A frightened little girl slumped on a straight back chair in the exam room. Her parents and Doctor were talking in subdued voices across the hall. Straining to listen, Sissy pulled her legs up underneath herself so she wouldn’t scratch the angry sore on her calf. It had only been a little scrape a few days ago, now, it ached and oozed.
Stretching to see out the window onto the street below, she tried vainly to focus on anything but the urge to scratch her leg. Her head hurt and her tummy felt queasy. She smoothed the wrinkles on the front of her dress. A few months ago, this dress had fit snugly; now, it hung like an empty sack.
Sissy knew there was something wrong. All she wanted to do was sleep, she never felt like playing anymore and no matter how much she drank, she was still thirsty. Maybe she had growing pains; she’d heard somebody say that about a cranky child one day. Unable to sit still any longer, the adolescent quietly stood up and tip toed to the door; she could hear every word being said now.
The Doctor was saying something about blood sugar that was over 800 and talking about Diabetes, the hospital, special diets and injections. Sissy strained to hear what they were saying about injections. Weren’t injections shots? Was she going to have to have a shot?
The breeze whispered in the open window as she leaned against the wall and embraced the coolness; listening but not wanting to hear. Her Dad blew his nose. She knew it was him blowing because of that funny snort that always came at the end of a good nose blowing; it always made her laugh. She stifled a giggle, in spite of herself.
The phone was ringing on the nurse’s desk; a dog started barking outside the window. Why had all these noisy things waited to happen until now? Sis strained to listen, leaning as far out the exam room door as she could without falling on the floor in the hallway.
Now, her mother was crying. The Doctor looked up and Sissy knew he saw her, peeping around the door. He stood to his feet and nonchalantly walked across his office and shut the door. No reprimand, no facial recognition that he’d seen her, he just shut the door. The girl shuffled back over to the chair, sat down, pulled her legs up under her too loose skirt and squeezed her eyes tight shut.
She’d wake up in a minute, she knew she would. She’d wake up and her mom would be holding her and stroking her hair and saying it was ok, it was just a bad dream. She wouldn’t feel icky anymore and she wouldn’t be so tired and sleepy. By the time she counted to five, she knew she would wake up. “One. Two. Three.”
The door opened and her Daddy said, “C’mon sissy, we’re going to go see what the inside of City Hospital looks like.” Standing to her feet, Sissy realized it wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare. Was anybody going to tell her what was going on? Were they going to just take her to the big hospital to get a shot and then send her home? Her head hurt and she just wanted to sleep.
As the car pulled out of the gravel parking lot, the little girl pulled her skirt down over her leg and hummed Sunday School songs, trying not to think about the shot. Then, mustering all the fortitude a young girl can have, she bluntly asked, “Am I going to die?” Her Dad went to speak but his voice choked. He reached over and put his pipe in the ashtray on the dashboard before he spoke. “Everybody dies, honey.”
Mulling over the simple truth of that revelation, Sissy continued, “Am I sick?” Silence. Then, her Dad said something that would forever define her life. “Not if you don’t want to be. Sick isn’t a disease, it’s an attitude.”
Right then, the child resolved that she would never have a “sick” attitude and she would live to be old. She would live long enough to have grandchildren and false teeth. And she did and she wrote this.
In the US, there are 25.8 million persons affected by Diabetes. 18.8 million are diagnosed, an estimated 79 million people are pre-diabetic. Diabetes can be controlled; know the symptoms, choose not to be “sick”.
(word count 749: true story)
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