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Fellow Diabetic In Crisis!!

47 year old Bret Michaels, lead singer of the Rock band Poison and a type 1 diabetic, has suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage on April 22. On April 13th, Bret had underwent an appendectomy. Since his brain hemorrhage, Bret has suffered a side-effect called hyponatremia, a lack of sodium in blood, which could cause seizures. Bret is conscious and talking. His representatives note that he is still in ICU and will be taking it day by day as he's being tested and recovers. There is no actual confirmation that he will resume touring.

Bret Michaels was only six years old when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.Bret describes his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes at such a young age as a blessing in disguise because it has always been with him, accepted as part of life from the beginning. A very active child, he remembers feeling "really, really worn out," before his diagnosis, having a funny taste in his mouth and itchy skin, and being, of course, thirsty beyond belief.

His family attributed his symptoms to various temporary illnesses, so by the time he got to the hospital his sugar level was sky high and he was going into severe ketoacidosis. He remained in the hospital for three weeks, during which his parents helped him realize that "it's not going to be fun, but it's part of life now."

For the first few years of his life, Bret's parents gave him his single daily injection of slow-acting insulin in the morning. He was really thin and active, and he had more lows than highs. He went into insulin shock about four times when he was younger, once at the school cafeteria and once at home. That time, he almost bit his father's finger off while his dad, afraid that he was seizing, was trying to open his mouth.

At about age ten, Bret went to a diabetes camp, the optimistically named Camp Kno-Koma, where he met other diabetic children for the first time while learning to give himself shots and eat properly. He still feels strongly about the value of camp, and many of his fundraisers underwrite camp scholarships.

Bret's Current Regimen

Now Bret takes three injections a day, at breakfast, again at dinner, and then a little bit at night. In the morning he usually takes about six units of NPH; his dose of fast-acting Humalog depends on his blood sugar.

If he's at 78 mg/dl, he'll take about four units; if it's 220, he'll take eight or ten. His last A1c was around seven percent. "I know injections are a little old school," Bret comments, "but it's worked for me." He is moving toward getting a pump in the next year or two, but he isn't "cosmetically ready for the pump just yet."

Bret has two meters: he usually uses a FreeStyle Flash, but he also has an old LifeScan meter "the size of a brick" that he keeps with him all the time as a good luck talisman. He usually checks his blood glucose four to six times a day, but when he's on tour, he ups it to at least eight times a day. He doesn't want to dump sugar into his body thinking he needs it and then have a 350 blood sugar, but he also doesn't want to be on stage with a blood sugar of 42.

First thing in the morning, Bret eats a light breakfast of egg whites, wheat toast, and a little bit of peanut butter. Peanut butter is his " favorite food of all time. Man, I could eat a jar of it, and that's why I have to just keep it away from me."

He has a really light lunch, maybe a turkey sandwich without one of the bread slices. Sometime he just drinks a Boost or Glucerna for a pick-me-up at mid-day because "it gives a perfect balance of protein, carbs and fat, and it just gets me through without loading down on a whole lot of carbohydrates."

Bret takes a specially formulated packet of diabetes supplements every day, but he doesn't follow any particular formal diet. His main strategy is portion control: "Cut 'em back." He says, "The more carbs you pound in, the more your blood sugar's just going to rise. Your blood sugar goes high, you start to gain a lot of weight, and next thing you know, it's a lose, lose, lose situation that just spirals down."

Bret runs around a lot on stage, so he doesn't eat like to eat much before a concert and takes very little insulin before performing. The band has deliberately built two breaks into the show, a guitar solo and a drum solo, just so that Bret can go to the dressing room under the stage and check his blood sugar.

The stage is also stocked with water, orange juice, and Gatorade for Bret's use. "If I'm feeling good, I drink water; if I'm feeling a little low-Gatorade; and if I'm starting to feel real low, I go right for the orange juice, which bumps it up pretty quick."

Lows Happen

Just after his career took off, before he'd gotten his stage routine down, Bret had a severe low in, of all places, Madison Square Garden. It had always been his big dream to play there, and he was so nervous that he couldn't eat anything beforehand, though he'd already given himself his insulin. He walked out, made it through about six songs, and then collapsed onstage - that was the last thing he remembers until he woke up in the hospital.

Bret notes that one thing he's learned from having diabetes so long is how to control his emotions. He deliberately refuses to become scared and paranoid when he's having a low "because the more scared you get and the more your adrenaline pumps, the quicker your blood sugar's going low."

