THE STORY OF ONE FAMILY'S JOURNEY WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES AND CELIAC DISEASE.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bang -- The Beginner and The Pro.

PS - This isn't how you're supposed to hold a gun.  It was my first time.  You never forget your first!
22 caliber = Baby Steps.  I've graduated to a 9mm now.
I'm learning how to shoot a gun.

And...YES...I realize we have small children in the house.

There.

I said it.

Mr. Rose has been asking me for YEARS to go target shooting with him.  Guns are second nature to him.  He knows how they work, how to clean them, and how to respect them.  He knows the lingo, who makes what model, and all that other stuff.

I, on the hand, grew up with a father who carried a gun, but really wasn't ever exposed to it. The only gun stories I knew of were tragic.  Fear of what a gun is capable of kept me from ever being interested in learning more about them.

Now, mind you, this is the same man who keeps track of the number of hair dryers and curling irons that have met their demise during the course of our marriage.  He claims I "drop them all the time".  (Whatev.  He's exaggerating.)

And he wants me to take up a new hobby that includes handling a loaded weapon?

Seriously.

I dug my heels in the ground, insisted that having a gun in a house with children was dangerous, and squirmed every time he mentioned anything about "The Range".  This went on for YEARS.

Then, one day, he pointed out that we live in Arizona.  In case you didn't know, LOTS of people in Arizona carry guns.  This means that we have three daughters who will grow up around lots of people who carry guns.  They will visit friend's houses who keep guns in the house -- and I have no control how or where those guns are stored.  Furthermore, no punk kid with a weapon is going to show up here armed and dangerous to take one of these girls off for the evening...or maybe he will.  I don't know.  But I do know that if my girls are ever around a gun, they're going to know how to use it.  If they're hanging out at a pal's house and a gun enters the picture, they're going to know how to respond.

So...if I want my girls to learn a healthy respect for firearms, because they're growing up in a culture of guns, then I suppose I ought to get my act together first.

A few months ago, Tink started Kindergarten.  Which meant Mr. Rose, and I would be off on Fridays together. Alone. Regular ALONE time for the 1st time since we became parents.  We needed a mutual hobby...so...I relented, and decided to give the gun a chance.




I took a class...and will probably take another one.  Can't ever have too much of "the basics", ya know.  We've been to the range, both indoors and out -- during daylight and under lights at night.  I've shot a 22, a 9, and a 40.  I've learned how to "rack it" and focus on my front site.

 (See?!?!  I even have some lingo down pat! Thankyouverymuch.)

I'm not gonna lie.  Going to the range freaked me out at first.  How the heck do you trust that everyone around you is sane?  That no one is going to have a moment of psychosis and start shooting up the place?  Well, truth be told, I don't.  Thank goodness for hardcore range workers who take safety seriously.

Eventually, I relaxed a bit.  At one point, I was out there with a line of other shooters, and an instructor giving commands.  I needed 2 extra magazines and extra ammo...had my holster...my special belt...my "eyes and ears" on...so much STUFF!  I couldn't help but to wonder how this scene would play out if I also had an insulin pump, a meter, lancing device, glucose tabs...FYI -- You can't load a gun with test strips.

How would I focus on my site if my vision was blurry due to a high BG?  How scary would it be to experience a sudden drop in BG, only to be left in a confused state with a loaded weapon in hand?

See?  You thought this was just a post about guns, didn't you?

Diabetes works its way into everything.

I decided to search around to see if I could find a person with Type 1 Diabetes who is interested in shooting as a sport.  I Googled high and low, and eventually came across Mr. Robert McDaniel as a contestant on the 2012 American Airgunner challenge.

Photo courtesy of Robert McDaniel
He took the time to answer a few questions for me, and I'm excited to introduce him to you!  

How old were you when you were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes?  Would you mind sharing some of your diagnosis story?  How do you manage your diabetes?

In 2006, at the age of 40, I was feeling a little sick and just couldn't shake it. I had flu-like symptoms that just wouldn't go away.  I was athletic, and stubborn enough to ignore it and continue to work, play etc.  I was constantly dehydrated, constantly drinking fluids, and constantly going the bathroom. I went on a snowboarding trip and experienced some horrible muscle cramps. After my return home, I got very ill, and was sick in all sorts of ways that I can’t politely describe.  I ended up on my floor, unable to move, with horrible pain in my kidneys.  I had still been drinking fluids (lots of Gatorade!) but had stopped peeing...at that point I figured I must have had kidney stones, and thought I’d go see a Dr. if I still felt bad the next day. 

