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On almost dying.

Susan M - January 7, 2007

Sometimes, when I’m in a self-pitying mood, I start to think that death is following me around.

I’ve lost a lot of loved ones. All my grandparents are dead. My brother and sister both died when they were in their early 30′s, and I was in my early 20′s. My 2 year old nephew died when I was 10. My uncle died somewhere in there, too. A really good friend of mine passed away a few years ago.

So I think I’ve dealt with a little more death than the average person. That combined with the fact that I’m diabetic, and I’ve almost died a few times myself, makes me very aware of my own mortality. It’s weird having a disease where just eating can kill you. I’m insulin-dependent: if I don’t have insulin, I’ll die. If I take too much insulin, I can die.

I saw an interview with Sharon Stone a few years back, I think it was on Oprah. She was sharing a story about a brain aneurism that almost killed her. She said one thing she took away from that experience was that death is very near.

I knew exactly what she meant.

One time, years ago, I went into a diabetic coma. I was in the CCU (Critical Care Unit) for a day, then the ICU (Intensive Care) for a day or two, then a normal hospital room for a couple days. When I was in the CCU, I was in and out of consciousness. Every time I opened my eyes, someone else would be standing there. A nurse, to check my blood pressure, a lab guy, to draw my blood. My home teachers to give me a blessing.

A couple times, though, I felt someone next to me, and even caught a glimpse of what they looked like before opening my eyes, but when I turned and looked, no one was there. But I could feel them next to me. At the time, I wasn’t able to think about what that meant. It wasn’t until later, after I recovered, that I realized they must’ve been people on the other side, watching over me.

Last week, I came close to going into another diabetic coma. I started feeling ill at work, and when I checked my blood sugar, it was really high. I immediately went home to make sure I didn’t have any ketones in my urine, which is a sign I’m heading for DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), which if left unchecked can lead to a coma. I started thinking about the last time I’d been in DKA, and wondered if I’d end up in the hospital. If it happened again, would I be aware enough to actually speak to someone from the other side? What would I ask?

My first thought was, “Who are you?” Because I don’t know who they were, and that still bugs me.

What would you ask, in that situation?

The main thing I took away from my experiences of being close to death is that death is very near. You don’t change when you’re close to death. You’re still just you. And it’s not something dramatic or traumatic that is far off or far away. It’s something that is right next to you, all the time. It can happen at any moment.

But of course I just assumed that even if I did end up in the hospital, I’d live to tell about it again. Funny how even with the knowledge I have of how close death can be, I still automatically assume it won’t actually happen. I read a novel once (don’t remember what it was), where a character, when talking about death, says that life is indestructable. I like that.

It turned out I was producing ketones last week, and I was heading for DKA, but I managed to avoid it by bringing my blood sugar down and keeping it down. It was scary, because I didn’t know what had caused it—I hadn’t done anything differently than I normally do. When I woke up that morning, my blood sugar was 80, which is a good/normal level. A couple hours later, it was 423. (Normal is between 70 and 120.) But my stomach became upset the next night, and I realized I must’ve had some kind of stomach bug. A virus, particularly the flu, can send a diabetic’s blood sugar up and lead to DKA. (As can stress. Nice, right? What if I’m stressed about being diabetic? Ha.)

A friend of mine sent me an instant message the day after New Year’s telling me 2007 was going to be the best year ever. My 2007 has certainly had an interesting start. I think I’m going to carefully consider what would make this the best year ever, and aim for those things.


  1. That’s very moving, Susan. I hope your friend is right. It sounds like you deserve a great year in 2007.

    Comment by Dave — January 7, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  2. Susan,

    I always enjoy your posts, and this one is no exception. I’m so glad it turned out okay last week, that is scary!

    Comment by Jacob J — January 7, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  3. Susan, you’re so amazing. I’ve got some stuff to think about now…

    Comment by tracy m — January 14, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

  4. Thanks guys.

    Comment by Susan M — January 15, 2007 @ 9:22 am

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