Complete Transcript: Gerald Bouchard

Gerald Bouchard – Cowlitz

Okay. I was born in a little town of Rainier, Washington and I was there before the doctor was, so I was born at home. I was born from a 7/8 Indian father and a white mother. And my mother later developed diabetes and I guess that is where I got it from. But I do understand that the Indian community is very prone to diabetes.  I have been given theories on why that is so. Ancestors didn’t have refined sugars in their  diets and lots of plants or vegetables you call them.

1:00  I didn’t have diabetes throughout my entire childhood or even through my young adulthood. I was fairly active when I was younger. I, of course, like most kids did lots of running, playing and jumping. And then as I got into the upper grades of school I was very active in athletics, so my sugars didn’t show up then because my weight stayed down around 160, 180 maybe 190 pounds at the most. I maintained my metabolism pretty well.

01:43  I went into the Army. I weighed 170 pound when I went in and I weighted 170 pound when I got out. And of course I had physicals in the Army and nothing showed up as far as the diabetes was concerned. And I maintained a weight of around until 200 pounds until 1977.

02:06  And in April 1977 I was injured on the job and consequently I became very sedate, and when I became sedate, when I wasn’t inactive anymore. I wasn’t doing the things I used to do, the fishing and the hunting, and the working hard, I started to gain weight. And I continued to gain weight until about 1985.

02:33  In 1985, my appendix was ruptured, and I was hospitalized while they did an appendectomy and took my appendix out.

02:43  During the blood work at that hospital where I had my appendix out, they discovered that  I had some high blood sugars. So the doctor brought me into his office. And at first they controlled my blood sugars with pills. Now one of the things I struggled with at that time, and I continue to struggle with today today is my diet. And of course they put me on a real rigid diet.

03:15  They wanted me to take some weight off. I had bloomed up to around 300 pounds at that time and consequently my blood sugars were pretty high. The pills eventually didn’t work and they put me on insulin. I became insulin dependent.

03:38  While I was first taking the pills, one of the problems I had, especially with the rigid diet the doctor put me on, I would pass out from the low blood sugars from time to time. And of course that was a real struggle and I think in a way it made me a little bit afraid to not eat. And so I continued over eating and I continued having bad blood sugars for a long time.

04:03   The resolution I finally came to when I was, even when I was put on the insulin is that I had diabetes and my life was going to be shortened and there was nothing I could do about, so I continued to abuse my diet. And at one time, the most I weighed was 317 pounds and then I went back on the diet.

04:27  When I got back down to about 245 pounds, my blood sugars went normal and I no longer had to take the medication for it. I got down to 212 pounds, and my blood sugar was absolutely normal. I didn’t take any pills. I didn’t take any medication. I didn’t have to be real careful with my diet.

04:47  And one more time, I became sedate and I got a desk job and I quit hunting and I quit fishing and doing those activities that burned up energy. Consequently my blood sugar came up again I now weight 285 pounds and I have a lot of problems with blood sugars.

04:16  I was originally put on insulin. And I forget the year but I have been on insulin now for about 7 years. I struggle with the insulin because it does such a good job of controlling my blood sugar that I have to be careful especially with my diet, and I have to make sure I eat properly in order to maintain good blood sugars, even with the insulin.

05:50  Part of the problem I have and I don’t know if that is common with diabetics or not, but I have a sweet tooth. And consequently when I come to holidays, I tend to binge on sweets and of course that makes my blood sugar haywire. And that means I have to increase my insulin or increase my activities. Now I found out that if I walk at least a mile a day coupled with the insulin, that is enough exercise for me to maintain my blood sugars.

06:22 Now there is another oddity that happens to me and that is when I do Indian ceremony, my blood sugars go down. And I don’t quite understand why that is so, but I have to be very careful especially in sweat ceremonies that I don’t take insulin before hand because if I do, I will get hypoglycemic. And when I get hypoglycemic, I get sick in the sweat lodge and I have to leave it and go get some sugar in my system.

06:49 The other thing that happens is I went to sun dance and I was allowed to dance. In fact, I was encouraged to dance and when I dance, then my blood sugars goes back to normal again. So the activity definitely has a bearing on my blood sugars, and the walking shows that as long as I am fairly physically active, when I was dancing at sun dance, I think I was able to skip many doses of insulin. In fact, one night, I decided that I needed to take insulin, my blood sugar was up just a little bit, and I took just a small minimal dose and I got hypoglycemic at night, so it shows that when I am in ceremony, for some reason, my blood sugars stay pretty close to normal.