My girlfriend found me the next morning, with almost no motor skills and babbling incoherently. Then I woke up in ICU with people yelling at me to keep my eyes open...that I might fall into a coma...just like a TV medical drama.

My blood sugar was 883, I was in DKA, and my kidneys had shut down. Moral of the story: When you're sick, go to a doctor.

During my long hospital stay, my Dr. said that I lived only because I was young, healthy, and athletic.  I'm a non-smoker, I don’t drink, my BP was perfect, my heart rate was strong, my cholesterol was low...anything different, he said, and I wouldn’t have survived.  For a week they kept asking me if I had chest pains. Finally I asked if I was supposed to have chest pains. I was told that it would be rare to not have a cardiac issue at some point during this episode.

It was a year or more before I encountered any other diabetics that weren’t 'old and fat'.  Turns out, they were people I knew, but I just didn’t know they were diabetic.  One of the most helpful resources I found was the Team Type 1 bike racing team website.

Having acquired this later in life, I have to admit I'm not very knowledgeable.  Before diagnosis, I didn’t really know what type 1 diabetes was, and had no idea that an adult could get it. I thought it was something that older, obese people got.  I don’t think I was even aware of “juvenile diabetes”.  I was shocked and astounded to learn that there isn’t a cure.  I never thought I'd be giving myself shots every day for the rest of my life.  I am now dependent on 2 kinds of insulin; fast acting Novalog, and a slow acting 24 hour dose of Lantus.

When did you develop an interest in shooting, and how did you find your way into competitive airguns?

Shooting was something I had always done, off and on. I grew up in Arkansas - hunting and plinking.  After my dx, I was having trouble with rock climbing, bike racing, kayaking, and other super high energy sports.  One day, I was at a sales meeting in Idaho. During our down time we were shooting clay pigeons off the back porch of our host’s cabin.  I thought "I used to do this”.  I liked it, and I've always been good at it...as soon as I got home I checked into the local 'skeet/trap/sporting clays' club.

A few weeks later, I joined 2 local clubs (one a shotgun only club, and the other a full service venue). I liked sporting clays and then tried pistol matches. At first I could 'take it or leave it', but then I found I could hardly wait for the next weekend, the next match.

I sorta settled into 'practical pistol' matches (USPSA).  Now, I also shoot multi-gun, Steel Challenge, Pro-Am, IDPA, and anything else that pops up.

I was on the United States Shooting Academy Team for a couple of years.  Now I represent a local gunshop and ammo maker.  I've shot a bunch of 'major' matches, including 5 Nationals.  I also moderate a shooting website: www.boomershooter.com.


What diabetes supplies do you need to keep with you during competitions?  And what shooting gear?  Do you have a system to keep it all organized?

A meter and the associated stuff.  A small cooler with Novalog is usually in my truck...I'll take it along if I'm going to be away from the truck.  I use a Relion -  it’s cheap, uses the cheapest strips, small, and user friendly.  It seems to need the smallest sample size of any others I’ve tried, and the accuracy is similar to any other brand I've used.

Both sweet and non-sweet snacks are always handy. Almonds and other nuts are favorites of mine.  I really like 5th Element energy bars. They have a balanced carb/protein ratio. I do not get a spike when I eat them.  I usually nibble on snacks throughout a shooting match.  There’s plenty of down time, when it’s not your turn to test, eat, and adjust.

My range bag:  (for USPSA Production Division for instance)
·         CZ 75 SP01 Shadow 9mm
·         8 magazines and ammo
·         A 'double' belt with holster and mag pouches.
·         Eyes and ears, of course.
·         Towel, food, water, sometimes energy drinks (low carb Gatorade G2 or NUUN tablets)
·         Tool kit and spare parts.
·         USPSA Rulebook ;-)  I'm a rules nazi...errr, excuse me, Range Lawyer.
·         Shot timer
·         Bug spray and sunscreen in summer;  hand warmers and thermos in winter.
·         Any good range bag or pack will hold all this easily.

