December, 1633, Grantville
"Roberta Allene Haggerty! Come here for a minute, please."
"What is it, Momma?" Allie answered, entering her parents' room. The "please" didn't fool her a bit. Nobody called you by your full name unless you were in trouble.
"We need to talk, honey."
Her mother studied her for a moment before speaking. "I'm worried about you, honey. You ate three helpings of meatloaf for dinner, and you've been sick every morning this week." She fingered the rosary in her hand for a few seconds before continuing. "Are you pregnant, baby?"
"What?" Why would you even think that, Momma? I'm still a virgin."
"Because you've been eating like a horse," Momma said. "And because you've been so sick. I can't even see you under your baggy old clothes. Have you been gaining weight?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Haven't you weighed yourself lately?"
"Why? I'm skinny; we don't even have a scale in the upstairs bathroom."
"Well, use mine then." Momma stood beside Allie while she stepped on the scale and waited for the dial to stop.
"See," Allie said. "I ain't getting fat."
"My God." This came out as a shriek. "How can you weigh ninety-six pounds? Take off that baggy sweater so I can get a look at you. Why do you have to dress like a scarecrow, anyway?" Momma ran her fingers through Allie's unkempt chestnut hair. "You're so pretty."
Allie didn't much like to do it, but she took off her sweater.
Her mother's face paled. "I can see your ribs . . . Your collarbones are sticking out. You're going to see Dr. Adams tomorrow morning."
"I'm not pregnant. Why don't you believe me, Momma?"
"I believe you, baby. I'm just worried now, is all."
Allie walked back to her room and shut off the radio. She was worried now, too. She had never been overweight; in fact she'd always been somewhat on the thin side of normal. She'd lost a lot of weight.
Most people had shed a few pounds since the Ring of Fire, just from walking more often. But she hadn't lost any until just the last few months. Since September she had lost twenty-eight pounds, no small amount for a girl who stood five foot four and weighed less than a hundred and thirty pounds to begin with.
She was worried not just because the weight loss and the eating. She was always thirsty, and always cold. She was also slightly hurt that her mother would think she had strayed from God's plan and gotten pregnant. Even if, after their little talk, Momma said that she trusted her. It still hurt.
She changed into her nightgown and knelt beside her bed, rubbing her hands briskly together to warm them before placing them together to pray.
Allie had already finished her chemistry quiz and sat thinking. She really needed a good medical project, something with a lot of chemistry that would help her get ahead in nursing school.
The idea of a blood drive occurred to her. She thought it would be a good idea, if the supplies were available. She made a note to see Dr. Adams about how to get started.
One problem solved, she turned to the next. Who should she ask to the prom? No one had asked her yet, but someone might still. She decided to wait.
The ringing bell startled her. She hastily gathered up her books and papers and stuffed them into a worn denim backpack. She chided herself silently for daydreaming. She could get by with it in chemistry, but history class was different. She couldn't memorize every meaningless date that ever got written down. Especially now with two different centuries of current events and the Thirty Years' War happening in Grantville's living room. She was making a low B in history and she didn't want her grade to drop.
Stopping by Mrs. Selluci's desk, she rooted through the pile of graded homework until she found hers. She scooped it up and deposited her ungraded work on top of the other pile. Ninety-one percent she noted, wondering what she missed.
"Allie, honey, go on in and have a seat." Allie smiled nervously at the nurse and followed her into the cramped office. She shivered as she entered the room.
There were three other people in the room besides her parents. One was Dr. Adams, her family physician. The second was his nurse, Sheila Baldwin. But she didn't recognize the elderly gentleman who sat in the far corner looking at her with what appeared to be great interest.
Their faces were frozen in a look of dread. She could tell her mother had been crying. Her father sat looking glum with his arm around Momma.
"Uh . . . " Allie looked around the room for a place to sit. Dr. Adams indicated a small folding chair. She took a seat and folded her hands primly into her lap.
Nobody spoke for a few seconds. Finally, Dr. Adams cleared his throat and began to talk. "Allie, we've done some tests. I've discussed the results with your parents." He paused. Allie looked at him and then around the room. All eyes were on her.
Momma stood. "Allie, honey . . . angel . . . you have diabetes." She began sobbing.
"But I'm only seventeen!" Allie understood the implication. She planned on being a nurse after high school. She was just months from graduating and her birthday was soon after. She didn't think this was fair. There was only one fate for a diabetic in the seventeenth century. "I'm going to die, aren't I?"
Her father stood up and started to speak. The nurse interrupted. "Maybe not, Allie. But it doesn't look good. At your age it's likely to be type I, insulin dependant. Before the Ring of Fire, it would have been more treatable. But we don't have the technology anymore. Some insulin is available again, but it's still experimental."
Momma jumped at that. "What? I didn't know that. It could save her life." She turned toward the doctor. "Dr. Adams, you've got to do something. You can't just let her die."
"Hold on, Bobbie Jean. Sheila only gave you half the story. I'll get to the other half in a minute. But I warn you: It could be dangerous."
"But she'll certainly die without it, right?" Her father spoke for the first time. There was an edge of anger in his voice.
"Hold your horses, Ernest. I said there was another half. And that half is Zijbert." Dr. Adams indicated the man wearing a white lab coat and holding a cane. He had snow white hair and wore a white goatee and mustaches. The man stood. "This is Dr. Zijbert van Trumpe. He's the closest thing Thuringia has to an endocrinologist."
The man looked Allie directly in the eye and gave a slight nod. "How do you do, Miss Haggerty?" His English held a slight Dutch accent.
Allie thought he looked like Colonel Sanders. The thought made her smile in spite of it all. "I'm pleased to meet you, Doctor."
He smiled, showing beautiful white teeth. "Dr. Adams flatters me. I am more of an herbalist really, but I can treat your illness. Let us begin. This new insulin may save your life. You are a minor, but with your parents' consent, we can begin your treatment. I concur with Dr. Adams' diagnosis. Are you willing to undergo insulin therapy?"
Allie's answer was terse. "Rather than die? Of course."
"A year ago," van Trumpe began, "it would have been impossible to treat you. There are several things you can do about type two diabetes, but without insulin, hope for the type ones is slim.
"The insulin we are using is still experimental, as Dr. Adams indicated. Each batch is a different strength, so you have to undergo tests which allow the technicians to dilute it to a given strength. This insulin is weaker than up-time U100 or U500. It is about U10. The lower strength means we can use the larger syringes that are being manufactured now. I have set up a small clinic in the Three M complex. The insulin labs are there too. Your dosing schedule will be really complex and, for a while at least, we will administer your shots from my clinic. If you will come to my office on Monday, we can begin."
When Allie finally left the office, she was tired, cold and scared. But she wasn't too preoccupied with her own problems to notice the thin young man who sat alone in the waiting room.
"Allie, this is Hugo." Nurse Baldwin introduced the young man Allie vaguely remembered seeing at Dr. Adams' the other day. He was very skinny, with sunken eyes and his skin drawn tight over his cheekbones. She could see the hollow spots around his collarbones. "He has diabetes too. We thought you might like to meet him."
"Guten tag," said Hugo. "I am Hugo Sonntag."
"I'm Allie." She held out her hand. To her surprise Hugo took it and bowed deeply as he kissed it. She thought he would be cute if he could gain a few pounds.