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By David Mendosa

Last Update: January 16, 2001

Needles by Andie Dominick is a highly moving memoir of growing up with diabetes. When Andie was a girl, the syringes that her sister Denise used to inject herself with insulin fascinated her. She secretly played with them and even gave her dolls shots before meals, just like Denise had to do.


All too soon Andie had her own syringes. Denise had been diagnosed with diabetes in 1961 at the age of 2. Andie was diagnosed in 1980 at the age of nine.

This book is the story of her sister, herself, her family, and how they struggled with diabetes. A rebellious teenage, Andie skipped her shots to lose weight and subsequently needed several operations on her eyes. Denise, even more defiant, paid for her freedom with her life.

Now a creative writing instructor living in Des Moines, Ms. Dominick tells her highly personal story in clear, spare prose. Her 220-page hardcover book published by Scribner in October lists for $22.00. We caught up with her shortly after the book appeared.

Q. Didn't you have any second thoughts about exposing your family's so-called dirty linen?

A. Writing this book has, to some degree, exposed both my family and myself. As I was writing, my family and friends and doctors read the book for accuracy. All the people involved in the book are comfortable with it. My mom made a passing statement like "I guess there are no more family secrets," but she's excited about the story being out there.

Q. My favorite part of the book is where you shout at ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors who don't listen when you tell them your blood sugar is low, but they aren't treating you. You storm out of the emergency room, and have your husband drive you to another hospital. That's taking responsibility for yourself, isn't it?

A. My experiences with the medical profession, my fears, the loss of my sister, and the way the disease impacted my family will be familiar to anyone with an illness. I began writing the book because I had something to say, the story of my family. As I got further into the writing, I realized that it was a book that would also reflect other people's lives.

Q. What would Denise think about Needles?

A. The book is my way of keeping my sister alive, and I believe if she was still here to read it, she would be happy with what I've done. It also keeps me in touch with my past and allows me to reflect on how I became who I am. It reminds me of all that my parents have done for me and how thankful I am that there have been advances in treating the complications of diabetes. Others might see my story as sad, but I feel very lucky. Very lucky to have so many people who have cared about me. 

This is an unedited version of the article that originally appeared in The Dallas Morning News, December 7, 1998.

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