Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Just Wrap Me In a Dryer Sheet'

We all know how important our insulin pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitors can be in our D-Lives. So just think of what happens when there's an obstacle preventing one or both of those from functioning properly and as effectely as could be.

An obstacle such as: static electricity. Now that's annoying, even more than when a pant leg is all statically stuck and clinging to your leg.

That is a story my mom recently shared during the Thanksgiving holiday. Being a Type 1 diabetic herself since 1958, she'd been on injections during most of the decades until the Summer of 2001 a couple months after I'd started on pump treatment. She liked what she saw and made the move to Minimed, too. Through the years, she's transitioned to the Cozmo and Ping and back again and also now has the Dexcom CGM.

But what often presents a problem is that pesky static electricity.

Anywhere from once to four times a week and multiple times a day, her pump and CGM shut down briefly- just like when you take out a pump battery and then put it back in. No rhythm or reason, and answers are elusive on why this happens. The static electricity doesn't seem to hurt the pump or CGM, but it just makes it play dead for a bit.

Apparently, this is something that other members of the Diabetes Community have reported happening, too. The device-makers know about it, but don't have many solutions from their manufacturing end except to offer their own advice on how we PWD should reshape parts of our wardrobe or life.

My mom reports that the Dexcom people say what the Minimed: Always keep the device in the case. Never in a pocket. Don't wear the device up against your skin. One person suggested not sleeping on cotton sheets or wearing any night clothes that are 100% cotton. Instead, spend whatever amount of money you need to in order to prevent this from happening.

Mainly, the advice most commonly offered: Use fabric softener, and wrap the pump in a dryer sheet to prevent it from sucking up the static electricity.

Mom: "That really didn't do anything. They want you to spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes and bedsheets after you've already spent thousands on this CGM. They should just wrap me in a dryer sheet."

For my mom, she says the pump is more of a concern than the CGM being statically-hindered: "I've survived without it (a CGM) for so long," she says in reference to her half-century of mostly insulin injection therapy. "I would be much more devastated if my pump died."

Now, personally, I've never had a problem with random resetting or any static electricity issue. But I can understand how this is a frustrating happening, when you trust a high-cost device such as a pump or CGM to do what it needs to keep you safe and healthy. If that were an issue for me, I'd probably be raising Cain with those device-manufacturers who should be trying to address this issue at the production level.

But in the meantime, I'd stock up on dryer sheets just in case.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Legislative (Lame) Duck Hunting

As a kid of the 80s reaching that video game age in the early 90s, the Nintendo was truly an early love and came into my home to provide hours of entertainment. One of the games included with this system was Duck Hunt, which many know by the orange plastic handgun used to hunt down the passing birds that appear on the screen.

Targeting D-Advocacy at the
Lame Duck Congress.
Well, now I find myself turning to that Duck Hunt action once again as I set my D-Advocacy sights on the Lame Duck Congress. My weapon may not be an orange clicking video game gun or voice-activated scope headgear, but instead a cell phone and letter-writing campaign, as well as my online messages that appear here and other places throughout the Diabetes Community. Nearly two weeks ago, the JDRF issued a call to action for the Diabetes Community that urged us to contact our legislators in the U.S. Congress and ask that they support a very important piece of legislation.

That legislation is House Resolution 3668 and Senate 3058, both of which have a common goal: to renew the Special Diabetes Program. Without this multi-year renewal, federal funding for Type 1 diabetes research will decrease by 35% starting Oct. 1, 2011. Congress increased the amount of funding to $100 million per year in 2001, and then again increased it to $150 million per year from 2004-2009. Congress reauthorized the program for an additional two years for 2010 - 2011 at the current level, and now the introduced legislation would renew it for another five years at $200 million annually.

Through the years, clinical research supported by this program has demonstrated tangible results such as delaying the full onset of Type 1 diabetes in newly diagnosed patients, gaining insight on the underlying causes of diabetes and halting or reversing costly complications such as diabetic eye disease. Without this money, that's been in place since 1997, those types of results will no longer be possible.

That's why we need Congressional support.

About the same time as the JDRF's urging came along, a newspaper headline caught me attention: "Lame-duck session has lots to do, but not much incentive."
This headline engraged me, and all of that political anger that had unleashed itself in my voting on Nov. 2 against those incumbents surfaced once again. I recalled why it's basically necessary to vote out those Rs and Ds who are more interested in political messages and stances than actually doing something productive. Rather than just voting their conscious whether that is a Yes or No, they simply delay and bicker back and forth. That's what frustrates me as a citizen and voter and constituent on any given topic, as well as this particular issue that strikes at me personally as a Person With Diabetes.

One hundred freshmen lawmakers join the Congressional circus, and most of them are Republicans as we clearly saw that GOP sweep the Dems out of that legislative power hold. But before we arrive, much work remains - from taxing issues, to whether qualified men and women should be able to put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens in military service, and just how the federal government will be able to keep running in the coming months.

Diabetes is one of those priorities. What, Congress members? You don't have enough incentive to at least discuss this SDP issue and bring it for a vote in the next month? Well, please, use me as incentive. How about your grandchildren who could someday in the coming years be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, meaning you'll have to worry not only about their lifelong health insurance options for the rest of your life but also make sure they test their blood sugars every time they visit and plan your family holiday meals a little differently. Or the fact that they may not live through the night because of a Low blood sugar, or that a High blood sugar might result in them feeling like they have the flu or even being rushed to the hospital for something called ketoacidosis.

We lose children and adults to Type 1 diabetes, something that you may or may not fully understand as being an autoimmune disorder that parents or children don't bring on themselves. The causes of this chronic condition aren't understood and we don't know what triggers a person's immune system to basically attack itself and kill off the insulin-producing cells. That's why we need federal funding to study this, so that those smart researchers can pinpoint the nuances of Type 1 diabetes and someday stop this from being a reality for so many millions worldwide. It goes beyond diabetes and has the potential to impact many other autoimmune disorders, too, and this is just a way to help that effort.

I need you. We need you. This country needs you to raise this as a discussion point, at the very least. Please use that as incentive when deciding whether this is worth talking about and bringing up for a vote. If you vote No, so be it. I can respect that if it's what you believe and feel is needed with your vote. But you owe us that vote, whatever it may be.

I have written about this issue before, early in 2010 when meeting with some of my Indiana-based Congress members as part of the JDRF Advocacy Promise to Remember Me Campaign. I met with Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Dan Burton, and many other people were a part of more than 400 meetings with other lawmakers throughout the country.
Now, it's time to retap those earlier connections and reiterate the importance of this funding. Everyone is encouraged to reach out to their particular lawmakers (here's a way to find yours to representative or senator), as well as others who might help get the message out that we need this SDP renewal.

Inquiring recently pre-Thanksgiving about the likelihood of this legislation being brought up before year's end, one staff member for Congressional co-sponsor in the Senate relayed this: "(This senator) is a co-sponsor of S. 3058 and remains hopeful it will be considered later this year. The bill currently has 60 co-sponsors which would make it a good candidate for potential passage. (He) has met personally with your.. chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, including children and their families living with Type 1, to discuss this important reauthorization effort and to share his support for continued funding in this area."

