As a Type 1 Diabetic, I am no stranger to a hospital room. When I was initially diagnosed at the age of 2 my blood glucose was 949. A reading over 125 is a sign of diabetes, meaning, I was close to comatose and possibly death. This experience was incredibly traumatic and thankfully my parents brought me for a second opinion because the first doctor sent me home.
For those of you unaware what diabetes is, it basically means my pancreas does not create insulin, which is necessary for regulating blood sugar (glucose). Without regulation, a diabetic can be life-threatening. Since it is an autoimmune disease, your immune system tends to be weaker and you are susceptible to other autoimmune diseases.
The most common hospitalization for me is related to food poising or some sort of viral gastroenteritis. When I cannot eat or drink anything it can be dangerous to inject insulin. Therefore, I need to be hospitalized in order to regulate my blood glucose level in a controlled setting and an IV can be used to raise my level.
Not including my initial hospitalizations for diabetes, I was admitted in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016, and 2018. The last hospitalization occurred on February 4, 2018, and lasted only 16 hours, whereas the previous ones ranged from 3–9 days. Each hospitalization has left me feeling defeated for a short period of time, but my mental fortitude rises exponentially after each hospital visit. Describing viral gastroenteritis would not be pleasant, therefore, I want to describe a few takeaways and experiences.
One of the few benefits of having type 1 diabetes is that you can often skip to the front of the line in the emergency room. This is based on the idea that anything involving diabetes is often more serious. My blood glucose level was 83, which is a good reading — want to be in the 80–120 range as much as possible — but my inability to eat was concerning. Within minutes I was in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm. The IV was to hydrate my body, nausea medicine to help with side effects, and some sugar in my IV to raise my glucose levels.
Around 9 PM I arrived in my emergency room bed. Things were getting slightly better but I still felt weak and was not able to drink or eat. Around 1 AM the head doctor came in and did an assessment. He left the decision of being admitting up to me. I stated that it is not ideal to spend the night, but based on the situation and previous experiences I prefer to be safe and stay the night. He proceeded to smile and said, “I love when a patient who understands their disease. Sure, let’s do it.”
Around 2:30 AM I was transferred to the hospital and prepared to spend the night. At 5:30 AM I was slightly woken up for blood work, and at 8 AM I was woken up to speak with the doctor and attempt to eat.
When you lay in a bed unable to drink, eat, or exert energy, all you have to do is watch TV, sleep, or enter into deep thought. My choice is always to reflect. Despite being in pain I often find a way to use this negative experience as a way to build mental fortitude and leave stronger than when I was last healthy.
There are four things I thought about while in the hospital: the meaning of pain, the feeling of strength and taking it for granted, how peaceful things are, and general views on life.
Without pain what is happiness? Nothing. We need pain in our lives to understand what it means to be happy. Our mind cannot always prevent pain, but it can change how we view it. Recently, I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and he had a lot to say about pain and pleasure. One instance is when he said:
Either pain affects the body (which is the body’s problem) or it affects the soul. But the soul can choose not to be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquility. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them (8.28).
Every day I have to inject 5 pen needles in my body to deliver insulin, as well as 2 finger pricks for blood, and weekly I insert a sensor to monitor my glucose. In theory, these interactions are painful. However, I see pain as something that will end soon and I can overcome, and a path that will lead me to happiness via being healthy.
Ultimately, pain is not ideal but it is essential for happiness. When we embark on a journey I am more grateful for the struggle and obstacles I overcame than the reward. Every single person struggles but the difference between those who succeed and those who do not is based on how they handle pain.
While I have been hospitalized countless times I feel that I still take strength for granted. I am able to breathe, exercise, heal, and walk. I do not know what I would be capable of if I lost these abilities. When leaving the hospital I vowed to start focusing more on my health because I need to improve the quality of my life.
Making excuses internally and allowing external factors to dictate your life is incredibly easy to do. Gaining strength and forming habits and routines is difficult. My mental strength is as strong as it has ever been, but my physical strength continues to plateau.
Last week at physical therapy — there for my hamstrings and lower back — I told myself I could do one of the stretches with ease. However, my body disagreed. I was in pain and unable to perform the exercise. Two days after leaving the hospital I started focusing more on my health and doing my daily stretches. My physical therapist stated that I am in the best physical condition since starting two months ago, whereas last week was one of the worst times.
The message here is that I refuse to keep making excuses and start taking actions on my health. I plan out my entire week yet I never seem to put aside time for my health. Now I will.
Whenever I seek peace I walk around the park, stroll to the beach, or go for a hike. Oddly enough, the hospital was serene for me. I was by myself other than a few check-ins by the medical team, and all I had were my thoughts.
In terms of work I put in somewhere between 60–80 hours per week — I love what I am doing. Being able to take a weekday off to relax was incredible. I did not check my email, think about what work needed to be done, I simply relaxed.
Even in the darkest of times, there can be positivity as long as you allow your mind to acknowledge its possible existence.
A lot of the things we complain about are not really problems. Being 5 minutes late to a meeting, having your coffee made slightly wrong, rain, or getting a bad grade in school. All of these issues can be resolved with ease.
The floor I was placed on was for patients who have had or will receive an organ transplant. My current state did not involve surgery, constantly blood transfusions, or breathing tubes. I was alive and functioning.
There will always be people better or worse off than you, which is why it is essential to not compare your life to others and be jealous. Comparisons are useful for being able to relate to other people via similar experiences, or putting your life into perspective.
One of the most frustrating things I hear people say is, “I will never be able to be like them.” It reminds me of how people view celebrities. They are people too. They have a job, they need money to survive, they have people they care about, they can get sick, or their life can change in an instant. Again, the difference is those viewed in the public eye were persistent, never gave up, and learned out to deal with pain.
Life is beautiful and you only get one, therefore, do everything you can to make it enjoyable. Live every day like it is your last and you will be happier and capable of more than you ever imagined.
The point of sharing this story is for those struggling to gain perspective and realize you are not alone. EveryoneAs a type 1 diabetic, my health has always been a concern. Since my diagnosis, I have been hospitalized over 7 times, with each visit spanning 3 to 9 days. Each experience is never easy but once I walk out of the hospital I feel strength. Every time I am knocked down, I stand up. Struggling is essential for learning and that is how I view each hospitalization. While it is a negative experience I always find the positives. Despite numerous hospitalizations, I have often kept my experiences private, but this time I have decided to share my recent visit. My hope is to give you a new perspective on what it means to struggle, as well as hope. Everyone struggle and it is crucial we support each other. has different problems and by talking to others and acting, we can all gain strength.
If you do not put your health first everything else becomes more difficult and your quality of life will decrease. If you put your health first, who can stop you?
Brendan is the Co-Founder and CEO of Shelfie Challenge, a sports fan engagement platform where fans complete challenges at live events and can win prizes. He is also the CTO of Helping Hearts of America, and sits on various startup advisory boards. He has a large area of interests, and, overall, loves helping others and working on social impact projects to build and empower communities around a common cause. Brendan holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship from Babson College.