Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Audrey Lake: Diabetic for (Almost) 50 Years

To donate to find a cure for all type-1 diabetics, click HERE!

I don't think anyone can ever say, "It's good to be a type-1 diabetic."  But if you ever need a model of how to manage the disease effectively, Audrey Lake is the lady you need to meet.

We all know how terrifying it can seem when you first hear someone you love has been diagnosed as a type-1 diabetic.  But if nothing else, keeping this blog reminds me that having a diabetic child doesn't mean the world is ending.

It's scary, of course, and you have to be careful; but it doesn't necessarily ruin your life.

Audrey Lake, a retired Loveland teacher, is proof of that.  Audrey has been dealing with type-1 diabetes for going on half a century.  Yep, you've got that right:  She was diagnosed back in 1962, when she was a 17-year-old senior at Greenway High School in Coleraine, Minnesota.  You can figure out how old she is, if you do the math, but I am too much of a gentleman.

Audrey is a type-1 diabetic--and then again, she isn't.  She has the disease.  That's true.  But she deals with life like she doesn't.  That is:  she doesn't let it define her, or sour her attitude towards life, or in any way hinder what she wants to do.  She started teaching at Loveland Junior High (later Loveland Middle School) in 1981, which is when I first met her.  At the time her son, Bill, was in my class and Audrey took over for another teacher who left the profession, and ended up with her own son in her English class.  One day, I stepped out in the hall, and there was Bill standing by his mother's classroom door.  He was a straight-A student, so I asked, "What are you doing out here, Bill?"

"Aww, my mom said I was disturbing class, and she threw me out," he admitted in an embarrassed fashion.

So the lesson was:  mom doesn't play favorites; and don't mess with Mrs. Lake.

What all of the rest of us on staff soon found out was what a remarkable lady Mrs. Lake was.  At lunch, sitting in the teachers' lounge, we watched Audery poke her finger with those old-fashioned lancets, the ones that looked like little aluminum spears, and marveled because she never complained and never ever stopped smiling.  She did admit recently that it was "very painful" to use those old lancets, several times every day.  But she wasn't complaining.  She was just making an observation.

Audrey doesn't look "tough" but she is and this helped her in dealing with diabetes.  She grew up one of eight children, and for a good part of her early days lived in crowded little homes, including one where the kids hugn sheets and bedspreads over wires to give themselves "privacy" in one big shared room.  But even when Audrey talks about tough times growing up years in northern Minnesota, she seems happy about life.  In fact, that's Audrey, diabetic, yes, but happy about life.  After graduating from high school she attended Itasca Junior College for two years and then went on to the University of Minnesota, where she earned her degree in education.  She is married and has two kids, Bill and Kim, also a great kid to have in class, and last time I heard, involved in nursing.

Audrey, of course, has been diabetic since the dark ages--when care was more taxing and life expectancy was often shortened by this disease.  The circumstances surrounding her diagnosis are intersting.  "We were going to have a chemistry test," she admitted recently, "and I wasn't really prepared.  One of my friends wasn't feeling well and she was going to leave school and go to the doctor, so I thought, maybe I'll just make something up and go along."  Audrey had been feeling tired, anyway, and when she talked to the nurse they decided to run some tests. Blood was drawn and the nurse came back and told Audrey her blood sugar was very high and they should send her to the hospital at once.  Audrey had to get back to school to catch a bus for the twenty mile ride home, so she was getting nervous, and they let her go, making her promise to return the next morning.

When she got home that afternoon her mom thought she was lying about where she had been; but soon realized Audrey wasn't joking, and the next day it was off to the hospital for a ten-day stay.  In those days, she remembers having to boil glass syringes and needles every day so she could give herself insulin shots.  Her blood sugar would go up and down, and it was much harder to keep good control; but Audrey never let it get her down, kept smiling, kept checking, four to six times a day, year after year.  Today, of course, she has seen tremendous progress in treating the disease.  She wears a pump now and doesn't let diabetes slow her down. 

"I can do almost anything anyone else can do," she says and for fifty years she has been proving just that.

If you're a parent, with a child recently diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, keep Audrey in mind.  She's not afraid--and never once let this medical problem dampen her mood.

If you see Audrey, look for her smile.

To donate to find a cure for all type-1 diabetics, click HERE!

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