Sure, it would've been nice to have Congress actually vote on this diabetes legislation during what was D-Awareness Month. But that's not the point. Now, is the time for action regardless of what the calendar says.

Aside from emailing or calling or writing letters, we can also pitch this issue to our local media to get the message out. This is especially important during the holiday season, as our elected representatives are spending more time at home where they're exposed to their state and hometown newspapers and news casts. Should the Lame Duck Congress not act in time, the new Congress that convenes in early 2011 will be the ones responsible for having this discussion. Whether it's now or then, the importance remains the same and action must come before the 2011 fiscal year comes to a close next fall.

Amy Tenderich over at DiabetesMine recently had a great post about how we can work with media to get this story out, and it's important we do just that - to find these local stories that resonate with people and hopefully motivate more people to contact their lawmakers about this issue.

So, there you have it. The time for a Legislative Lame Duck Hunt is here. Let's get going, and urge our Congress members to talk about diabetes and cast a vote not only for us, but for everyone who could someday be touched by diabetes. We are their incentive, so let's show them that and get the message out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thankfully Yours

Just a quick moment reflecting on a great Thanksgiving that brought many blessings of every sort. Hope yours was great, as well.

I made it out for the early-morning shopping scene on Black Friday, and since we have family in town we're just enjoying that company. And the blood sugars are mostly cooperating, which is another blessing to be thankful for. So, hope all's well for my faithful readers and I'll look forward to re-connecting once the longer holiday weekend comes to an end!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble, Gobble & Giving Thanks

My parents made the drive on Tuesday from the homestate of Michigan to our home in Indy, and they're here with us for Thanksgiving and through the weekend. Despite the likely chance we'll witness the Lions lose to the New England Patriots on Turkey Day and then see our Michigan Wolverines lose to those blasted Buckeyes from Ohio State, it shall be a time of joy. One where we can count our many blessings.

So, in honor of this being D-Blessings Week as proposed and delivered by Mike Durbin over at MyDiabeticHeart, I offer this Turkey Day post recognizing just some of the things I am thankful for:

Banting & Best + 1921: Need I say more? That moment in medical history gave me and so many others a chance to Live with diabetes, and not just be forced to die quickly and miserably because of diabetes. That is a blessing beyond measure.
Suzi: My Loving, Wonderous, Invaluable, Type 3 Spouse: I'm blessed, and that's all there is to it.

Family: Past ancestors from Bartholomew Hoskins arriving in this new country back in the early 1600s to my grandfather William Lee born in 1929. To the present and future generations. To my loving parents who made the five-hour car trek from Michigan to Indy to mark this Turkey Day with us. My mom, a fellow Type 1, who taught me not only to fight the good fight against insurance companies and hospitals who might try to knock us off, but also just the regular D-Life tasks. To my dad who taught me how to be a man and good person. To put my name onto everything I do, from sweeping the patio to hanging a light in a spare bedroom (That 2nd part needs expansion: neither of us can adequately perform home repair or maintenance projects and now we're stuck inside the same house for several days with MANY house projects to get our hands on!!!! Insert Evil Laugh Here.) All said and done, family rocks.

The Diabetes Online Community: Ah, the DOC - not to be confused with the Department of Correction... You all rock. Every Single One of You. Thank you, so much, for re-shaping how I live my D-Life and manage my health and just being such an integral part of my life this past year. I've found a part of myself that I hadn't embraced before, and I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to be a part of such an outstanding and inspirational community. In the good times and bad and everything in between.

My job: Rather, a career doing something I love and have always loved and will always love. I get paid to write, and I'm so incredibly lucky to have found such a great place with wonderful people at a time when this particular news business is struggling so much. And the same goes for everyone else who has a job or career or passion they embrace.

Bacon: I get my cues from George, who is a true believer that everything good must be connected to bacon. So yes, I am happy to have bacon in my life.  Even though, this past summer, we weren't able to adopt the black lab dog named Bacon from the local Humane Society. Oh well. We have Riley, who we sometimes call bacon. And my Minimed 722 insulin pump that sports the meaty-goodness of a name. Bacon is Blessed!

With that, let there be turkey! And remember: Stay Classy, San Diego.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It Could Happen To You... (Archives)

This post originally appeared here a year ago in November 2009, but the shortened holiday week and never-ending array of deadlines and to-do tasks have combined to steal my time and energy to do anything that requires massive brain power. So, here's a blast from the past that I hope you enjoy - whether it's the first read or not.
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The Riley Dog, now 5 years old.

Our eyes met in an instant, and a disasterous cycle of events was set into motion.

The dog leaped from her spot on the green recliner chair where she'd be sitting. I'd just arrived home from work and was ready to go change into more comfortable non-work clothes. She was in pounce mode, her backend sticking up and her eyes fixed on me standing at the top of the stairs.

"Riley!" I said happily, greeting my 4-year-old black lab.

She responded by sprinting toward me, eager to offer a similiar welcome-home greeting.

As she rounded the couch that stood in between us, it was already obvious her front paws were leaving the carpeted floor and she was leaping toward me. I braced myself, non-chalantly gearing up to catch her as she jumped up to say hello.

Her front paws hit just above the right-side of my waistline, just at the spot where my pump was currently connected to my body. Her paws hit the very site, and as gravity pulled her back down, I could feel the infusion site ripping out of and away from my stomach. The moment moved in slow motion, and it felt as if I'd been shot. I grimaced and could hear the slow-motion grunt come from my mouth. There was no doubt the pump site was now disconnected.

I looked down. My white work shirt and silver tie were turning bright red. Pulling up my shirt, blood sprayed everywhere. It coated the non-painted walls of my gameroom, spraying like a paint-gun coating the walls with color. Non-stop. The dog, tasting blood splattered on her nose, growled and wanted more. I felt weak, my legs buckling, and I fell backwards and down the carpeted staircase to the bottom floor. The growling dog that had been so happy moments ago, leaped toward me and her blood-covered teeth inched towards my neckline as I lay at the bottom of the stairs, unable to move because of now-broken legs....

Twitching, I lurched and awoke in the comfy green chair upstairs - where I'd apparently fallen asleep. A computer sat on my lap, and an expired video of the previous weekend's SNL showed on the screen. It had all been a nightmare, I realized. But it felt so real. I could almost still feel where my pump had been ripped out, and in rubbing a finger over the spot, I realized it was still connected - though a little loose, as it was approaching the next day when I'd need to change sites. Looking around, the dog was curled up in a ball on the nearby couch, though watching me with curious eyes as to what I was moving around for when I could be sleeping.

It was late, long past bed-time. I closed the computer and moved toward the bedroom, the dog now up herself and wondering where we were journeying off to. She grabbed a toy and went into pounce-mode, eager to play now that Daddy was awake.

Our eyes connected. My hand instinctly moved to cover my infusion site, and I shook my head and turned to go to bed, glancing at the unpainted walls and not wanting to interfere with that.

"Good night, Riley."

She wagged her tail, following me into the bedroom and laying down on her cloud blanket near the boxes of pump supplies in the corner - two important parts of my life, so close together, but necessary to stay apart. If not, disaster can strike when the dog and diabetes intertwine. It can happen to anyone. Could happen to me.... Or you.

