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Chapter 1 Origins The era was the 1950’s. A happy time, a rockin’ and rollin’time. Although I was born later in the decade, the mood lingered. Front page news headlines displayed such titles as: “Pr…

Chapter 1


The era was the 1950’s. A happy time, a rockin’ and rollin’time. Although I was born later in the decade, the mood lingered. Front page news headlines displayed such titles as:

President Eisenhower Sworn Into Office for Second Term;” “Eisenhower signs Civil Rights Act of 1957;” “USSR Sends Sputnik into Space;” and “Interferon is discovered.” Do you remember this stuff? I don’t.

How about trends of poodle haircuts, black and white saddle shoes, Silly Putty, and Hula Hoops? Althea Gibson was the first African-American woman to win the U. S. Open tennis title, while Don Bowden was the first U. S. runner to break the 4-minute mile. Top tunes were: “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,”

All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Lucille,” and “Love Letters in the Sand.”

The most popular television shows, in black-andwhite, were “Wagon Train,” “Maverick,” “Leave it to Beaver,” and “Perry Mason.” Movie stars such as Jerry Lewis, Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Elvis Presley, and Yul Brynner were the cat’s meow. Jerry Lewis still is! Furthermore, it was in 1957 that New York loses Giants and Dodgers to California; “The Music Man” opened on Broadway; DNA is synthesized; drive-in movie theaters peaked to popularity, a new Ford cost $2,045.00; and factory workers earned $2.00 an hour. All here in the good ‘ol United States!

No, I don’t remember all these facts. The ones I do remember were always shared while my mother was present, usually while she ironed as the black and white television played.

Born to a United States Naval Chief and a promising fashion designer/seamstress in Portsmouth, Virginia, my mother gave up her career to concentrate on the specialties needed to assist her second of three children at the time. The year was 1957 and the U. S. Navy needed my father to concentrate on his assignments, always leaving his young wife to care for their children, alone, for weeks on end.

As thinly related to me, my father was born to German immigrants. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteen eighties that I learned from my father’s elderly cousins whom emigrated to Canada that Estonia was the paternal family’s country of origin. With the ensuing communist controversy at that time, it seems that the country of Estonia was back-and-forth trying to maintain its own identity while being subject to the captive auspices of Germany. These specific cousins literally and physically ran away from the horrors that took place in the

early 20th century.

I recall being told that my father’s father was a Lutheran Minister who captivated audiences in Boston Common. His name was Frederick Buchroth. I know even less about his mother, my paternal Grandmother, Lydia, other than the sketchy fact that they resided in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, after a move from Chicago, Illinois. That is where my father was born. No one was available to embellish or encourage this ancestry. My paternal genealogy never went much farther than that and my imagination. However, Lydia re-married a wonderful man by the name of John Underhill, who became known to me and my siblings as dziadzi (short for dziadek), Polish for Grandfather.

My mother, however, was the fifth child of six siblings born to Polish immigrants. Her demeanor remains strong, full-proof, and very Catholic which seems to be typical of that ethnicity.

After their sojourn to the United States via the infamous Ellis Island, New York State, my maternal grandparents, Mary and Alexander, were greeted a new beginning also in the very early 20th century. From what I am to understand, this couple met in Massachusetts, married, toiled New England, raised six

children, and died. You’ll become somewhat acquainted with my Polish/American upbringing as this story continues.

As told to me years later, mom was in tears too often due to my sickness. That’s the way it was: father breadwinner through the government; mother caretaker and housewife; children ‘Navy brats’. Not glamorous by any means, diabetes requires change and extra monetary allotments, often at the expense of tangibles as well as intangibles.

As all couples of the time, my parents did what they had to do, what they could. They were

one couple among thousands embedded in the income status as “military poor.” Stationed in Portsmouth, Norfolk County, Virginia at the time, our humble trailer home was filled with five: two parents and three children. My brother, Charles, was born then and there as well.

As told to me many years later by my father, a Navy Chief, I was named after the glamorous ocean liner, the “Andrea Doria.” It seems perfectly befitting my life. A short story follows:

“It was Wednesday, July 25th 1956. At 11:10pm on a dark and foggy night, two great ocean liners, T/N Andrea Doria and MV Stockholm, collided near Nantucket, Massachusetts. I was there, I am a survivor…My name is Anthony Grillo…”


After seeing the movie “The Perfect Storm” numerous times, I can’t help but wonder if there are any Andrea Gail’s out there. It’s a New England thing.