07:35  At the present time, this is a holiday, Thanksgiving holiday, and as usual I don’t pass up the pies and I don’t pass up the candies (chuckles) and today I haven’t even measured my blood sugar because I know that it is not very good, but I also know that if I can stay active for a few days and get back on my insulin regiment and get a little exercise, that my blood sugars will come back normal again.

08:09  It is a struggle. I wish I could say that I control the diabetes, but I don’t. The diabetes controls me. The diabetes dictates when I am going to eat, how often I am going to eat. It dictates how much medicine I am going to take for it. It dictates just about every aspect of my life.

08:34  And I know that if I don’t listen to the instructions I have been given to treat the diabetes, it will go out of control. And that is an example. Today I have been afraid to take my Last night when I came home and went to bed, it was 378 and normal is 80 to120. So I took extra insulin last night in order to get that sugar back down.

09:05 Now diabetes has been explained to me is like a hotel hallway (coughs) a hotel hallway full of people and all the doors and all the rooms are locked. So the people can’t get out of the hallway. And what the insulin does is unlock those doors so that the people can get out. And what the insulin does is it allows my body to use the sugar for the energy it needs.

09:40  One of the things that I struggle with is the low energy. I don’t feel like doing anything. And that’s because my body is not using the sugar the way it is supposed to. When I am active, and my body can use the sugar, and I take my medication like I am supposed to, then I have lots of energy and I can do lots of things.

09:57  I can be very active. I do landscaping in the yard. I do the floors. My wife and I, I picked out the colors for our carpet and the deal was that since it was a light color, that it would have to be vacuumed. And my wife doesn’t run a vacuum cleaner so I agreed that I would vacuum the floors and that is a lot of activity to me to vacuum the floors and it helps to control my diabetes also. So I have housework that I do. I am the major carrier of the garbage up and down the steps. And I don’t try to minimize trips up and down the steps. I go up and down the stairs to the basement for lots of projects that my wife and I do. I go up and down the stairs whenever I can because that keeps me active, and it gives me a little exercise. It is good exercise for me. Now, I don’t know how many men vacuum floors, but I do.

11:09  I work in the yard. I used to have a garden, but I have a hard time getting down and I also had... When I got injured in 1977, it was a back injury, and I have had two back surgeries since that time, and of course, when my activity is limited, my blood sugars go high.

11:36  I have a sweet tooth and I binge on sweets from time to time and of course, that makes my blood sugar go high. Most of the time, I can stay in fairly good control of the diabetes, fairly good control of the sugar levels. But then there are a lot of times that I just can’t do that. I struggle to maintain a seven day average of blood sugars of around 150 and when I do that, I feel pretty good and I have lots of energy. If I don’t do that, then I get real lethargic, I get real lazy, I don’t feel like doing anything and all I do is sit around and play on the computer.

12:27  Now that is just about my story of my diabetes. It is with the ceremony and the activities, and the medication that  I manage to maintain fairly good control of my blood sugars. And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. You don’t have to put that in.

12:50 That is good. I think that is my story of my diabetes. It is just a struggle to maintain the blood sugars. You know I’m 67 and I’ll be 68 in December and it is hard to be active because of my age for one thing. I’ve reached an age where I feel like I’m old enough to sit around and enjoy life, but with the diabetes, I can’t do it. With the diabetes, I feel like I have to be active. And I am lazy and sitting around is easy for me to do.

13:48 Oh yes, my eyes. There is one of the things that happens to me when I get hypoglycemic, when my blood sugars go too low, is I get real shaky, real trembly. I get real perspiring, start perspiring just like mad. Sweat will just run off of me.

14:12  And I go blind. I can’t see anything. There is a yellow spot that comes in my eyes and I can’t see around, and that is real scary when that happens. And that usually happens when my blood sugars get below 60. Yeah, my vision has also changed.

14:30. In fact, I went down to the doctors office to get my eyes checked one time and they wouldn’t check them because my blood sugar was over 200. And they won’t check my eyes if my blood sugar is over 200.

Yes it has affected my vision. The blindness is temporary, but they say my the diabetes is going to take a toll on my vision. They also give me medication to control my kidneys. The diabetes takes control or damages the kidneys. They have me on aspirin medication to control the clotting factors in my blood so I don’t have a heart attack.

15:38 Well, there is really not much to say about the kidneys. They told me that because of the diabetes, my kidneys are at high risk. So they put me on a medication that does two things. It controls my blood pressure and also protects the kidneys.