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Please stay tuned for a Turkey Day Thanks post tomorrow that recognizes (finally) the great idea known as D-BlessingsWeek spearheaded by my friend and fellow Hoosier, Mike Durbin over at MyDiabeticHeart. As far as today: I am blessed to have such an awesome loving D-Dog, but on that same note I am grateful that some things (read: those described happenings) are confined to the dream world!

Monday, November 22, 2010

All We Ask

First, it’s Thanksgiving week so I’m very much appreciative of the fact that 1.) I have health insurance. 2.) I have “decent” enough coverage that means I can basically get what I need to survive. 3.) I've got a job that allows me to at least try to pay for the supplies and prescriptions needed to survive this Life With Diabetes.

But that’s about as far as my gratefulness goes on that point at the moment. Especially when said insurance company and pump supply supplier decide it’s a prudent business decision to fib on what they have and haven’t done and whose fault it is.

The details: an issue with Medtronic Minimed over a recent pump supply order that has prompted this post. I ordered new supplies in late October, receiving them without issue at the start of November. I did this for a reason – to get them before the year-end deductible resets so that I’d be able to calculate what remains and what else I might be able to use before that amount returns to $0 and I must start over. Two weeks post-order, the claim still didn’t appear on the United Healthcare online database. They hadn’t received it, and a kind representative even checked to make sure it wasn’t lost in some outside-of-time abyss being processed. Nope, they haven’t received it yet.

Well, according to Minimed, the claim was sent on Nov. 1 – the same day my order was submitted and sent out. Uh huh. Claiming that everything was done electronically and I couldn’t get real confirmation of that, I was told the delay is on UHC’s end as they’re likely “processing it” and it could take as long as 45 days. Um, no, Minimed, that’s not true. Twenty minutes into that discussion, I “lost” the call – they hung up on me. Being busy with work deadlines, I didn’t call back and waited a week before trying again.

Of course, I double-checked with UHC beforehand just to make sure and confirmed nothing had yet been submitted by Minimed in the past month. Phoning Minimed, I was told the same story. Asked for proof, they argued, I demanded it again, they argued, then finally went to find a supervisor since I’d demanded one three times already. After a 38 minute discussion, the call again was lost. I fumed, but had more time this round. Called back, got same person, and then demanded the same supervisor.

That’s when they apparently “figured out” that there has been some billing department issues on their end and they hadn’t actually sent out my claim to UHC until late the past week. Again, I demanded confirmation of this and soon enough got a fax showing the submission date. Within a week or so, the insurance company should begin processing this to calculate my claim and deductible amounts that apply.

So, basically, I lost three weeks I’d planned on having thanks to some “billing department issues” and then two lying representatives.


Seriously. Why is it so difficult to tell me where my claim processing stands, so that I might actually plan ahead?

It’s bad enough my deductible-year starts in January while my Flex Account year starts in June, and I must navigate that stupidity in my medical payment planning. But you have to add even more delay and hassle on top of that?

Please, don’t lie to me. Chances are, I’ve already covered my bases and know you’re lying. Don’t tell me that you used to work at an insurance company so you “know more than I do.” I’d be willing to put money on that, and I bet I can get you fired before you can screw with my claim status even more.

(Yes, I realize that this mentality is likely why I’m blacklisted by most insurers and red flags and alarms start wailing when my name appears on the screen.)

Insurer and supply company: Chances are, when I ask you a question, it’s more of an opportunity for you to “come clean” and be truthful because I already know the answer and am just testing you. Don’t insult my intelligence or lawyer-like mind. I’ll win. And you’ll end up on the latter end of whatever I decide is appropriate to throw at you. Yes, I invite you to use your imagination on that one. I’m chummy with more than one insurance commissioner at whatever level may be most threatening to you.

Oh, and by the way: I write a blog that gets hundred of hits a day and I also work for a professional newspaper. Be forewarned. Just tell the truth. Please. At a minimum, I deserve that. There’s not much I can do about the high costs of insurance and medical supplies and crappy coverage that I get despite continually skyrocketing rates. But if I’m paying all of that, is it too much to ask for a little common courtesy and honesty? No red tape?

Really, I don’t see this as being too much to ask. It’s the least you can offer to those of us People With Diabetes who are just trying to survive. Please, just be honest with us. That’s all we ask.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Greedy Vending Machines

Many of us People With Diabetes have some important items that make our D-Lives manageable.

1. Sugar, in case of Lows. (I prefer Glucose Tablets over anything, but won’t gripe if I must turn to Skittles as a 2nd choice.)

2. Diet Coke, to get through the day. (The no-sugar but caffeinated beverage is a lifeline).

But when we’re deprived of these two items, well it can be like…. Well, one hellish day endured recently on my part.

Thankfully and quiet honestly by total surprise, I survived and have lived to tell the tale.

You see, my ordeal began the night before.

Leaving work at the normal leave-work time, I ventured downstairs by elevator from my second-floor office and arrived on the lower level to walk outside and make it the parking garage a block or so away. But something wasn’t right. I just felt “off.” You know what I mean.

Quickly, I formed the opinion that it could very well be related to my blood sugar. So, I did a test and sure-enough saw a happy 51 smiling at me from my OneTouch UltraLink.

Grumbling, I realized that just wasn’t a safe number. Especially not one to have just before a brief walk outside and then a 30-minute commute home. Normally in this situation, I might have several options to ponder for a sugar boost. But being that I was in a lower lobby and actually standing next to a vending machine stocked full of candy, I opted for that immediate choice.

Sure enough, bags of Skittles smiled at me from the far-right side of the near bottom row. I was happy.
After fishing a tattered dollar bill from my wallet and ironing it out by hand, I stuck it in the money slot and pushed E10. I waited for my reward, imagining that rainbow of colors coming to life in my mouth.
The machine whirred, but the front Skittles bag didn’t move. At all.

“Son of a…,” I blurted out, not ending my statement as early as I do here. “Come the Eff on. WT (Fructose)!”

Had I an extra dollar, I would’ve considered sticking it in the Curse Jar, because I've been known to generously contribute to that fund. But that had been my last dollar. Wasted on the stupid greedy vending machine.
I kicked it once, then tried shaking it to prove that I was the dominant one in control here. Nothing happened. A few strangers appeared from the elevator and another nearby door and eyed my frustration suspiciously, but moved on without a word. The video camera above my head peered down at me like a Big Brother, and I thought twice about shattering the vending machine front with my fist.

“You A-hole,” I told it, again not being so vulgarity-free In Real Life.

Glaring at the Greedy Vending Machine, I challenged it with my eyes. Yet still nothing happened. I could almost hear the laughter of the little hamster in the vending machine, and those watching me from the other side of that video surveillance camera.

My shoulders hung low and realization set in that I’d remain without Skittles. And still Low. Then, I remembered that earlier that day I had eaten the final two glucose tablets in the desk drawer jar back in my office. Moneyless with only an emergency $10 and a plastic ATM card, I resigned myself that I was SOL and wouldn’t find any needed-sugar boost there. I ventured off to my car and after stopping at each of the six levels for others to depart, I was able to get to my car parked on the roof. There, I munched on some glucose tablets that live in my center console. Waiting, a new test after 6 tabs showed me at safe levels to drive home. It was a pretty uneventful evening to report on, but this wouldn’t be the last time that Money Eating Vending Machine would play with my mind.

