Thursday, February 7, 2008


In my memories of school, no class stands out more than Algebra. Which is interesting, since I hated math. Moreover, Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 were most certainly top contenders for my two lowest grades ever. (This may be genetic, I recall Dan struggling through Algebra, too) Despite my longstanding inability to get along with math, though, the class seems somehow branded in my memory. The stress of not understanding, and not caring to understand, any of the concepts presented is one I can conjure almost instantly.

I know that what got me to school was band (no surprise there), but I don't recall more than 10 cumulative minutes of rehearsal. I don't remember our routines, the songs we played, what the band room looked like, or even many of the people who would have been there. I know I liked band - loved it even - but that is about as far as my memory stretches.

I do remember sitting in Algebra class, though, with Mr. Kazowka. I remember sweating as he checked homework since mine was incomplete, for sure. I remember watching the clock until class ended. I remember sitting on my bed trying to complete 15 late homework assignments (is it possible to become Type A in your 20's?? I never would skip my homework now!!).

When I went to UMASS, I marveled at my luck for passing out of the first level of required math. Even luckier, I managed to find a logic class (read - word problems with NO numbers involved) that counted for the level two requirement.

What does all this matter? Nothing, until now. Math seems to be one of the cornerstones of diabetes management. There are two known equations - rules, if you will - of determining insulin doses, either to correct a high blood glucose, to cover food, or a combination of both. Until now, we have been oblivious of said rules, because we follow a sliding scale created for us at Joslin. We test TJ, we check the chart, we dose the insulin. Simple.

But now, lured by even the slightest possibility of tighter control, we are moving forward in getting TJ pumping. Everyone has warned us that the pump is trickier, but I didn't think for a minute it was beyond my comprehension.

Until the nutrition meeting. Knowing that we were at Joslin for a pump education meeting, the cute, perky nutritionist we met with launches quickly into carb counting lesson with instantly starts my head spinning. There are equations. There are parenthesis, subtraction, and division. I'm sweating. I know the material in the parenthesis needs to be completed first. I can't really divide, but I can use a calculator with the best of them. We do a few equations and I'm back on track, feeling good. I can do it.

Then, she launches into correcting for a BG is that below target, while also giving food. The concept I get - because he is below target, we need to subtract a little insulin. But, ultimately its the algebra that gets the last word. There are negative numbers, and there is division. In a full on panic, I decide to watch, pretending to get it. I'm nodding, I'm listening. I'm back in 10th grade math - totally LOST. HOW did she get a negative answer. WHY isn't there a negative number showing up on the calculator. I sneak a look at Tom. I can tell he gets it. I, on the other hand, am ready to cry.

So...not wanting to reveal my stupidity, but wanting to pass the upcoming pump test, I finally get up the nerve to raise my proverbial hand:

"Um, OK - it seems to make sense, but you said negative..."

She cuts me off - "yeah, negative - it's less."

I nod, but I'm still lost..."but, that number on the calculator - it looks positive...there is no negative sign."

"Well..." she starts "I just didn't put in the negative sign, but you know its negative."

In my mind I am screaming...HOW do you know???? And then, from somewhere in the depths of my creative, not at all mathematical mind, comes the answer. A negative divided by a positive is a negative.

Thank you, Mr. Kazowka!

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