Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On Vampires, the Apocalypse and Diabetes

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM

  • Insulin:diabetics::blood:vampires
This morning my blood sugar was over 300 (that's milligrams per deciliter), roughly three times higher than a healthy reading. I felt like shit: achy, tired, sad. As I sat on the edge of my bed, preparing to stick an alleviating needle into my stomach, I started thinking—of all things!—about the Daybreakers screening I'd caught the night before. (I'll have a review later in the week.)

Because us Type 1 diabetics are reliant on insulin injections for our prolonged survival, we do seem to parallel blood-sucking demons: watching vampires wither from blood withdrawal in Daybreakers reminded me of myself, during the months before a doctor had diagnosed my disease, as I suffered from insulin withdrawal and felt as lousy all day every day as I did this morning.

(I'm not the first to think up this parallel; there's a YA novel by Pete Hautman called Sweetblood, which the School Library Journal describes thusly: "Lucy Szabo [is] an insulin-dependent diabetic [who] has developed an interesting theory that links vampirism with diabetic ketoacidosis...With a new friend, she ventures into the world of tarot cards and goth, perhaps meeting a real vampire in the flesh, while allowing her diabetes to spiral out of control." Obviously, it's high on my to-read list.)

Daybreakers is set in a future in which vampires are the majority, humans are hunted and farmed for blood, and a blood-shortage leads to widespread withdrawal. (The allegorical implications will be explored in that promised review.) As corporations scramble to test artificial blood substitutes, the population turns sickly and feral.

Staring at my vial of insulin this morning, I worried about a similar future of insulin shortages. I worried about the apocalypse.

Once my diabetes had been properly diagnosed, and a medical regimen properly implemented, I almost immediately began to worry about The End of Times, which popular culture was encouraging me to do: the apocalypse was all the rage in popular entertainment about two years ago, when Time magazine ran an article called "Apocalypse New". Then, end-of-the-world obsessions seemed to die down. Until recently, anyway, when The Road film adaptation came out, along with 2012 and, soon, The Book of Eli. (Oh, and did you all read Helen Simpson's "Diary of an Interesting Year"? Bummer.)

I found out this isn't a unique phenomenon: I mentioned it to a woman who'd had a Cesarean, who nodded enthusiastically and said that after the procedure she too had begun to worry about the end of civilization, realizing for the first time how dependent on modern medicine her life had become.

I always imagined I could survive the dustscape motorcycle gangs—you know, keep to the back roads, sleep in ditches. But now the point is moot. Because after the pharmacies have been looted and the medical provisions stop coming in, I'm a goner. In fact, if I'd been born a 100 years earlier, I'd already be dead. Which feels like living on borrowed time. Which is disturbing. So much so that you start thinking about the apocalypse during your free time. A world without medicine becomes a world without you, because your survival no longer depends on you.

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