The next day brought a slew of work deadlines and, of course, a broken coffee pot. I just wasn’t in the mood to walk anywhere for my morning fix, so I grumbled along without it. Luckily, my BGs were steady all morning and the rest of the day. But at lunch, I was desperately tired and stressed and needed something to just feel better.

A Diet Coke came to mind. And in our break room, several cold ones were calling to me.

But no change was in my desk as usual, and thanks to that Greedy Vending Machine from the night before, I was without a single dollar bill. Sure, I probably could’ve asked a co-worker for some change. But my luck, this Diet Coke Vending Machine would realize its greed and steal that borrowed money, too. I just wasn’t up to it. I expected failure. So I didn’t even bother. Sometimes, you just feel “Blah” and that’s how it was on this end. Water became my drink, until mid-afternoon when I just couldn’t bear it anymore and gave in – stepping out to my local Starbucks for an even more-needed caffeine boost.

4 p.m. Friday Update: It happened AGAIN! The same Diet Coke vending machine that I'd looked at earlier in the week apparently learned of the downstairs Greedy Vending Machine's reluctance to give me Skittles, and decided to jump on the greed bandwagon! Today, it stole my 75 cents and refused to release an ice-cold Diet Coke can into my hand... I almost flipped. Yet, determined, I reported this misconduct to our office Vending Machine Tamer and she relinquished my lost change to try again. There are three rows of this soda on the other side of the glass, so this time rather than trying the fussy B4, I went with B5. And got my Diet Coke! But seriously: it's like a D-Conspiracy by the Greedy Vending Machines!

The Greedy Vending Machines, while possibly humorous, just pushed me closer to the edge.

On top of all this, I’ve felt a little under-the-weather following my annoying three hour trip north for a seminar earlier in the week. And with the holidays approaching but the house cleaning not taking care of itself, I’ve just felt a larger sense of “Blah.” Not to mention some typically higher-than-normal BGs that aren’t making me feel all too cocky about my mid-December endo visit where I’m hoping for a lower A1c.

But as is often the case, my Type 3 Wife saved the day.

In my lunches both days, I found a surprise waiting for me inside the lunch bag: a ham sandwich covered with… BACON!

Yes, I am a Bacon Fan. And yes, my wife was my hero for this. [I didn’t tell her then, because I wanted to SURPRISE HER NOW :))))] This awesomeness isn’t anything new, it’s just another example of why she is simply truly and ever-awesomely wonderful.

That is my tale. Use it as you may see fit, to always keep extra change or a dollar bill on hand or just to sidestep those greedy vending machines completely. Because they can be evil, just like those ever-shady wasps that try to assassinate me. But know that even in these dark no-Skittle or Diet Coke days, some silver lining surprises can bring smiles in the form of Bacon or whatever treasure you may appreciate.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Diabetes and The Zombie Apocalypse

You could feel the chill in the air.

October was coming to a close and with it the month of Diabetes Awareness would begin.

Marking this start of November, the American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation joined together to kickoff their advocacy efforts that would be incredibly visible for a month but carry on long past that time. You had a panel of speakers on a stage, medical and scientific and real People With Diabetes talking up this chronic condition and all the basics one might need to know about.

Differences between Type 1 and Type 2 and the other varieties. What daily management looks like. Why insulin is life support, why a cure is needed to “Stop Diabetes,” and how people can do their part to push for that.

Apparently, I was working this story because I had a reporter's notebook in hand and press credentials tacked on to my belt. A swarm of reporters were nearby, with pens and cameras, writing the stories that would reach the masses. It was an evening full of D-Advocacy.

But something wasn't right.

The message transformed and the D-advocates began to talk about how we’re not doing enough to prevent or “stop diabetes.” That we don’t understand the causes of this disease that can lead to some scary things without us even knowing it. How diabetes is a global epidemic that is a “silent killer.” Everyone is affected and is just a stone’s throw away from being “pre-diabetic,” and we must take action now to “stop it.”

A fog was moving in. The chill in the air became eerie, like something even more chilly was happening than just a temperature shift. As the sun began to think about setting, the stage lights flickered. There was smoke off in the distance, as if something was burning. Sirens screamed in the distance, but within moments it became unclear whether those were police patrols or real people wailing in fear. An explosion rocked the stage and a nearby building, and suddenly from where the explosion came from a headless man staggered forward and fell to the ground in a puddle of blood.

The body twitched, and then you could hear it: Moaning off in the distance, leading one's eyes to wonder to the horizon where not too far away a mass of zombies stumbled foward with increasing flesh-hungry speed. Glancing over my shoulder, those who’d been preaching the D-Message were now in zombie form themselves. The JDRF folk actually looked like zombie versions of Frankenstein and had electricity-zapped eyes.

I ran.

Explosions came as the sun set, and it was clear that some survivors were trying to barricade the exit to the city so that these zombies couldn’t easily escape. A TV in a shattered storefront window offered news broadcast coverage of what was happening.

“We don’t know the cause, but for some unknown reason millions who have diabetes have turned into zombies. They are like cannibals and each bite turns you into the undead.”

Non-Funny News Anchor added: "But you can tell who they are, because they look sick and will come after you. If they bite you or get any blood on you, you'll become a zombie."

Suddenly, diabetes became the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse. Everything was so clear. What had long been imagined was becoming a reality, but with a twist on the cause. Not an Army chemical spill or crazy weird medical experiment, but the chronic condition I'd been living with since the age of five.

Why hadn't I turned into a zombie, if that were the case? Well, the reason was obvious: I was clearly immune.

A swarm of zombies appeared behind me and the fellow journalists huddled close, and we resumed running in the opposite direction. But just as I've felt behind and unable to escape from the real life stresses lately, I found myself falling behind and eventually just fingertips away from the diabetic zombies.

Luckily, we darted into a building and secured the door just in time. And that's when I noticed: the non-D newsman at my side looked to me more like a slab of ribs than a real human being, and I felt the urge to whisper something in his ear...

That is what jolted me awake. In my bed, darkness was everywhere. My clock read 5:48 a.m. Turning over, my wife was not there. Dog was nowhere in the room. I sighed, glad to know I'd been dreaming.

But it felt so real, and I found myself questioning whether this whole crazy zombie scenario was truly a dream. Maybe not. Maybe I awoke just in time, and what appeared to be a dream was actually a vision warning me fo what was obviously the approaching Zombie Apocalypse that would in fact hit the Diabetes Community first and by force.
Cautiously, I went to the window and looked outside but didn’t see any stumbling figures. Only streetlights dancing in the darkness. Maybe they hadn't found our neighborhood yet, I thought. My mind flashed to my previous blog post about the Unlimited Lancets being weapons of choice for PWD in the Zombie Apocalypse. I pondered whether it'd be smart to grab a weapon - maybe a golf club - to have on hand just in case. The ladder sat patiently in the corner near the ceiling attic entrance, too.

Going downstairs, my newly-awakened wife was yawning and sitting in the chair with the TV on. I explained my dream that might actually be playing out in real life, and how the ADA's pre-November awareness campaign skewed in the direction of everyone turning into zombies. She darted up from the chair went upstairs, returning within a moment with my black little blood meter case. Your nuts, I thought. But a test revealed she wasn’t – 51 mg/dL.

