By the time John Barry Lawson was 5, he was giving himself insulin injections. The 39-year-old father of two was born with Type I juvenile onset diabetes.
He wasn't diagnosed until he was one and his lifelong struggle to maintain a healthy blood sugar level began.
Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism. It's characterized by a high blood sugar resulting from inadequate production or utilization of insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas.
John is a fragile diabetic. Even though he takes four shots of insulin a day and watches his diet, it's extremely difficult to control his glucose levels.
"My blood sugar bounced up and down more than the Harlem Globetrotters," John said.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the normal blood sugar range is 80-110 mg/dl.
Over the years John has experienced many of the complications associated with diabetes. Most serious were the chronic urinary tract and kidney infections which began causing life threatening kidney damage. John's only real chance to control the disease and stop the kidney deterioration is with a pancreas transplant.
John was placed on the transplant waiting list at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on March 1. Average waiting time is two years.
On Aug. 26, he thought he was getting the flu. Feeling achy, tired and nauseated, John started vomiting. Each time he vomited he thought it would be the last, so he waited to notify anyone throughout the day, assuming the illness would run its course in a relatively short time.
However, his condition persisted and worsened. Finally John called his father.
His dad got him to Regional Hospital at 1:30 a.m. By then John was in a diabetic coma with a blood sugar over 1300. His blood pressure was 53 over 36 with normal being about 120 over 80. And his potassium level was dangerously low.
The doctor told his dad that if he'd been 20 minutes later John would have died. He was hospitalized for seven days. Though he did recover, John sustained some mild heart damage as a result of the extremely low potassium level. His physician told him he would not survive another similar episode.
Because of the recent crisis, John's doctor got him placed on A-1 status at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. Once his records are received from Northwestern Memorial Hospital and his paper work is completed at IU, he will be at the top of the list and will get the next available pancreas.
"It was a very eye opening experience," John said of his recent diabetic crisis. "I'm hoping to get the surgery done as soon as possible. The sooner the better.
"I hope it works," he continued. "I want to see my kids grow up. When I wake up in the morning, I thank God because I get to see another day."