Needles— Then, Now, and Forever

February 16th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I know we’ve all had moments we look at our syringe and think “do I really have to do this?!”  And shortly after asking the inevitable answer: yes: just do it.

We know that the shots don’t always hurt.  We know they don’t always bruise or bleed.  We know these things, but that doesn’t really change anything.  We know they won’t ever end, and that makes each one perhaps just a little bit gloomier. 

(To be fair, some days brushing my teeth feels just as gloomy.  I for some reason thought maintenance of my body was somehow going to happen without me working at it.)

Although I have been on a pump for sixteen years, I still need a needle to set up my catheter.  I still take shots when I’m high or when it is convenient to go without my pump for an hour or longer.  No matter how I slice it, insulin cannot be absorbed in my stomach so I need to get it subcutaneously.

I know that insulin injections have improved a thousand fold in the decades since they were first available as a treatment for type one diabetes.  I think of the reused needles and the boiled syringes and shudder at the thought of the laboratory at camp established to sterilize and sharpen the syringes in the 1930s through 1970s. 

I see the insulin pens and insulin ports and little teensy needles on syringes marked with half units and smaller dosages and know that I am very fortunate.  I marvel at what those who have gone before me and wonder what they would think of diabetes care now: I wonder if they would even recognize it!

I will say: I don’t appreciate hitting something when I stick the needle in.  I don’t appreciate the little divot that shows up in my thigh when I’m doing downward dog, made up of scar tissue caused by hundreds of shots in the same small area on my left thigh growing up.  I don’t appreciate the state of California making it illegal to throw away a syringe.  (Not that I have ever thrown a needle in a trash can; I use a clipper to cut off the needle or throw the entire syringe in a sharps.)  I really don’t appreciate hitting something and pulling out the syringe to a spurt of blood, although I do appreciate being able to show a very impressive dark bruise to my husband.

But, all in all, each of these complaints becomes so minor in the face of my other option. 

When I think of it that way, the needle gets a little shorter, a little sharper, and a little easier to manage.

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