It’s World Diabetes Day and everyone is talking diabetes. Or so it seems.
Do we need another awareness-raising day?
Yep. We do.
We know the numbers. We know that diabetes is serious. We know that prevention is the key – prevention of type 2 diabetes (where possible) and of complications in those already living with diabetes. I could write how World Diabetes Day can draw attention to these facts.
But instead, I’ll tell you why I – a person living with diabetes – need World Diabetes Day.
I need today because it gives an opportunity to talk about real life with diabetes.
On Wednesday, (also known as ‘I hate diabetes day’) I spoke at the Austin Hospital’s Grand Rounds. Most hospitals have Grand Rounds – it is a learning opportunity for doctors and other healthcare professionals to hear presentations and ask questions about different medical conditions – sometimes outside their area of specialty.
Wednesday’s session had a World Diabetes Day focus – the lecture theatre was adorned in blue balloons and just about everyone in the room was wearing an item of blue clothing.
I gave my talk which consisted a discussion of the consumer-focused program we run at Diabetes Australia – Vic; how healthcare professionals can use social media to interact with people with diabetes and how PWD use social media to connect.
At the end of my planned talk, I looked around the room. I think my talk had been well received – I know that I am certainly different to the usual healthcare professional presenting and I also knew that the next speaker – the wonderful Professor Joe Proietto – was giving a talk on type 2 diabetes medication.
‘Just before I go, I want to say something,’ I said. I took a deep breath. ‘I hope you have enjoyed my talk. I hope that it has given you a better idea of some of the programs and activities available to be people with diabetes. I hope you are thinking about what your Twitter handle is going to be because I really want to see ALL of you in the Twittersphere next week!! But I just want to add something.’
I moved away from the lectern and stood in the middle of the stage.
‘I look okay today, right?’ I saw heads nodding around the room. ‘My dress is neat, my hair is clean. I have make up on and I know I have matching shoes on – I checked before I left the house. My lipstick is on straight. I just gave you a twenty minute talk, and I think it all made sense….I think? The words did form coherent sentences, right?’ More nods from the people in the theatre.
‘I look okay.’ I paused again.
‘But let me tell you how I am feeling. I had a terrifying hypo overnight and was awake for a good part of the night. I needed help to deal with it, and my daughter, when she woke up this morning, had to see me feeling pretty damn crap. My dad is sitting over in the corner there because I was just too tired to drive here from Brunswick, and he kindly offered to chauffeur me so I wouldn’t need to take a cab.’ I looked over at my dad and smiled. And then kept going.
‘Why did this happen? Well, I guess if we want to find a reason, we could say it was because before I went to bed last night, I didn’t check my blood sugar. You see, I just couldn’t be bothered. Now, before you think ‘how stupid’ or ‘serves her right’ or start to judge me, know that I had already checked my BGL about 15 times throughout the day and the thought of doing another BGL check was just too much for me. And I thought that I was okay based on the previous check and knowing that I had no insulin on board.
‘But you know what? It doesn’t matter why it happened and if I wasn’t telling you this now, you would never know. You wouldn’t know that I really would like to curl up under one of the seats and fall asleep; you wouldn’t know that I am still dealing with the hypo-rebound and my BGL is sitting somewhere in the mid-teens. You wouldn’t know that my arms and legs are heavy from being post-hypo-exhausted. You wouldn’t know that I kind of want to cry because today, my diabetes is other people’s problems. Not just my own.
‘Now, I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’m not telling you this because I want you to pity me because I have diabetes. It’s crap and that’s all there is to it. I’m telling you this because I want you to remember this story next time you are sitting opposite one of your patients who is living with diabetes – or any other medical condition for that matter – and they look all great. Don’t assume. Don’t ever assume that everything is all fine. Because I can tell you for sure that while I will be blogging about this to share with other people with diabetes, I certainly won’t be sitting in my next appointment telling my endo about it.’
I stopped again. The room was silent – no one moved.
‘Thank you so much for having me here today. And happy World Diabetes Day for Friday.’
I walked off the stage.