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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Summer of 1976 Not a Day at the Beach

I have always been the kind of person who is secure enough in myself that I don’t need the validation of others. I like good friends and good conversation but I can survive without it.

Well my sister wasn’t that kind of a person. To her it was important what others thought of her and to a lesser degree me. For her it was important that people not think of me as her geeky brother. She nagged me for months to go on the church beach trip with the youth group. 

The first Baptist Church in Iva youth group had a trip to Myrtle Beach every year. This particular year I would be able to go if I wanted to. I did not want to go because I enjoyed working at the store, mowing the grass, painting the houses and reading. 

I did not like the idea of riding a hot old bus that was prone to breaking down a lot during the 283.43  mile trip. 

Well, she kept on me and finally I decided that it might be fun to go. So one Sunday after church we loaded up the bus. Just before we left my father and Jim Alred looked over the bus and decided that it might be a good idea to go ahead and replace one of the radiator hoses. Well, after they got it replaced off we did go.

I started to notice that not long after using the restroom I had to go really bad again. The few times we stopped I made sure I used the rest room and that I used it again just before we got back on the bus. But we would not have gone a few miles when I would have to go again. 

When we got to the cabin that the church had rented I made a bee line for the bathroom. The whole time we were there I was on a quest for something to drink.

Beach water is always terrible. The water there was no different. There was a small motel next door to our cabin and I bought every drink out of that machine the first few days we were there. I did not see much of the beach. In fact I don’t remember if I ever actually walked on the beach.

One evening we went to the town of Calabash which is famous for its shrimp. The only thing I really remember is that I finally had some decent water to drink. I drank and drank gallons (literally) of that water.

There was a woman, we called her Ma Bannister , who was with us. She was a nurse. She told my sister when we got back to Iva that my parents should have me checked for diabetes. I was drinking all the Fanta drink they had and all the milk. I was drinking everything I could get my hands on.

At the time Iva was getting a new phone system. There was a problem with it. We could not call Iva from the beach. I really needed to get back home and I could not bear the thought of the long bus ride home. 

I kept asking different people if I could ride with them back in their car. Everyone said no. Finally the last night of the trip I could not sleep. I was in severe pain from head to toe. I can’t begin to describe it. Every muscle in by body cramped and every nerve I had was on fire. I sat in a rocking chair out on the front porch of the cabin and made my peace with God and begged Him to let me die. I wanted to kill myself because of the intense pain but did not have the strength to get out of the chair to do it.

The next morning I was still in pain. I ate breakfast and went outside on the top stairs and began to throw up everything I had eaten. The church leaders decided to take me to the emergency room before we headed back. At the Emergency Room they diagnosed me as being a diabetic. They gave me two shots with the strict orders that I be in a hospital within six hours. So, back on that hot broken down bus I went.

I don’t know where we stopped. All I remember is that we got off the bus as lunch time at a Hardees somewhere. If I recall correctly the Hardees had just been robbed. Someone helped me to the bathroom and then someone sat me in a booth and my sister brought me two soft drinks.  

The next thing I remember is my sister telling the whole leadership that no way in Hell were they going to put me back on that bus. She told them that she was calling me an ambulance and that she was going to take me to a hospital. She said if she had to fight everyone there she would. If she had to call the cops and charge them all with kidnapping she would. They decided to load me in the car. Ma Bannister tended to me and off we did go back to Iva.

When we got to Iva we pulled up in our yard and my mother put me directly into her car and took me to the Anderson Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. There a doctor told my mother that he could look at me but that it was probably just a virus and that she should take me home and feed me soup.

My mother took me home and tried to call Dr. Butler. The hospital had refused to call him because she told them I had not seen him before. Actually I was officially a patient of his because he tended to me when I was shot in the eye with a bb gun the year before. 

Finally she got Dr. Butler on the phone. He said yes he would meet us at his office. He met us there and I don’t know what kind of test he did but he told my mother that yes I was no doubt about it a diabetic.

He was really good at keeping things calm. He told her that he could call the ambulance but that she could probably get me there just as fast and that it would be less upsetting to me. Truth be known, I could not have cared less. I just wanted to die. He told her that he was going to put me in intensive care because they had better nurses there.

Well, we got to the hospital. We went into the emergency room and it was a completely different story. My mother told the guard I was to go to the intensive care unit. When the elevator stopped a crowd of nurses entered the elevator and they started I.V.’s  

One nurse said to the other, “We have got to get him to fight or we are going to lose this one.” They wheeled me into the intensive care unit and one nurse told the doctor this young man is in a coma. The doctor said, “keep talking to him. Tell him everything you are doing and keep telling him he is going to get better.”

I don’t have a clue how long I was in intensive care. I learned to tell time by watching the coffee pots. First shift used one, second shift used none and third shift used both. The nurses would come in and talk to me. They would also talk to each other and I began to learn that they did not think I could hear them. I was aware of every word.

One day, I was awake and they let me eat breakfast. I was told that they were going to let me sit up in a chair. They put me in a chair and tied me in it. I thought, “how stupid.” I asked the nurse to untie me and he did. I fell out of the chair. I could not get up. I did not have the strength to move.

Finally they moved me to a room on what was called Critical care. This is where they put people who they expect to die. They put me there because it was close to intensive care if I needed to get back.  

The nurses called me their baby. They said I could have anything I wanted in the way of food. I told them I wanted a Dud’s Cheeseburger. (Dud’s Burger Shake, later known as Dud’s Restaurant made the best cheeseburgers ever). They sent the dietician up and she wrote down exactly how I wanted my cheeseburger.  It wasn't the same. They even called Dud's to find out exactly how to cook it.

The preacher from the church came by to visit and then later some of the youth came by to see me.  I finally got moved to pediatrics. By that time I was feeling better and had almost learned how to walk again. Finally I got to where I could walk and talk like normal.

I had a hard time in the ninth grade because I was in a new school learning to cope with diabetes and trying to relearn everything. 

I started out telling about the song “Afternoon Delight because it amazed me. Here is a song about having sex in the afternoon and everyone in the youth group got T-Shirts and bathing suits with the words “Afternoon Delight” on them. No one in the youth group seemed to care that an entire Baptist Youth Group is singing about having great sex in the afternoon. I don’t think anyone was paying attention.

It is also because of that situation that I can’t stand to be anywhere without my own form of transportation.  If I go somewhere it has to be in our car. I can’t rely on anyone else.

The summer was almost over and it was time for band camp. It was decided that I should refrain from marching with the band and just play the trumpet since it was lighter. I finally switched back to tuba.

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