Clearly, I was Low and hallucinating. Munching on some glucose tabs and peanut butter crackers, my sugar rose quickly and I was able to muster a thought that maybe – just maybe – the Zombie Apocalypse wasn’t happening. My mind began to ponder the Low, and I realized that the night before I had stayed up a little later watching a DVR’d recording of “The Walking Dead” show on AMC. I’m a fan of the show that debuted on Halloween and have been watching every week since about how one sheriff’s deputy survived the Zombie Apocolypse in Atlanta. The show has thus far now spelled out how the city was barricaded, or what caused the zombie infestation.

I also recalled that prior to watching the show the night before, I'd eaten a slab of ribs at the local brewpub for dinner.

It all came together. Life has been crazy busy lately. In my hectic and action-packed life, especially with it being November and most recently that past weekend being World Diabetes Day, this was my mind's way of pulling all these pieces together and trying to outline everything my brain had been focused on lately. This was my mental way of mapping out everything in a way I might understand. Not only did it tap into my feelings of "being behind the eight ball," but it also brought in a recent dinner and TV show and work deadlines and D-advocacy.

On that last point, it tapped into my frustration with some D-Awareness issues overall - how Type 1 diabetes isn’t something that we can prevent or “stop” in the sense of just changing our own behavior, and it's not something that’s the end of the world. I don’t want people to think of diabetes as something that will cause mass hysteria or death or destruction. A virus or illness that will spread and destroy the masses. I fear what misinformation and even dread about diabetes can make people think.

WOW... Shudder. How wickedly weird.

Chuckling about this later in the day, I tweeted about the humor of not knowing whether this was actually a dream earlier that morning. "Am I imagining that the ADA used zombie-reference recently in advocating Stop Diabetes? Or was this Low-induced mind trickery?"

Fellow advocate and D-blogger Dayle Kern, a Type 1 who's a communications player with the ADA (not to mention a champion Wii bowler), responded: "Zombie references?! Really? Where? ... guess I do want your braaaiiinssss... :-)."

That made me laugh and appreciate even mroe the humor of this whole thing.

Even though this was a dream, it felt very real. But I'm glad it wasn't, and will do my best from this little corner booth to make people see the true picture about diabetes.
Now, I'm off to find that slab of ribs I'm craving...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not Blue Because of The Colts, Indy

So, this past Sunday as World Diabetes Day. Many people participated. Much D-Advocacy was advocated. Good times were had. Discussion ensued, courtesy of the JDRF. And many in the global Diabetes Community tweeted, wrote, and photographed monuments and buildings going blue in recognition of this worldwide awareness event.

Even Indianapolis. A City of Blue all on its own, without diabetes.

You know the Roche crew created a human circle of blueness. Lilly colored its water fountain blue. And you've read about my own efforts to step outside the Diabetes Online Community bubble and bring some of that D-Advocacy to the general non-D aware public.

So, it was with great joy that I learned Saturday (yes, one day PRIOR to WDD) from the mayor's office that the City of Indianapolis would be coloring blue the Soldiers & Sailors Monument on the traffic circle in downtown Indy. This 284-foot high monument is the tallest Civil War tribute in the country and stands tall in the heart of the city.

After our D-Meetup and JDRF Type 1 Talk discussion (more on that to come soon), I journeyed from the northside of the city to downtown. Waiting for the sun to set, I grabbed some coffee from the same place I'd helped brew up some advocacy on Friday and watched the Monument turn blue as the lights gradually turned on.

Lights used to make the Monument Blue.
Some windows have blue lights in them to help.
Would be cooler w/o Christmas deco in mid-Nov.
Last year, the Monument was also lit up. But I specifically recall that no one knew why it was lit up in blue. Of course, everyone believed they knew. Since this is home to the Indianapolis Colts, and the NFL team sports the color blue. On Sunday night, the Colts played a football game and many people walking on the circle that night were wearing blue jerseys and shirts. Nothing indicated this lit-up monument wasn't the color of the Colts.

Oh, climbing to top = cool, but scary!
Not recommended in July!
There's a Civil War museum under there...
 So, I did my part. Asked around. Because I'm curious. And that's what good reporters do - be curious and get people the info they need to do whatever they will with it.

A modest seven people were my subjects that night. All but one were together in pairs. Two different groups wore Colts attire. Five had an answer, and only the one pair that was obviously visiting from out of town admitted not having any clue. They had a camera and asked for a photo in front of the blue landmark, and that gave me my chance to ask the same question I'd posed to others around the circle.

My basic question: "Do you know why it's blue?"

Confident Responses: "The Colts" or "The Colts Won." or "That's our color."

Me: "The Colts do rock, but actually it's because today is World Diabetes Day and the city wants everyone to know that."

A few acknolwedged it and went on their ways (I pretended to not pay attention to the Cap-Wearing Colts Fan who frowned, shrugged his shoulders, and gave a wordless "Whatever" before strolling off with his friend...). The solo man wondered what WDD was about, and I explained. The tourist-couple seemed intrigued and we chatted a few moments, before I snapped their photo in front of the monument (as they'd asked me to do).

So that's that. It was chilly and as my warm coffee was now gone, I decided to leave and go home. Had I made more of an effort or actually planned in advance, a whole awareness campaign could have been done on this. Maybe the city could offer information at a little table, or do a banner, or have the nearby radio station on the circle display a message: "The Monument is blue for World Diabetes Day, not just for the Colts!"

Well, there's always 2011 and beyond!

But looking into the future is getting a little ahead of ourselves, as I haven't yet told the story of our local Indy D-Meetup on World Diabetes Day... Stay tuned for that. While some of the story of what was Type 1 Talk must be told at some point, you'll for sure not want to miss out on the parts that include Cherise and her singing iPad daughter, The Chocolate Cheerio, plus talk of what could someday be an Adult D-Camp right here in the Hoosier State, at the Crossroads of America...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blue Circle of Advocacy

The little Blue Circle pin glistened in the sunlight, showing off my pride and support for World Diabetes Day from the above-the-heart spot on my blue dress shirt. With only two days before that Sunday arrived, I was displaying my D-colors and doing my part to advocate in whatever small way was possible during my daily routine.

On the way into work that Friday morning, I took a quick right turn off the expressway leading into downtown Indianapolis. My office is located in the heart of the city, but my pitstop was focused on the nearby Eli Lilly Corporate Center to see if they were doing anything to mark the day and month. As soon as I entered the roundabout entrance, my face lit up with a smile. The water fountain outside the corporate center’s front doors was colored blue in honor of World Diabetes Day.

Parking nearby and snapping some photos, I ventured inside to the front lobby information desk. Instantly, the lady at the front desk glanced at my shirt and saw the Blue Circle Pin and greeted me with excitement. She asked if I was with "the World Diabetes Day event," but sadly I wasn’t and hadn't even known there was one. I told her as much.

Nice Lady: “Oh, I just saw your World Diabetes Day pin and blue shirt and thought you were here for the Insulin For Life event.”

Me: Actually, I’m not, but I am a Type 1 diabetic. The simple fact that you know what this pin is all about is awesome and a step in the right direction.”

