Diabetes and Life and Death

Saturday, Oct 17, is the Walk to Cure Diabetes here in San Antonio. It is to raise cure research dollars for the JDRF — Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I’ll be walking with my 12-year-old daughter. Our 16-year-old who actually has juvenile (type 1) diabetes can’t be there because she’s on the cross country team and will be at a meet, running 2 miles in about 15 minutes. She’s been off for a few weeks so she’s slower than she’s been all year. That’s right, 7.5 minute miles are slow to her.

This post is not to ask for donations for diabetes, I’m doing that in other places. This post is ask that if you have diabetes, or know someone that does — get educated on what it is and how it works. And how the medication works. Insulin or pills. It’s serious stuff.

Diabetes kills approximately 60,000 people a year. I’d like to see that go down. A lot.

Last night they had a pizza party for our JDRF walk team. I met the parents whose daughter with juvenile (type 1) diabetes died in her sleep of a low blood sugar exactly one year ago that day. She was not a child. She was an adult who developed type 1 diabetes as a child. She had diabetes all her life. She had grown up with it. She had been very active in the walk, along with many of the relatives there last night as well. She treated her low blood sugar wrong and didn’t wake up.

This shook me to the core. From every direction — sadness, disbelief, gratitude and appreciation.

First, in sadness and empathy for the parents who were doing their best, but it was the one year anniversary of their daughter’s death. It was a tough day for them. There weren’t enough hugs in the world to bring their daughter back, and they were a lovely couple who cherished their child. They were still very much in the grieving process. God Bless them.

Secondly, I can’t readily describe what I felt about how this could possibly happen today. I’m going to go with “exasperation” to describe it, but that word doesn’t cover all that I was feeling. Here we are in the age of information overload and the important stuff isn’t getting through!

Information flies at us 24/7 from every direction — television, radio, web, animated billboards, iPods, GPSs, smart phones, even dumb phones push tons of info. It’s so overwhelming, I feel like I have to cover my eyes and ears to keep from going deaf and blind from overload. I walk through the mall or into people’s houses and the radio, television, computer, iPods, phones and other devices are all shouting for attention to give you their particular bit of information.

That brings me to the other thing I felt: gratitude for my good fortune. We’re lucky parents. That’s why my daughter is doing great. She has never been hospitalized-ever-for her type 1 diabetes. And that is a very, very rare thing. She was lucky, we were lucky. We knew all about diabetes and insulin when she was diagnosed. She accidentally fell in to diabetes at the highest level of care, thanks to us having the right information because I was in the diabetes business. So instead of walking to raise money tomorrow, our juvenile diabetic will be running–as fast as any kid who doesn’t have a life-threatening chronic disease. In fact, she often outruns a lot of the “normal” kids. Her sister and I will be doing the walking part.

Meanwhile, we are a culture on information overload and yet the simple basics of how insulin and other diabetes things works STILL is not well explained, and/or not explained enough. If it was, diabetes would be much less of a problem. And this woman would be alive. And these parents would not have been grieving.

We have a problem. The information faucet is turned on full force. We’re drinking from a fire hydrant sized pipe. But most of it is useless. The good stuff isn’t getting through. Not just for diabetes, but for all information, whether how to fix a leaky pipe or whether some piece of legislation is good or bad.

But guess what, that’s how life works. If you have an issue, it is up to you, not the government, not the media, not your doctor, not your nurse — no, it’s up to you to ask the questions — and go find out what the question are that need to be asked. Simple things like “What is insulin and what does it do?” And “What if… this happens? Or that happens?”

Or questions like, “If it’s supposed to reduce costs, how come it costs a trillion dollars?”

No matter how much information gets pushed to us, or how much our government or anyone else tries to help, it just doesn’t mean a thing compared to taking action for ourselves and doing something.

If you want to help cure diabetes, you can go find the JDRF website and donate. And I’d like that because my daughter could use a cure. But that cure may be 5 years away. Maybe 10. Who knows. I’ll be happy when it’s here though.

You can make a difference today if you or someone you love has diabetes. Go ask questions. And don’t stop until you have answers that you understand and can use in your daily life. Make sure you or that person you love with diabetes understands how diabetes and insulin and pills work. And that behavior is crucial in the equation. Until then, be very, very careful. It’s a matter of life, and death. Every single day.

written by RayH

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