It’s rare to find someone who has no health issues that need management at one time or another. Principal quartet rehearsals are a case in point. We love music so much that these conditions, these restrictions we carry with us do not stop us.
Principal violist Katy Gawne recently dislocated her shoulder, and while the playing is not so painful (at least she doesn’t complain about it), it hurts when she laughs. Unfortunately for her, the other three of us are complete cut-ups and she is quite sore by the end of rehearsals. Venezuela native and second violinist Edward Pulgar is still adjusting to what’s in the air here in Knoxville and is prone to rather charming rapid-fire sneezing outbursts. Plus he, along with first violinist Miroslav Hristov, are father to very young children (see previous blog) and the attendant sleep-deprivation. Edward and his wife Mary having just had a child in February, and Miro and Nathalie with a daughter, Sofie (3) and a son, Danny (8). For myself, I would have to say that my diabetes poses a routine that is deceptively challenging.
While many players encrust themselves with cell phones at break, I am armed with an apple. This is not because I am fond of apples per se, but that they are just very convenient and travel well. (There are worse things to eat. Prunes, for one). The timing of my insulin regiment dictates that I eat something at break, and it is not something I can take lightly. Since the Tennessee Theatre reopened after its renovation, there has been a lovely vending machine in the basement, and there has always been one in the Civic Auditorium. There are a few good choices in them, and several bad ones. So when I run out of apples, or forget one, Doritos have got my back. It’s not that I crave this stuff, or that I’m even hungry, but the notion of food as medicine is a sad reality. The spread of chips, cookies, candy, etc. that the opera company puts out is almost too good to be true and I have to know when to say when.
Either low or high blood sugar can be just a few bites away. Both can cause drowsiness, especially in the afternoon when more sensible countries of the world are taking a siesta. It is imperative to know which way to correct. Is my blood sugar weird? Or am I just really tired? Morning and evening services are fairly predictable, but in the afternoon there are a lot more variables. I have to check my blood sugar with a meter before the service and during break to help determine what to do to stay on top of things. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar makes me ornery and thirsty, but is not an immediate health threat unless it goes unchecked for days. Hypoglycemia, (low) is much more dangerous and CAN leave one unconscious in a matter of minutes (see: Steel Magnolias). Luckily, that has never happened to me. Effects of hypoglycemia are confusion, fatigue, and a case of the shakes. When in doubt, I err on the high side.
Once in a great while, low blood sugar brings on double vision. “Well, just close one eye,” you might say, but this is up-and-down double vision, not side-to-side. A staff which normally has five lines suddenly has seven or eight. This confounds me, because the last time I looked, my eyes were oriented horizontally, not vertically like a 28-gauge Winchester over-and-under. My only choice at this point is to lay out, as I have already done all I can do by eating or drinking something and just have to wait for the calories to do their trick.
Famous diabetics in music and showbiz are surprising, although some are more high-profile than others; Mary Tyler Moore, Halle Berry, Elvis, Andrew Lloyd Webber, but my favorite would have to be Giacomo Puccini. To cap off a wonderful Easter, here is a link to a beautiful performance, somewhat childishly recorded, of his Credo from the Messa di Gloria. (I’m left wondering, how could the flutist misinterpret the dress code SO badly? And do we really want to see that audience member picking his nose)?