Meet Madison

September 14, 2010... a quick trip to the doctor. I should be back to school by 3rd period... or so I thought. 

Time stopped while my mind worked to piece together what the doctor was saying. “Yes, she definitely has it.” What did she mean? IT? 

The doctor continued cheerfully to my mother, “She will need to go to the hospital immediately. She should only be there for two days.” I held back helpless tears and let out a stutter.

“Wait, what is IT?” I asked. Denial is a dangerous thing; with all the symptoms present, I should have seen this coming.

“Diabetes!” The doctor replied with a cheerful optimism that didn’t seem appropriate. No, a diagnosis like this doesn’t happen to a person like me. Tears flooded my eyes and fell like my sinking heart. I was no longer normal. I am Madison, that diabetic girl.

Before that day, “wimp” was the word I’d have used to describe myself. I nearly fainted at the sight of blood and needles, and if something tragic happened, the best remedy was cranking up the music and crying. Very soon, I realized that Taylor Swift’s love songs can’t cure diabetes. That realization brought me to the quote by an anonymous author, “you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Ironic that this had already been one of my favorite quotes, and now it’s my new reality.

On the way to the Scottish Rite Children’s hospital, I pondered the idea that everything happens for a reason. Maybe God picked me. The tears stopped. Maybe I have a special purpose.

Within minutes of being admitted to the hospital, nurses were jabbing needles into my arms to draw blood and, to my displeasure, shoving an IV into the back of my hand. Nurses awkwardly rolled my bulky bed through the halls to my own room on the “diabetes floor.” Exhausted and only just beginning to relax, I heard a knock on the door. It was time for my first shot of insulin. Needles would become a way of life. I had no other choice but to meet them head on. 

Madison Smith “Can I give myself the shot?” I asked the friendly nurse, Lisa. Surprised, she handed me the syringe. “Pinch your skin. Go straight it...don’t jab it! Press the plunger, and count to ten. Withdraw the needle slowly.” Painless! Lisa beamed at me and explained that she had never seen a patient, much less a teenage girl, give herself a shot so soon after arriving.

“I’ve got this!” I whispered to myself reassuringly. Maybe I’m not a wimp.

That first night in the hospital, I was awakened several times by nurses who needed to check my vitals and blood sugar.. After my lousy sleep, we were directed to a classroom where new diabetics and their families would spend the next few days learning more than they ever wanted to know about being a diabetic. Including me, the class held a record high of five diabetics admitted in a single day. On the first day, the teacher asked each family to describe their feelings about diabetes with one word. Parents said scared and nervous. The parents of little Isabella, diagnosed at four, sobbed, “Why did this happen to her?! She’s only four.” My answer stood out among the sorrowful families.

“Inspired.” I said, “Maybe I got diabetes for a reason. Maybe I can encourage others with this disease and their families by living a normal, happy life.” My resolve helped me and my new friends through the rest of the week. That night, I passed the family of Sarah, a new diabetic from my class. Her mother told me that she was proud of my attitude and strength. She said, “You rock!” It was exactly what I needed to hear.

As anxious as I was to leave the hospital that kept me up all night and stabbed me with needles, I knew being there had changed me...for the better! I am now braver and stronger, with a better idea of who I am. Escaping diabetes isn’t a choice, so being strong is the only choice I have.