Standing eight count: Plot twist
“Until you settle into the right way to eat, exercise and the proper dosing of insulin, the blood sugar swings can take you on some wild rides.”
A “standing eight count” is an eight-second “time out” that a referee can afford a boxer who may find themselves in serious trouble. It’s a chance for the ref to assess if there’s any real damage and gives the fighter some time to catch their breath and continue to fight on. In that spirit, this column will feature law enforcement officers or their family members who have overcome serious challenges in their lives, detailing their own standing eight counts, and how they lived to fight on.
“I’d just been promoted to sergeant.”
Sitting on a park bench, we’re taking in the late afternoon October sun. A fit five-foot-ten, he wears a faded denim jacket over a navy-blue Notre Dame hoody.
“It was a crazy night, early August. I had the desk. Narcotics had just done a sweep and brought in a bunch of collars for processing. You know how it is; controlled chaos. During a break in the action, I took a minute and went over to the water cooler. After what I thought was one or two cups, I turned to see this rookie staring at me, wide-eyed. Before I could ask what was wrong, she asked me if I was feeling OK.”
Pausing to sip from a plastic water bottle, he holds it up to the sun and peers into it, a cylindrical crystal ball.
“Turns out I’d downed 10 cups in very quick succession. That was the first sign.”
A week later, he received the diagnosis.
“During my consultation, the doctor asked if I’d been under any unusual stress. I’m a hundred and fifty percent Irish, and that question sounded just a bit too Freudian to me; so of course, I said no. And the craziest part is, I didn’t think I was lying. Then the wise doctor took another tack and asked me what had been going on in my life.”
He chuckles to himself and shakes his head before continuing.
“I said ‘Well, doc, I was just promoted to sergeant and transferred to a very busy command. I’m studying for lieutenant, and my wife and I just bought a house. Also, my son started preschool last week, which is good timing because we’re expecting our second in two months.’”
We watch an elderly couple feeding ducks by the pond.
“Took a long time to get past the anger, the ‘Why me?’ stuff. I know I took it out on my wife, my boys. It got to where they knew better than me when my sugars were off, just by my behavior. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make that up to them. But until you settle into the right way to eat, exercise and the proper dosing of insulin, the blood sugar swings can take you on some wild rides. It truly sucks.”
A teacher leads a group of kindergartners by, shrieks of laughter filling the air.
“With Type 1 diabetes, there’s what’s called the ‘Honeymoon Phase’ that can occur after diagnosis, where most of the time your pancreas can produce enough insulin to keep sugars in line. Mine lasted almost a year.”
Standing and stretching, he asks, “You hungry?”
We pick a nearby spot and both order Caesar salads; with chicken for him, no croutons.
“By the second year, I’d settled into the routine; checking my sugar several times a day, the fast and slow insulin injections. Even years into it, I’d occasionally screw it up. I remember one time after I retired and was working in private investigations. I was meeting some colleagues for breakfast, so I gave myself a shot of the quick insulin to cover the meal I was about to consume. We became so engrossed in conversation that we didn’t order right away, and then the food took forever to arrive. Insulin’s job is to transport the sugar to the cells, and since there were no incoming carbs, my levels dropped like a rock. Suddenly I’m in a stupor, practically drooling. The guys I was with were all ex-cops, but they were a bit freaked. Only one guy was aware I was a diabetic, and he was trying to make me drink some juice. But that only compounds the problem, creates a huge swing in the sugar level.”
He chews a piece of chicken and sips a diet cola.
“It’s funny now, remembering the looks on their faces. It was a careless mistake, but a great lesson, because as with anything else, you can get cocky. ‘Hey, I can have another slice of pizza; I’ll just take a little more insulin!’ Doing that occasionally isn’t a big deal, but I was starting to make it a habit. Nowadays, I’ll only indulge once in a blue moon.”
I ask if he’d ever used an insulin pump. He responds by leaning to one side and pulling up his hoody to reveal a black plastic device roughly the size of a deck of cards. It looks very much like an early 90s beeper if beepers had thin, insulin-filled tubes sticking out of them.
“Wearing this after all the years of using hypodermics and vials was an education in itself. It’s attached to my body via a port on my hip that communicates via Bluetooth to a continuous glucose monitor on my leg. There’s an app on my phone where I can monitor everything, set alarms for parameters, and it automatically adjusts the amount of insulin. Compared to when I first was diagnosed seems like the Dark Ages.”
Remembering that diabetes patients are at greater risk from COVID-19, I ask how those first few months of the pandemic were for him.
“I’m not ashamed to say I was scared. I mean, at first, I was like most people, like ‘OK, let’s all take a breath here.’ Then it quickly became evident that diabetes was neck and neck with high blood pressure and obesity for the worst possible comorbidity. That and the fact that I was screeching up to 60 with both feet on the brakes; yeah, I was a bit concerned.”
The waiter starts clearing our mess and asks if we’d like any dessert, mentioning the cheesecake is their specialty.
Across the table, he’s checking something on his phone.
“Yeah, that sounds great, thanks,” he says. “And a cup of decaf, please.”
I tell the waiter to make it two.
I ask if he had been checking his blood sugar on the app.
“Nah,” he winks, a twinkle in his eye. “I was looking at the weather app; turns out there’s going to be a blue moon tonight!”