Nice Lady: “Yes, it is. We even have our fountain colored blue, and we hope more people will be taking part and spreading awareness.”

She paused, and looked at my pin then me again. “So what can I help you with, then?”

I mentioned my curiousity of what the company was doing and that I'd be interested in finding out about possibly touring the Lilly Museum where the history of insulin and company's work is displayed. I had a chance to visit briefly during a past JDRF research event, but wanted to explore coming back to tour or visit. The nice lady said they only allow tours if an employee accompanies someone inside. I agreed to reach out to some contacts there, and then said goodbye and went on my way.

Glancing at the time, I made my way to work and ventured off to the downtown coffee shop for a work meeting with a local attorney. We stepped into the line that had about four people in front of us, and more gathered behind as we waited. The attorney asked about my pin and I explained what it was all about. He mentioned that he wasn’t aware that I was a diabetic, but didn’t seem either familiar or unfamiliar with the Type 1 aspect. When we got up to the counter, he ordered and stepped aside to let me do the same. The girl behind the counter rang up my medium coffee order and then tossed a look at the WDD Pin on my shirt.

Coffee Girl: “That’s a cool little circle pin. What does it mean?”

Me: “It recognizes World Diabetes Day that is this Sunday. I’m diabetic and it’s an important way to raise awareness about diabetes.”

Coffee Girl: “Oh, you have that?” (referencing diabetes, I assumed)

Me: “Yes, I’m a Type 1 diabetic.”

Coffee Girl: "Oh, I’m sorry. I hope you get better soon!”

My teeth clenched. Eyes narrowed, glaring at her. I felt my foot twitch, like it wanted to jump into action. An image of me, jumping that counter and pouring a Latte on her head, came into my mind.

Somehow, magically, I restrained myself. Normally I might use that as an opportunity to educate this young woman. Especially since it’s November and just two days prior to World Diabetes Day. But, it wasn't the time. The person I was meeting with was standing to my left. At least six people were waiting patiently in line behind, and the inside coffee shop was packed full of people. I processed this quickly, deciding that it just wasn’t the time to spout into D-Advocacy. To explain, even in the simplest of ways, what Type 1 diabetes is and why I wouldn’t be “getting better” anytime soon. I bit my tongue and decided to move on, just wanting to sit down and talk to the person I was there to meet with.

Me, smiling and mumbling half-under-my-breath with thoughts of The Cure on my mind: “Me too.”

Suddenly, a man’s deep voice boomed in my ear from over my right shoulder.

“No, he said diabetes. Not the flu. Having diabetes is not like catching a cold and being sick. Part of the body doesn’t work the way it should and right now there’s no way to fix that. You have to take medicine for the rest of your life.”

I turned to see a tall, salt-and-pepper haired man in a business suit. He smirked, glanced at the insulin pump on my belt, and nodded his head before focusing his gaze back on Coffee Girl.

Business Suit Man: “And it’s not something you can get over by exercising or eating better.”

Coffee Girl: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Business Suit Man: “No problem.”

A smile came to my face, and I had to shake this man's hand and find out his story.

As he placed his coffee order and we all moved off to the side to wait for our drinks, we did a quick intro and handshake and Business Suit Man mentioned that his wife is a Type 1 diabetic of 30-some years. He apologized for intruding like that, but I assured him it was cool and pretty awesome. Like me, he can’t stand it when the general public displays that kind of ignorance. He pointed to the Blue Pin and I explained about WDD, and saw the interest in his eyes.

So I gave my pin to him, inviting him to give it to his wife. I had another in my desk at the office, so it wasn't a big deal to replace it later that morning. Business Suit Man and I exchanged business cards, him writing his wife's name on the back as I handed him one of my D-Cards. Then, we parted ways. My meeting lasted about 25 minutes and the topic didn’t come up again until the end when Local Attorney wished me well on the D-Advocacy Front, then I went back to work.

All the while, smiling and appreciating the Blue Circle Pin and displaying it even more proudly for the rest of the day. A couple of my co-workers also noticed the pin throughtout the day and I explained what it was all about, with one of the conversations delving into my D-Life nuances and how that does and doesn't impact my workdays. Educational, indeed.

That night, we attended an after-work party with those my wife works with. A few questions about the pin came my way, one person thinking that it was a Support Obama pin (um, no) and then my wife's boss asking about the one on Suzi's shirt. She was also thinking it was something different, and when we explained World Diabetes Day she wanted one so I sacrificed my pin and gave it to her, having some extras at home I could wear. She promised to display it proudly.

So, in the course of that one day, I managed to: Give away two pins; Educate a coffee shop girl about diabetes not being like the flu; Visit Lilly and learn about some great work there; Pass along the message to a local attorney; and Answer a handful of other questions related to diabetes generally or specific to World Diabetes Day.

Now THAT was a productive day of D-Advocacy, all thanks to the little Blue Circle. But it was only the start leading into the weekend. We haven't even gotten to the actual events of World Diabetes Day yet...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

World Diabetes Day 2010

Today, the globe unites for World Diabetes Day. No need for any elaborate post title, because it is what it is.

This is the fourth annual marking of this day by the International Diabetes Federation, and everyone is encouraged to participate in raising awareness about diabetes across the world.

Everyone is excited to participate, even my D-Dog Riley who you can see is doing her part to all who may want to come to the door!

Riley advocates while sporting a WDD bandana crafted by my mom!
In case you're wondering: No, the Shadow Cat has no interest in the day. Rather, she's probably planning to just hide under the bed and catch some Zzzzs.

But I'm doing my part. As I'd previously written a few weeks ago, this is my D-Message in a Bottle that's being cast out into the virtual waters for all to see.

This is my message.

But more generally, I'd like to focus on one of the IFD goals for World Diabetes Day, what the organization hopes this day can establish as a future reality. From this little corner of my world, I agree with the international organization in saying that I'd like to see a future:

Where governments, private business, foundations, international organizations, researchers and the scientific community invest significantly in research into the causes, cure and better management of diabetes.

Maybe, someone not knowledgable will find this message and learn a little more about diabetes. Maybe they'll find the initiative to do something about it. Maybe.

A WDD cande-holder creation of my mom's!

We can all do our part. Maybe it's through writing a blog. Or hosting a radio show. Speaking at seminars and schools. Telling stories through magazines and newspapers and mass media. Taking photos of landmarks lit up in blue, or lighting a blue candle yourself. Or calling legislative leaders and private business officials and urging them to support this cause. Even a little, can mean so much.

Don't forget: At 2 p.m., diabetics everywhere are encouraged to participate in the Big Blue Test - - Do a BG Test -> Exercise for 14 minutes -> Test Again -> Share The Results on the site above, online at Facebook and Twitter and use the hashtag #bigbluetest.

Most importantly: whatever the activity may be for today, have fun while advocating!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did Someone Say Fire...?

Meetups are always an exciting, much-anticipated happening in the Diabetes Community. So when the chance arose for one of those here in the Indianapolis area, my ears perked up and I made plans to participate.