He does not have hypoglycemic unawareness - a low blood sugar will wake him up even when he is sleeping. He keeps glucose tablets by the bed because he knows that if he is at a certain level, four of them do the trick; if he's really in trouble, he takes eight. He finds tablets preferable to drinking orange juice or eating jelly because he can control how high up he's going; he doesn't want to overshoot the mark.

The Hazards of Touring

When Bret is touring, alcohol is pretty much a fixture of backstage life. He emphasizes, however, that he drinks moderately and accommodates his drinking to his diabetes. "If I start to feel like I'm getting a little bit drunk," he says, "I immediately let someone know around me, and I'm going to check my blood sugar right now. I want to know that my blood sugar's 160, not 25. If you're going to drink, you can't kid yourself and drink an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and pass out, because you can go into insulin shock and never know it."

"It's all about maintaining a balance," says Bret. "That's the weirdest thing for a rock star to say: 'balance.' But as a diabetic rock star, it's been about balance in my life. For every rose, there's a thorn: that's a song we have, and that's what it is. It's finding a sense of balance."

Exercise is Paramount

Bret works out every morning, even when touring. When everyone else in the band has been up until 4:00 in the morning and is sleeping in until twelve or one the next day, Bret's still up at nine or ten a.m. to carry out his usual regime of eating breakfast and working out. He might take a nap later in the afternoon, but "you have to find a way to make it work, and that's what it's all about."

The band carries around the components of a full gym in one of their tour trucks, and the equipment is set up in a room at every venue. Bret also takes his mountain bike with him on tour so he can bike around the ampitheaters: "There are tons of places to go ride; you just have to get the bike out and do it." He hauls his Harley along to tour around the various cities, and he has a dirt bike that he takes to the track when it's close enough to the concert site.

Bret confesses that he still goes out and plays basketball by himself, pretending to shoot balls to himself and acting like a kid. His philosophy about working out is "Don't over-think exercise. Just find something you like and do it. Jump on your mountain bike and go out for eight minutes. Because you know what happens - eight minutes into it, your endorphins kick in, and that's the best high you can get - you're ready to ride another hour."

Bret's Advice for Kids

Bret acknowledges that diabetes can become mentally depressing if you think too much about the potential complications or a lifetime of injections, especially for a youngster looking down the long road ahead. To them he says, "I use diabetes just as one more challenge in my life. You have to accept it because there is no other choice. You either do well with it or it will take over your life, and then it's not going to be so great."

Bret emphasizes that it isn't easy to keep everything under control all the time. He really wants to convey the understanding that the control comes with a lot of work. It's no easier for him than for anyone. In fact, what with all the travel, plane food, and general mayhem of his touring life, it could be even more difficult. He tells youngsters who come to his concerts, "Listen, I live a really tough lifestyle on the road, and I've managed to control it, so you can manage to control it."

He says, "I kind of do the tough love thing, and I tell them, you've just got to make it happen. When you're younger and you have diabetes, you might be able to get away with self-pity for a little while, but when you get into the adult world and everyone has their own set of problems to deal with, they're not as concerned about your problem anymore. And that's why I try to tell the kids to be self-reliant. You'd better start to prepare for this life."

To kids who reach the rebellious teenage years, Bret repeats the same admonition: "You've got to take care of it." He acknowledges that teenagers are "going to try drinking, they're going to try risky things because they've got to get it out of their system. But at the same time, at the back of your brain, you've got to take care of your diabetes." He explains, "As much as I was rebellious on my right hand, on the other hand I also had common sense enough to take care of my health. If you don't build in that safety factor to take care of your diabetes, the downside could be pretty horrific."

Bret attributes his safe passage through his rebellious years to the common sense attitude of his parents, who said, "You better make sure your buddies know what to do if you go into insulin shock. If you're going to go out there and not come home, and think you're going to party with your buddies, you'd better make sure you've got insulin and your stuff, because your friends are going to want to run around with girls. They're not going to care about your diabetes. You need to take care of yourself."

"Keep pulling your head out of the sand," says Bret, "and accept it. Once I had that safety net built in, I could go have a great time. I never had a lot to worry about, because I knew I had OJ in the car, I knew that I had my insulin with me and a couple of buddies around me who were good people. So I knew I could have a great time, and be rebellious. I'm still doing that, as a matter of fact, but at a different level."

Resource: http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2008/09/22/5244/bret-michaels-diabetic-lead-singer-of-/

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