It’s Memorial Day, and in honor of those who have served our country, today we bring you the story of a Vietnam veteran from Indiana who’s living with his own unusual diabetes challenges. Randall Brown says he developed type 2 diabetes as a result of his time in Vietnam, and he’s devoted himself to helping other other PWD (people with diabetes) veterans who’ve served our country.
In addition, this three-day holiday weekend is known to many as “Race Day Weekend” when the Indianapolis 500 takes place. We’ve got a D-related update on that, too. Read on…
A Guest Post by Randall Brown
I’m now in my 45th year of living with type 2 diabetes, after getting it from the lethal chemical Agent Orange during the time I served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive between Dec. 1966 and Feb. 1968.
Like most (with type 2), I started with crude testing and a pill. This progressed to starting insulin shots, to eventually going on an insulin pump. Dr Steve Edelman (founder of Taking Control Of Your Diabetes) put me on the pump after I had two major car wrecks that led to my own injuries and my family being hurt.
Agent Orange has also decimated my body over time, leading to multiple tumors among other things. But I think that this was the worst my diabetes had gotten. My blood sugars were out of whack for many years, and I’m quite at risk for experiencing severe hypoglycemia, even though my blood sugars were in the 300s and my A1C was as high as 12%.
Though I lived in east-central Indiana, my doctors here referred me to “Dr. Steve” in 2006, to help get a better handle on my diabetes. I spend one or two days at the Indy VA, as well as the Marion VA, and a few times a year travel to San Diego to see Dr. Steve.
After getting gastric bypass surgery, my weight dropped significantly and that helped lower my blood sugar readings to the 120s, average.
I actually stopped pumping insulin completely and went off medications in the summer of 2011, and my A1C had gone down to 6.3%. But that didn’t stop me from testing my blood sugars and staying connected to my CGM.
Since September, I’ve been pumping glucagon through my pump because of my severe lows caused by so much insulin in my system. I use straight glucagon in my pump and change it every 3 days as it only lasts a short time. Dr. Steve also prescribed Diazoxide, which is an oral medication used to inhibit insulin secretion in the pancreas.
I know pumping glucagon is unusual, but it’s necessary for me because I was having lows dropping to 29, 39, 43 etc. at night. I am at .02 units of glucagon during the day, and 1.5 units overnight now. I was higher on doses but my dndo team at Indianapolis VA has adjusted this from time to time. I am using my Animas 2020.
I have had scopes done to see what is going on in my body, but for now glucagon is keeping me safe. Now thank goodness my DexCom is no longer going off all night — and thank goodness my wife was able to get me juice or GluCo Lift tablets to get me back up so I could function.
This was all a life-saving experience for me, and as I’ve heard it, I am one of a kind.
Having been around Dr. Steve, I attended a mini conference and learned so much the first time. I’ve now just recently attended my 28th TCOYD Conference.
Seeing all the Vietnam veterans with diabetes who were attending these TCOYD conferences, I got the idea to help spread the information about diabetes and help they could get at the VA. So this started Vietnam Veterans with Diabetes. To date, we have about 45 members.
We have a website these vets can go to and get diabetes information, VA info, and also many other links relating to their health and where they can find resources and support. Our mission is to inform and educate, as well as motivate, the Vietnam Veteran to take control of their diabetes. They can live a very productive life with this disease. We want them to take control along with education and their health care team at the VA or wherever.
I know from personal experience that they can be happy with diabetes if they just take control!
Sounds like you have done actually that, TCOYD, Randy! Thanks for the advocating your doing for fellow PWD veterans. So needed and appreciated!
Indy 500 Update
We also wanted to send a congratulatory shout-out to a couple of fellow type 1 PWDs who were at center stage this past weekend at the Indianapolis 500 race.
Not only did our community see PWD Charlie Kimball (diagnosed at age 26 in 2007) again race in the Indy 500 on Sunday, but 21-year-old rookie Conor Daly, who has been living with type 1 since his teen years, also made his debut run in the open-wheel race that’s one of the three most prestigious races in the world.
There was another type 1 on hand, too: rockstar legend Bret Michaels, who was playing with his band Poison at the event in Indy.
Mike attended the Indy 500 with a group of friends as he has for the past few years, and once again loved being able to know that both Charlie and Conor were safe with stable blood sugars as they sped by! He says the race was nail-biter at moments, with average speed for all the cars during the 200-lap race at 191 miles per hour! Charlie ended up finishing 9th (after starting in the 19th spot) while Conor finished 22nd (starting out 31st).
Congrats to Charlie and Conor both, who made it to this amazing race level in spite of diabetes!