Have you ever struggled with your blood sugars during a match?

Yes, I've struggled with blood sugar during a match. It’s important to keep it as even as possible. Changing sugars will change your vision.

Last year, in the Area 4 Championship, it was brutally hot and dry. I couldn't stay hydrated enough. I was really hot. My heart was pounding and I just couldn't get 'calm'. I had a terrible match. At the end of the match my BG was waaay too high. I should have checked it sooner (as soon as I didn't feel 'right') 15 minutes after taking a shot, I felt perfect. Sunburned and dehydrated, but perfect.

I've never had a big issue with 'lows' but I have felt weak or rundown at the end of a long match. A quick snack will easily get me thru to lunch.

Maybe I should blame brain fade on my diabetes!

I'm told that adrenaline surges will release 'emergency' sugar into the blood. I've not really experienced this in a match. I'm pretty calm during matches, so it might be different for other people.  The matches that I shoot are just not that physically demanding. The effort only lasts a few seconds. It’s the long day standing around on the range that will tax you.

What did you have to do to make the American Airgunner show, and what was the experience like? Did you notice an impact on your blood sugars?  Is there an episode that talks about, or shows you dealing with your diabetes?  I'd love to share it with the Diabetes Online Community!

While I grew up shooting 'BB guns' in the garage, I hadn’t shot them in years before going on the TV show.  The main sponsor of the show is Umarex. They are an importer and distributor of airguns, and are located here in Ft Smith, AR.  Networking, friend of a friend type stuff, got me an invite to apply to be a contestant.

About the American Airgunner show:

Hmmm. You know the old saying 'If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything' ? Well I don’t have much to say.

Obviously, I'm vastly disappointed by not winning the show.

My position is that I was eliminated by a series of dirty tricks. Congrats to my opponents for not falling for these tricks and shame on me for getting caught out by them.

It may sound like a case of sour grapes, so be it.  The show was a negative experience for me. I wouldn’t do it again. I learned two major lessons:

1)      Don’t trust anybody in show business, and there is nothing real about reality TV.
2)      I'm done with airguns.

I don’t recall my diabetes being mentioned on the show.  (I'm still amazed that you found me via the show?)  We were out at the range 8+ hours a day for a week. It was very humid, and temps were in the high 90's.  The key was to stay hydrated, and avoid the tempting snacks on the catering table.

I did snack and test throughout the day. I had to ask catering to bring Diet Coke (1st day, every drink other than water was a high sugar soft drink, so I had water all day) My diabetes was never an issue...that’s how I like it.

_______________________ 

Here's a video of Robert in action! 




Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Robert!  And thanks for the tips to help me become a better shooter.  It has been a pleasure getting to know you! 

On a side note, Robert mentioned that he was interested in an insulin pump and CGM in a follow-up email.  I asked him what holds him back from trying one, and wanted to share his answer.  Keep in mind, this is Robert's opinion and experience, but I think it's worth sharing to demonstrate the universal financial impact of a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis:

What's holding you back from considering a pump/CGM?

Financially, diabetes has been devastating to me.  I was self-employed when I was diagnosed. I didn’t have health insurance...after the dx, I shopped hard for insurance...policies were just a little bit more than my mortgage...and they still  didn’t cover RX's for insulin, much less a pump.

Now, I'm employed in a salaried job at a small business, but it doesn’t provide insurance.  They've investigated getting a group plan, but so far it has all been waaay too expensive and so far no policies they've looked at will cover insulin rx's or a pump.

I've tried to apply for various aids from both public and private sources. I make too much to qualify for any assistance and not enough to pay for what I need.  The drug companies say I'm their dream customer...someone who has to pay full price, upfront, with no alternative. The Dr. Offices used to always give lots of samples, but that has all been cut out.  I currently spend just a little less on insulin/needles/test strips than I do on my mortgage. Obamacare looks like it will get even worse.


Here's to HOPE...CHEERS!!!!!!!


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While I'm happy to share our experiences with what works, and what doesn't work, for the management of Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease in our house, please do not mistake anything you read here for medical advice. Decisions regarding your/your child's health care should be made only with the assistance of your medical care team. Use any information from this blog at your own risk.