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METAL JAM: The Story of a Diabetic by Teresa McLean

METAL JAM: The Story of a Diabetic

By Teresa McLean

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's

A young Englishwoman grapples with a singularly unstable type of diabetes. No ""uplifting"" saga of triumph over adversity this--McLean is as spirited and quirky as her condition is exasperating and erratic. She was about 21 and working at one of Mother Teresa's hostels in India when ""the beast"" (as she calls her condition) began to creep up on her. Knowing nothing about diabetes, she didn't realize that her excessive thirst, lassitude, weight loss and low resistance to infections were classic symptoms. But she was persuaded to return to England, where her high blood-sugar count was diagnosed as a side-effect of amoebic dysentery. She was near death when, on impulse, she walked into a hospital to find out why her ankles were swollen and why she felt so lousy. The doctor who clapped her into a bed told her she had ""the highest blood sugar I've ever seen.""Since then she has lived on a seesaw, constantly alternating between hyperglycaemia (too much blood sugar) and hypoglycaemia (too little). The latter, which can affect the brain, has been the greatest problem. It has produced partial or complete paralysis at times, convulsions, blackouts and bizarre behavior. She has come to in hospitals and strange towns, once stripped in front of her university class. She relates all this with rueful amusement. She also provides a brief history of diabetes and its treatment, a rundown of new and hopeful medical developments and an analysis of medical care and costs in various countries. (The care is free or near-free in most of Europe, seriously deficient in Third World nations and ""alarmingly expensive"" in the US and Canada.) McLean's an interesting, highly intelligent and iconoclastic person whose philosophy and life history, with or without diabetes, make for a rewarding read.