Joshua Halberg

Injected with Life

John I remember, in surprisingly great detail, the night when my world turned upside down and inside out. I was amusing myself with a computer game upstairs in my father's large, oak-paneled study. Actually, I was trying to get my mind, racing with tension and nervousness, off pressing matters. My mom and dad sat with friends downstairs on the big brown couch in the living room. As I crossed the finish line in my Ferrari F40, the telephone bleated its shrill note, and downstairs, I heard my dad answer it. Desperate to get my mind off the conversation taking place on the phone, I restarted the game and sped away in the Ferrari. A few minutes later, as I was rounding the last corner of the raceway, my dad walked in and said, "That was Dr. Johnson. The test results came back. He says it looks like diabetes." I crashed.

I had first started detecting symptoms of juvenile diabetes, or Type 1 diabetes, three months before that night. One day I realized I had been unusually thirsty, and had been using the restroom quite a bit. A few weeks later, I noticed I had been feeling extremely weak, especially during physical education classes. I was running the mile one day when I suddenly saw black spots all over the place. I felt as though I were going to pass out on the track. My fears were confirmed; something was dreadfully wrong.

Throughout the next four months, I ate and drank constantly, using the restroom every half hour, losing weight at a rate much faster than any person on a diet plan could ever have dreamed of, and every day getting weaker than the day before. Before I knew it, I was an abnormal, 85 pound, thirteen year-old kid with a huge appetite, a microscopic bladder, and a very sick body. I couldn't walk anywhere without getting extremely painful cramps in my feet. My muscles tensed up causing my toes to curl grotesquely. To make matters worse, I was on the varsity basketball team trying my hardest to impress the coach. But how could a skeleton like myself, who couldn't run the length of the court without wheezing and gasping, be an asset to a team? All the coaches, as well as my P.E. teacher, noticed something out the ordinary. They presented their thoughts to my parents, who also had some ideas of their own. Panic started setting in.

We were living in Pasadena, California, at the time. It so happened that my dad was leaving his job at NBC because the company was moving to New York. My family decided against moving with the company, and instead opted to move to Denver, where a job was already waiting. We traveled to Denver a couple of times in search of a house. Because of my rapidly escalating symptoms, each trip was a nightmare. On the way to Colorado, we stopped every half hour so I could eat or use the restroom. I didn't want to stop that often because that raised the suspicions of my parents; I waited until I was about to burst and then we would stop; a half hour later, we would repeat the process. My parents decided to have a check-up scheduled for me when we got back to Los Angeles. When we returned home, the doctors did some blood work on samples they had taken. They said they would call us in a few days, and tell us if the fears my family and I had shared for three months were real or not.

My mom had been diagnosed with diabetes when she was two years old. I used to watch her take her injections of insulin. I always had to close my eyes when she put the needle in, because I could not stand the thought of my mother inflicting that kind of pain on herself. The thought of actually doing the same thing to myself was more than I could bear. And yet, I was not stupid, and I knew the day was coming when I would have to endure it.

The only thing I knew about diabetes was that, "I couldn't have any sugar, or else I'd die." I heard that line from many people. Try telling that to a thirteen year-old, and watch how he reacts. I was really scared of the future and the trials that were ahead. When I looked at a medical encyclopedia to find out more about the disease, I mentally translated what I read to mean, "People with diabetes will never be the same. They can never have sugar or sweet things, or else they will die. They will have heart attacks, and their kidneys will fail. They will go blind with glaucoma, and their feet will become black and blue with gangrene. They will die without injections. Live with it." It was an extremely frightening time for me, and many nights I cried myself to sleep, distraught with fear. I hated needles, but I knew that daily injections were my only option.

The test results came back from the hospital, and the things I had hoped were not real were suddenly staring me directly in the face. After Dr. Johnson called, I spent the rest of the night crying with my parents and the friends who had come over.

I was hospitalized the following day and spent three days in the hospital learning about juvenile diabetes, the diet I was to follow, how to test my blood sugar, and how to administer injections. Speaking of injections, it took me 45 minutes to give myself my first shot.

I had a lot of time while I was in the hospital to think about the things that really matter. I realized that life was a gift and was not to ever be taken for granted. Life is wonderful, and it is only when you come close to experiencing death that you truly learn life's full meaning. I learned to appreciate my life, the things I had, and the people that loved me: my parents, my sister, my friends...they are all gifts from God. Not one day goes by when I am not grateful to God for letting me stick around for a while.

I grew up really fast with the diagnosis. I became more responsible, and learned I could take care of myself on my own. I am a lot better off than most people are. There are others in far worse situations than mine. The thought of daily injections pales in comparison to the thought of the pain caused by cancer.

I came to realize the needle I hated would give me life. I'm actually grateful to God for the injections I have to take twice every day. If someone had not had the ingenuity to come up with a method for the transfer of insulin from one body to the next, I would not be here writing this story. People ask me if it hurts to take shots twice a day. Injections always hurt, but the pain serves as a reminder of the alternative. Submission and surrender should never be options. When something bad happens, such as being diagnosed with diabetes, I consider it another challenge to take on and learn from as I continue to pursue God's will for my life. I still have unanswered questions--questions about why I was chosen to get diabetes. I will patiently wait for God and the future to reveal the answers to me in good time. I know there is a reason.

Joshua Halberg receives e-mail at

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Last Updated: Thu Aug 29 19:59:46 2002
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