“254?!” I gawk at the glucometer, stunned that Tom’s blood sugar has soared to such heights when it has consistently remained below 125 for the last two weeks. Tom glances up at me with an amused look on his face, clearly entertained by my reaction — “It was probably that pork chop that did it.”
Now I am even more bewildered. I have known Tom for three years as a patient who takes his insulin regularly and responsibly. How could a pork chop that he ate last night still impact his blood sugar over eight hours later? My thoughts whirl around in my head as I shift my gaze from Tom, to the glucometer, back to Tom. Surely he doesn’t mean…
“Did you eat the pork chop for dinner last night, or… ” Before I can even finish my question, Tom proudly reports that he ate it on the walk over this morning.
“I cooked it for breakfast. In my own kitchen.” His familiar toothy smile that he has flashed since the day we met emerges, and suddenly I understand.
Throughout my first year working at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, I came to know Tom as a pleasant, soft-spoken individual who came in three times a week for his medications. He had lived down the street in the men’s shelter for more than two years, struggling to move his name up on the waitlist for supportive housing in the city. Every few weeks I would check in with him on how housing applications were going, and every few weeks I received the same response: “It’s taking a long time, but you know me — I’ll keep pushing.”
In an effort to reinforce this positive mindset, I centered our conversations around the future and how gratifying it would be to finally hold the keys to his well-deserved apartment. I once asked him what he most looked forward to about having a living space all to himself. “My own kitchen,” he responded. He proceeded to list all of the foods he was most enthusiastic about cooking one day. While I cannot specifically recall that list verbatim, I am somehow sure that pork chops were near the top.
Now, even as he sits in front of me with a blood sugar of 254, I no longer feel the urge to remind Tom why eating pork chops in the morning is irresponsible for his health. He already knows. Today, Tom chose to live out exactly what he had envisioned when independent housing was still a far-off concept. His small way of proclaiming “Hey look! I did it.” Just this once, 254 is looking perfect.
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