This diabetes diagnosis in 1959 was due to Mom’s suspicions of my daily activities. With a surge of energy to climb the kitchen counter, invading the cookie jar, followed with an immense thirst for anything drinkable, to napping wherever and whenever led her to bring me to the Naval Hospital’s Emergency Room. Hospitalized for seven days, I lapsed into a coma for approximately 24 hours. I just must have been exhausted! All that climbing, you know.

I can only imagine my parents’ anguish. I was 2 years old. What did I know? What did they know? I ertainly have no recollections of my first insulin injections; or my first use of Clinitest tablets for glucose urine testing at that time; nor scheduled and “balanced” meal planning; nor the tears my mother shed in her attempts to keep her baby healthy and alive. I can only imagine the heartbreak and fright.

“Where did this come from? How did my daughter get this?” she would continually ask many physicians.

Many of you, dear readers, know the same. On and on and on. To this day, those questions continue unanswered. Too many theories have been born.

I grew up with the speculation that diabetes was genetic. However, my grandparents were unaffected; the same with the aunts and uncles we were aware of along with my first cousins, except for a first cousin on my mother’s side of the family, Barbara Jean. As told to me, this first maternal cousin was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 24 or 25 somewhere in the late 1970’s as I recall.

Before it became popular, I became acquainted with the possibility that stress, believe it or not, had something to do with the development of this disease in our family. I theorize that stress put upon my mother during her pregnancy with me may have been the cause, not neglecting the fact of my father’s possible alcoholism.

Anguish is the best word I can use to describe my parents’ feelings at the onslaught of this news. One of many stories my mother tells me is when she attempted to give me an insulin injection.

“Don’t cry, mommy,” from the mouth of this two-year old. “It will be okay.”

And this became the first of many, many, other shots until I learned how to do it myself. Therefore, insulin introductions to our family became quickly absorbed as in being accepted; it became a necessity as water

sustains life.

From my mother’s recollections, my first type of insulin was called ‘Lente.’ Known as an “intermediate-acting insulin, [it] covers insulin needs for about half the day or overnight. This type of insulin is often combined with rapid- or short- acting insulin.” ( For your convenience, an article link is pasted below listing the multiple types of insulins that are available today: NOT AVAILABLE IN THIS BLOG.

*Premixed insulins are a combination of specific proportions of intermediate-acting and short-acting insulin in one bottle or insulin pen (the numbers following the brand name indicate the percentage of each type of insulin).

WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the

Cleveland Clinic

How does a doctor/physician choose which insulin would be the best for a patient, never mind a child patient? I honestly do not know. I think it is a hit or miss, experimental type of choice with the attitude of “Let’s put you on this one;” or “Try this one and see if it works for you.”

Going down the list, beginning with “Humalog,” I was prescribed this brand in the mid-nineties. It made me physically and mentally ill. This was the ultimate reason that I purchased an insulin pump through the serious and frightening complication that I was literally going insane because of this disease. My personal experiences with the insulin pump are extravagantly explained in upcoming pages!

“Apidra” is my present insulin within the insulin pump. As I was told, it is manufactured with a buffer so as not to clog the infusion set tubing. Yes, I know; manufactured means manmade. The “Regular” and “NPH” types were used by me, together, during my late teens to late thirties. It was quite an art to accomplishing the measuring and mixing of separate insulins in specific micrometer units to then inject in your own body. To

this day, I have a sense of pride in being able to perform this so-called chore.

“Humalog” was a type of insulin that my sister, Gina, used. Yes, we are a family of multi-diabetics, also explained further on. She was allergic to it! At the time, I had never heard of a person being allergic to insulin. However, I have heard about such instances since her demise.

For personal reasons, I wanted to know the ingredients of the insulin I use. Inside each and every pre-packaged box of any and every insulin that I have ever been familiar with, are sheets of finely printed pages, usually two, that are not and never have been reader friendly – at least to me. Right at the beginning of

one sheet it reads “Insulin aspart [DNA origin] Injection.”

What the heck is that? Not specific in its definition, once again I found my answer through simple internet research.

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