16:09 No, the only problem I have with my kidneys is if I take too much milk, I get kidney stones. But even then, I am fairly lucky. I have a fairly high pain so it is uncomfortable when I pass kidney stones.

16:38 It is more than just the heart health. Diabetes I understand are at extreme risk for heart problems. I recently learned that diabetics don’t always have the same symptoms that non-diabetics do, so I got to feeling pretty bad. I have a daughter in law that is a registered nurse and she convinced the family that I was going to have a heart attack and I was probably having a heart attack and because the diabetic doesn’t experience the same symptoms that I didn’t know I was having a heart attack, so the family convinced me that I was having a heart attack. So I went to the hospital. When I got to the hospital, they did a EKG on me and they found out there was nothing wrong with my heart. It was absolutely normal.

17:40  They also did a heart profusion test and I don’t know the drug that they used, but they took x-rays in my heart and they could find no damage in my heart. There was nothing wrong with the heart. So I am very fortunate that right now, at least right now is not it has not damaged my heart.

18:20 The other risk for me I understand, is my liver. And again, I take medication that helps to protect the liver and the high blood pressure medication.

18:46 Well, I have some background on the liver and I am also an alcoholic and at one time I was diagnosed with serosis of the liver, but fortunately, the liver is an organ that can regenerate itself. And the recent tests on my liver show that I am no longer syrosis of the liver. The syrosis is scars on the liver and they can’t detect any scars on the liver. Practically speaking, for a 68 year old man, I am pretty healthy.

(He was sucking a cough drop from 18:20 to 19:50)

I worked as an alcohol drug counselor for about 13 years and during that time, I get a scratching thing in my throat and in order to resolve that, I take mentholated cough drops. At one time I was diagnosed with an addiction to menthol because I use so many cough drops. Chuckle.

20:33 I don’t know, I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes until about 4 years after I stopped drinking. So I don’t know what effect alcohol had on diabetes. I got onset diabetes which usually means that people are overweight. There are not too many people that are not overweight that develop diabetes during their adulthood. In fact in all the articles I am reading, they are starting to find diabetes in kids that are overweight and they call it adult onset because they are overweight. I read one of your transcripts and there was a woman that talked about gestational diabetes, and of course with G.D., the woman has put on some weight. So even then diabetes is triggered by weight gain, especially when they are diagnosed with morbid obesity like I am because of the weight gain that I am. I guess you could say I am a pregnant man. Because I have the diabetes and I am so big.

22:22 There are... The main exercise that I use is walking. I have a little... We live on a hill, near the top of a hill and the road we live on goes back down around, back to the highway. So it is just a loop, so my walking is I go to the top of the hill and I walk down the other side, and then I walk all the way around, and then I come back up to our house. And that is quite a walk because I walk uphill as much as I walk down hill. So that is the main exercise I get.

22:58  But I also do some exercises. I seen it on television where they had these rubber band things. And I bought of those and I can sit in my easy chair and do exercises with the rubber band. I do arm lifts and leg stretches and whatnot and it is exercise. One of the transcripts talked about chair exercises and I guess that is kind of what that is.

23:36  Most of my exercise comes from working in the yard, from wheelbarrowing dirt, and digging holes and carrying various pieces of concrete around for my (clears throat) wife’s Japanese garden, planting trees and shrubs and making a pond. She has to have a pond in her yard, so I made a pond in the Japanese garden. We are going to make a creek in it.

23:57 There are just all kinds of things that we can do outside that are activity. The main thing I try to do with my exercise is to try to work up a sweat. If I can work up a sweat and get to breathing fairly hard, then I know that my exercise is being effective.


24:32 When I first got diagnosed with diabetes, one of the problems I had is I just gave up on life. And when I gave up on life, I reconciled myself that I was going to die because of the diabetes (hot level) and therefore, it wasn’t worth fighting for.

24:56  Now what I found out, and this is the important thing, is because I have diabetes doesn’t mean it is the end of my life. Now I engage in those activities that are fun activities. Yet I know they are healthier alternatives than to just sit around and let the diabetes take its toll.

25:15  I want to live. And what I had to learn to do is not be, I don’t know what the word is for it. I just didn’t want to sit and die anymore. And that was the easy thing was to just give up and let diabetes do its thing.

25:35  Sometimes it is a hard struggle to do that, to be active, to be proactive with the diabetes instead of just accepting that it is just... One of the things I had to learn that yes, diabetes is going to shorten my life. But it doesn’t have to shorten it today.  25:55 Is that what you wanted? Are we done. Good, I can put my cough drop back in my mouth then.

26:22 End recording