In February 1967, 13-year-old Carol L. (Morgan) McKinney was immediately taken to MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Emergency Department after she was unconscious. After a medical evaluation, the issue was clear: hyperglycemic ketoacidosis — a diabetes complication created when your body producers high amounts of blood acids. Carol was then diagnosed with diabetes.
“My parents were frightened,” says Carol. “They were sure I was going to die. There was very little information about diabetes at that time.”
While diabetes awareness was scarce, Long Beach Medical Center still offered a treatment program for Carol, which included a diabetic diet of 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day, exercise, insulin injections and urinal testing for residual sugar. “I took the diagnosis in stride and took control of my care,” says Carol.
By high school, Carol learned that diabetes could affect other facets of her health. She developed chronic bronchitis, fell asleep in class often and became depressed. Still, Carol did her best to cope with her diabetes management. She stayed active in school sports and clubs. “It was hard to control diabetes then without having the information and tools we have today,” says Carol.
In 1978, Carol became pregnant. During this time, she developed bilateral, hemorrhagic diabetes retinopathy, becoming legally blind. This occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, affecting vision according to severity. While seeing retina specialists at Long Beach Medical Center, she was also seeing a high-risk pregnancy physician. Carol’s eye condition has improved, but she is still partially blind today.
“My husband and I were so afraid that I or the baby, or both of us, would die,” says Carol. “Diabetes and pregnancy was (and still is), a dangerous combination.” However, after a Cesarean section, Carol and baby survived.
At a scary time like this, Carol felt supported by Long Beach Medical Center and her faith. “With the new advancement in diabetes control, a glucose meter, and various routine tests, my baby and I stayed healthy. Our faith got us through this anxious time,” says Carol.
Today, Carol is still being treated at Long Beach Medical Center in an individualized diabetes program. The Diabetes Program features a care team that tackles different facets of diabetes including diet, exercise, education and more. She currently uses a glucose meter and insulin pump in addition to using exercise and medication. She routinely sees her care team, which consists of a dedicated endocrinologist, Jennifer Hsieh, D.O., amongst other specialists.
“Long Beach Medical Center doctors, nurses and staff have saved my life more than once, through ketoacidosis comas, pregnancy, cardiac stents, fracture repairs, shoulder arthroscopy, hand surgeries and through a plethora of eye surgeries,” says Carol.
With help from her doctor, Carol is tracking her diabetes with the newest advancements. “These advancements have made life with diabetes much easier.”
Carol also emphasizes the importance of having a balance between work and rest, too. “Hobbies allow me to be creative and enjoy a productive senior-citizen life. I’m an artist, author and quilter,” says Carol.
Carol also wrote a book about her life with diabetes, blindness and other disabilities, Tragedy to Triumph.
Having lived with Diabetes Type I for more than 50 years, Carol knows what is important when living with this disease. “Every person with diabetes needs to educate themselves about diabetes and take control of their care,” says Carol. “Be strict with your diet, exercise, medication and stress regimen. See your doctors routinely and take heed to their advice. If you make healthy life choices you will enjoy a more productive and satisfying life.”