I Lost My Insurance, Stopped My Medication, and Had a Heart Attack

Tadeusz (Tod) Majka was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when he was 31. His father had type 2 diabetes and died of a stroke, so Majka watched what he ate and monitored his blood sugar. But then he lost his job and health insurance. He slipped back into poor eating habits, and he stopped taking his medication because it was too expensive. At 38, the tool-and-die maker from Endicott, N.Y., was rushed to the hospital with diabetes-related heart disease, requiring open-heart surgery. Just as he was getting back on his feet, Majka was diagnosed with the sight-robbing condition diabetic retinopathy.

Tod is slowly recovering after a serious health scare: 5 clogged arteries and open-heart surgery.
My father had type 2 diabetes. When I was 27 years old, he underwent surgery for blocked carotid arteries in his neck. He had a stroke a few days after the surgery and was in a vegetative state for a year and a half until he died.

After that I began to think that maybe I wasn't invincible; I made it a priority to get a physical every year. However, I wasn't really that worried. Even though I was 300 pounds and 5'11", I didn't consider my weight a problem because I was a competitive wrestler in high school. In my opinion I took good care of myself.

However, I knew I probably ate too much. Instead of one helping, I'd have at least two, sometimes more, and there were plenty of midnight snacks. My eating habits started when I was young. My mother was Italian, so most meals were enormous plates of pasta. If I didn't clean my plate, my father would yell at me.

My life went to hell
Then about eight years ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes too. I had put on about 40 pounds since getting married, but I was still shocked.

At first it wasn't too hard to watch what I ate and monitor my blood sugar. I started to slip a little when my first daughter was born and I became wrapped up in caring for her. And then we had a second daughter.

Then to be honest, my life went to hell. I lost my job and my health insurance. I got two jobs to make up the pay, but one was as a temp with no benefits, and the other was full-time but with bad insurance. There was so much stress from working two jobs and supporting two children that I didn't watch what I was putting in my body. My carbohydrate intake went up and I stopped watching my glucose levels.

The biggest difference, though, was the fact that I stopped taking my medication. I was taking Avandia, but I noticed some of the side effects involved heart failure, so I stopped taking it.

My doctor gave me free samples of the oral diabetes drug metformin, which were great, but that didn't last long. When I couldn't get any more free samples, I stopped taking the medication because it was too expensive.

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As told to: Mara Betsch
Last Updated: April 11, 2008

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