This time, the D-Meetup comes on World Diabetes Day - this Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010. Via the JDRF Advocacy folk at the national level, which is hosting the first-ever Type 1 Talk. Dozens of these local meetup events are happening across the country that afternoon, and on top of the meet-and-greets and get-togethers the JDRF will be holding a live online Q&A discussion from 3 to 4 p.m. EST. Some of the topics touch on research, technological advances, advocacy efforts, and the benefits of the Diabetes Online Community.

If you're attending an event or not going to one but want to access the broadcast online at 3 p.m. EST, you can find it at http://takeaction.jdrf.org/site/R?i=0MvuvbdYwRFr-5YGaFA2mA. If you are unable to access the online broadcast, you can listen by phone by calling toll-free 866-371-3788. International callers can dial 703-643-6855. (NOTE: You should choose phone or USTREAM to participate in the broadcast).

Two are setup in the Indy area - one in Fishers that's more family-focused; the other an Adult Type 1 oriented meetup. The latter is the one I'm attending and helped setup, and a core few of us back in late September coordinated the logistics on where it would happen.

A month ago, a conflict came up and the original meeting spot was a No Go. So, we started searching for a new place. Libraries, conference rooms, office buildings either weren't available or charged a fee that we just didn't want to fork over. Our Plan A was out, and it appeared that what was supposed to be Plan B wasn't going to pan out. But a local pizza place offered a roof where this small but involved group of Adult Type 1s could gather. This became Plan C. Word went out, and people responded with interest about wanting to be a part of it. Even the local JDRF Chapter and lcoal ADA Chapter offered thoughts, about how we all could work together toward common goals and even how we could enhance the Indy-area efforts through the DOC. All was in place and everything was set, in the week and days leading up to this D-Meetup.

Some spoke of excitement that there'd be new and old meetups, recognized faces and those who'd come together for the first time. Rumor even surfaced that video cameras might be on the scene, leading to a possible new SugaSheen-style creation... (No confirmation has been available on this by deadline for this blog post, though.) Needless to say, anticipation is high.

But then fire ignited. Literally.

The pizzeria we were set to gather at is located in a stip mall up on the northside of Indianapolis in Carmel, near a Dunkin Donuts store. In the early morning hours on what was recognized as Veteran's Day, a fire began in the donut shop and eventually spread to the larger strip mall. Some businesses were burned down, others damaged, others just saturated with smoke. I recognized the street where the strip mall is located, and quickly realized that our Donato's Pizza was now closed.

Son of a....

Plan C became a scramble to coordinate Plan D.

Tweeting this, some offered suggestions. Before long, Plan D was formed by the Diabetics.

We wouldn't let something like a fire get in the way of our own fire of excitement.
Turns out, another Donato's Pizza isn't that far away. So instead of being where we had been, a new location is reserved at 75th and Shadeland on the northside. (If you are interested in attending: please check out the Facebook Application Page here for more details.) Outside the Indy area, hope you've been able to find a meetup or at least find some time to watch the live UStream being broadcast that afternoon.

This is an exciting worldwide event and I'm very excited to be a part of it. At the suggestion of our community Ninjabetic, I've been wearing my Blue Circle Pin recognizing World Diabetes Day and the month of Diabetes Awareness and have had some interesting encounters and questions. Even today, which I'll write about as time allows before long! Even on Friday morning, it's exciting here in Indianapolis to be a part of this - the Eli Lilly corporate fountain is blue, Roche is being all blue in human form, and so many people out on the streets are just wearing blue (Now admittedly: this is Indianapolis, home of the Colts, and it's typically Blue Friday here anyhow... but whatever. This is my blog and I'm allowed to dream this city is all united for diabetes!)

I'm intrigued by the D-Talk, but mostly I'm excited about the D-Meetup. A half-dozen have said they plan to be there, while we could bring in a little more than a dozen if others who've expressed interest are able to stop by. Aside from this happening on Sunday, monuments will be lit up in blue while other events are scheduled nationally to highlight WDD. You can find global activities here. Many fellow D-Bloggers are writing about activities and events, but you can find good information over at Amy's DiabetesMine.

On Sunday, make sure at 2 p.m. (Your Local Time) to take part in the Big Blue Test. And if you haven't yet watched it (today or anytime), please take less than 2 minutes to check out this video below. Your view will help donate life-saving insulin to a child who needs it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Six Things: According to Tom Petty & Me

Today is annual D-Blog Day.

The point is to not only unite diabetes bloggers, but to bring us together for the purpose of raising awareness.

So, with a Tuesday marking this now-annual online event, I give you this year's topic: Six Things that I think You Should Know About Diabetes. Please, take note.

1. Type 1 isn't Type 2. Yes, there are different types. We T1s are a smaller percentage, not part of what's sometimes referred to as the epidemic-sized "silent killer." This is a chronic autoimmune condition that I didn't bring on myself, and I won't grow out of. There's no cure-all and insulin is only life support. It takes constant care, ninja-like skills to manage each and every day without any vacation. Just because I don't look "sick" doesn't mean that I'm not living with a chronic condition. Yes, there's a reason we in this crazy community call it an "invisible illness." Do you wonder what Type 1 diabetes looks like? Well, you may look at me and see this:

Me Being Pretending To Be All Kinds of Mr. Normal Guy

Even though, even as you're looking at me, I may feel like this:

The Inner Crazy, Insane Person With Diabetes

2. Diabetes Police (and some in the medical community) say that you can control diabetes, that after a given period of time like 26 years, "you should be doing better." This is a myth. Diabetes often means uncertainty, even when you follow the rules and do everything right. Young Eilish's recent death is proof of this. It's unfair and really does suck, but it is what it is. We do our best. Do I come to you, Mr or Mrs. Non-D, and interrogate and lecture you about how you're failing to stay young when you've got so many years under your belt? No. Please understand that some things are just the way they are despite our best efforts, and leave us be. Oh, and by the way: "Yes, we CAN eat that ______."

3. Hey, Insurance Company: I'm not out to just tag more claims onto my policy with you. No, I don't WANT to test my blood 8-12 times a day. I'd rather not, actually. My calloused-fingertips would like the rest. But it's a life-maintaining tool that will actually help you SAVE money in the long-run, and you should jump at that chance. Same with a Continuous Glucose Monitor. If you want to deny me and later fork over larger amounts for paramedics, ambulances, and hospital fees, then don't come crying to me later on. I gave you the chance to avoid it. Your own stupid fault if you didn't listen.

4. Tom Petty can apparently tap into my soul and sing songs in the voice of my pancreas: Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me (insulin, of course!). You Don't Know How It Feels (to be diabetic). We all know the Waiting Is the Hardest Part when coming down from a High, but we don't want to find ourselves Free Falling way too Low. You Wreck Me, diabetes. When it comes right down to it, we people with diabetes just have to say Damn the Torpedoes and just step out Into the Great Wide Open to start Running Down a Dream.

5. I've been Way Up High and Way Down Low, and sometimes feel lost and uncertain. But not alone. Not anymore. Thanks to the Diabetes Online Community, which transcends the online world and filters into offline advocacy and friendships. Without the DOC, I'd be less accountable to myself and my D would be managed much differently to my own detriment. In my opinion, every person who has or is impacted by diabetes should be a part of this incredible network of support.

6. My Busted Pancreas Can Kick the Islet Cells of Your Lazy Pancreas any day, honor roll or not. Put that on your bumper sticker, bee-atch.

