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On the day after my 60th birthday, I had a medical emergency that may have saved my life.

I was out celebrating with friends when I had (what I later found out was) a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a temporary blockage of blood flow to part of the brain, also known as a ministroke. In the middle of dinner, I started saying and doing things that made no sense. I knew what I wanted to say to my friends, but I couldn’t get the right words out. My friends decided that dinner was over, and they drove me to the hospital.

Fortunately, the symptoms only lasted for about an hour, and there was no permanent damage, according to the emergency department doctors. But the effect of that ministroke was life-changing. (More about that later.)

I’ll start at the beginning. In 2006, when I was in my 40s, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a chronic disorder in which my body is unable to properly use insulin, resulting in