessitating a second hospital admission this past January and the introduction to the "Uninvited Guest," diabetes mellitus 1 [DM1].

All of the foregoing did little (well, nothing!) to endear the realm of numbers to Your Faithful Correspondent. But, as with many stories, numbers can detail not only the onset of a crisis, but also its prayed-for resolution. The number of chapters in the story, and whether there is an epilogue or a Volume II, etc., are determined only by living through it all, day by day, and sometimes, hour by hour. [No "Cliff Notes," no turning to the back of the book.]

This status report focuses on some happier--in fact--conventionally inexplicable Ben Numbers.

When Ben was diagnosed with DM1 during the first week of January, it was the result of a home health visit that included some routine blood work; one of the blood levels numbers was not routine...a glucose reading of 590, almost 6x what was anticipated. When Ben was discharged from the hospital the second time, as a newly diagnosed diabetic freshly introduced to glucometers, lancets, and insulin pens, he was injecting somewhere between 30 and 40 units of Lantus insulin nightly, as well as day-time Humalog insulin to "cover" the carbs he ate for meals and snacks.

Since diagnosing Ben, his doctor has managed the diabetes by means of a 'sliding scale' to calculate the number of insulin units needed, based on his gluco-check numbers (rather than counting carbohydrates, etc.). To our surprise and delight, Ben has not required any Humalog injections since Feb. 1st. His daytime gluco-checks have stayed consistently within the normal range.

And as time goes by, his nighttime Lantus requirements have also diminished consistently. Now, six months on, Ben has been administering 3 to 4 units of insulin at bedtime. This does not count the occasional times when the insulin pen didn't make it out of the case at all. [A troublesome tangent intersects our story line here, having to do with 'memory failure' and some snippets of deliberate patient non-compliance, but that is a tale for another time.]

Selected data from the past several days' Number Storyline has continued to show a downward trend:

20 July Blood Glucose (BG): 79 Units Insulin: 5

21 July BG: 122 Units: 4

23 July BG: 92 Units: 3

25 July BG: 118 Units: 0

26 July BG: 103 Units: 2

For us, this number story is beguilingly happy. We don't understand it, but we're grateful for it. Perhaps the most-asked, and often frustratingly unanswerable question in life, as well as in medicine, is "Why?

I learn repeatedly that this is often not a question to "camp on." Acknowledgement, Acceptance, and Moving On will keep one busy enough.

And, I've noticed, that I don't mind not knowing Why nearly so much when the context is positive rather than negative...the old chestnut about 'not looking a gift horse in the mouth' comes to mind.

On the frosty January afternoon when the endocrinologist patiently and compassionately explained this new dimension of life to the three of us, we asked if this would be a lifelong condition. Asking anyone to project into the future steps past literal human ability, and the doctor freely acknowledged this; we were trying to regain our emotional bearings. But the real answers are the province of God.

"I can dream," the doctor smiled. "But for now, I must look at the numbers we have before us."

At Ben's regularly scheduled check-ups, the glucometer readings have been a source of interest and information, but not blatant consternation. What will tomorrow's gluco-checks tell? We'll know when we get there.

In the meantime, a dear friend mentioned some weeks ago that her husband, a logical, objective, and kind-hearted soul, saw no reason not to pray for Ben's diabetes to be completely healed, and so has been praying to that end for some time now. Whether you connect any dots between this work of prayer and the digital data Ben obtains depends on whether you choose to look through the lens of faith.

I choose to...and I also do my best to remember Who I'm talking to when I pray. Maintaining that focus helps keep me from assuming or demanding or whining. The 'story of the numbers' seems to reveal what He thinks about it.

1 comment:

  1. That has been my prayer as well --- full healing (but always with the idea that God is sovereign and knows best).

    I'll continue to pray. Great update!