So that's Diabetes Six for Today, courtesy of both Tom "My Pancreas" Petty and I. This isn't the only blog on this blogging bandwagon partaking in the festivities today, though. You can find more entries here over at The Diabetes OC. Please, take a look and let everyone know you came by!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Penguins, Polar Bears, & Superheroes

Families crowded the room, moving everywhere around me. Even as the polar bears and Barbies and dinosaurs all stole the attention that I was trying to focus on the task at hand. It was afterall, a monumental job.

Then, a tug at my shirt-sleeve brought my gaze down in front of me.

"I feel Low. I think I need to test," Little Shirt Sleeve Tugging Girl said.

Her inquisitive eyes stared up at me, expecting that the adult in front of her - the one who was a Type 1 diabetic just like her - would have an answer, a blood meter, some candy to boost her if needed. But my callouused-fingertips seemed to find only unprepared ineffectiveness to clutch on to.

In the blink of an eye, as quick as a heartbeat, my 26 years of experience Living With Diabetes went out the window. None of that mattered. At that moment, all that mattered was this girl in front of me who was relying on me to help her.

It broke my heart, and scared the hell out of me.

This was the scene Sunday, when I attended a free diabetes education event at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Sponsored by the JDRF Indiana and Peyton Manning Children's Hospital, this event brought in an estimated 300 people and even had a waiting list that meant some who'd wanted to attend could not. I was there as a pseudo-advocate for the JDRF Outreach and JDRF Government Relations crews of my local chapter. This meant I wasn't really volunteering or participating, but could kind of be in the background and experience the event while meeting and greeting, advocating, and experiencing. I'd planned to follow the high schoolers/college-aged Type 1s who'd be talking about "How They've Done It," but plans changed. A volunteer wasn't there as planned, so the organizers summoned me to help keep watch over the little kids in the "child care" aspect while the parents and caretakers were off learning in the various sessions.

Ages appeared to range from about 5 to 12, and in my color-coded group we had about four kids - three girls, one boy - who were all diabetic. Two of the girls knew each other from D-Camp and were about the same age, and ran around and enjoyed pretty much all of their time together. The other little boy and girl were brother and sister - he was a fun little guy who got excited talking about Spiderman and Superman, liked to push buttons, and asked many questions with a pre-reading curiosity about words. The sister was a cute little one who didn't say much, but clinged tightly to her stuffed bunny doll and hugged it close. Except in the Barbie exhibit, where she smiled and played and displayed a happiness you might expect from a little girl that age.

This was a new experience for me. While it wasn't my planned or preferred role for the day, it was educational and eye-opening and an experience I won't forget.

That Little Shirt Sleeve Tugging Girl had been running around with one of her friends most of the afternoon, but when our group split up inside the polar bear and arctic exhibit, I was pretty much the only adult keeping track of the two girls and had to keep my eyes on them. At the time, they were running around putting on the penguin outfits and following the footsteps and sliding down the arctic slide head-first. But a Low changed the mood quickly.

She didn't have her purse with meter, and mine also wasn't on hand. The other adult-supervisor with the backback and candy had ventured off with the other kids. Looking around, I felt helpless. She was still being a kid and wanting to run around, but if she was Low it could go bad very fast. I couldn't just sprint to find the other adult, even with Shirt Sleeve Tugger in tow, because her friend was still running and playing and wasn't interested in leaving that fun behind.

My life as a Type 1 didn't matter. Whatever I knew wasn't important. Sure, I know what it's like to be Low. Know how to bring myself out of it. Know what to tell others so they can bring me out of it. Know what can happen if a Low is left untreated. But that insider experience had no bearing then, as I stood without an answer, without a meter, without any sugar or anyone to turn to for help. All I wanted to do was protect this little girl, and I felt powerless to do it.

That sucks.

Fortunately, I soon glimpsed my fellow adult supervisor and made sure the two found each other while keeping an eye on the friend, who was still dressed up in the penguin outfit strutting around with the many non-D kids at the museum. Penguin Girl said she felt fine, and a test revealed that Shirt Sleeve Tugger was Low. So we all sat down and munched on some Skittles before getting back into the swing of things. We faced a related example inside the Planetarium, when it was time to sit in what was basically dark movie theater to look up at the dome ceiling for the show. Sitting next to that same little girl, she said at one point she needed to test but didn't have her purse with the meter. Adult counselor was a few seats over and gave it back, but then Little Girl told me she couldn't see her OneTouchUltraMini in the darkened room. I'd left my phone back in my coat a long ways off, and didn't have a flashlight. So, what am I supposed to do for this girl who needs to test but can't see in the darkness??? Luckily, I had my pump at my waist and was able to use its backlight to give her enough light to test - and she was fine at that point.

Later, the only little boy in the group - who I'll dub the Little Boy Who Didn't Want to See the Barbie Exhibit - asked me about the insulin pump on my beltline. Though he didn't have one, the little 5-year-old generally knew what it was and thought it might be better than having to take those regular shots that "sometimes really hurt." He wanted to know if it also "gave me sugar" and whether it meant I didn't go Low, like how he does and "feels bad" when that happens. My heart broke again, and I couldn't stomach to tell him the reality that our technology isn't there yet. That we're just on the tip of that "closed loop" system but it could be so many years for it to make it's way to our United States - not only because of company product-creation challenges, but because of political debates and funding and government FDA regulations.

Though I've had my share of headaches with infusion sites and "gushers" and even went on a five-month Pump Hiatus to give my body a rest after nine years of pumping, my own experiences didn't matter. I didn't care about any of that, and an answer of "it's better than shots" wasn't adequate. I didn't want this little boy to need shots or a pump. So, instead, I told him that it takes the place of shots and does help give me insulin like how he gets shots now. I told him my pump's name was "Bacon" because I like to eat bacon and my pump helps me eat what I like, and he smiled at that. Then, we focused on the polar bears and talked about superheroes - his favorite being Superman over Spiderman or Batman.

In my mind, all I could think about was how any D-Parent or caregiver must be a superhero in their own right. How they must conquer their own fears and insecurities for the betterment of that CWD. Maybe some of that just comes with being a parent and I'll learn that when the time comes. Maybe some of it gets easier the more you do it, or if you've served as a D-Camp counselor in the past. Maybe it does, but this experience was my first time. I'm just glad it all turned out fine.

What I faced was just a few brief moments of what these Parents of Children With Diabetes face every day, every night. every moment. Regardless of my own experiences growing up with and living as an adult with Type 1, that doesn't replace the simple reality that I don't know what it's like to be a caregiver to a child - especially a CWD. You think it requires ninja-skills to manage your own D-Life? Well, try being responsible for that from the outside, with the normal parental cares and concerns amplified by this chronic condition's necessities, and having to teach this little one how to grow up to have a successfull life with diabetes. Not easy by any means. I'd known that before, but see it even more clearly now. These Parents Acting Like Pancreases are superheroes. We could recognize them every moment of every day, and they'd still be under-appreciated.

So, to every Parent Who Acts Like A Pancreas: Thank you, so incredibly much. For everything. We Children With Diabetes Who Grew Up are who are because of your care, your guidance, your balancing those daily issues in whatever way you did.