Once up on a time (July 2014), in a land far, far away (Vienna), there was a beautiful young woman. We will call her Jo (because that is her name). Jo was visiting Vienna to present at a conference because as well as being beautiful, she is smart and well-respected in her chosen field.
In addition to being beautiful and brainy, Jo also has diabetes (which only increases her beauty and braininess). Her insulin pump is her trusty friend, and together they had made the long trek to Vienna. (On a plane, they didn’t really walk there. Let’s not romanticise this story too much!)
But on their first day in Vienna, her pump went ‘kaputt’, which is German for ‘You’re on your own, I’m not working anymore.’
Jo was, understandably, distressed. A faulty pump would mean reduced intake of crisp apple strudel and schnitzel with noodles. Immediately, Jo got on the phone and called the pump company to let them know what was going on and organise to get a working pump to her.
Of course, it was the middle of the night in Australia, so there was no one at the pump company and she was put through to their international call centre. She was assured that someone would be in touch with her as soon as the Australian office opened the following day.
In the meantime, Jo wondered what else she could do. Who could she call that just might be able to help in the middle of the night? So she pulled out her phone, and in 140 characters or less put out this call for help.
And just like a fairy godmother waving her wand, the DOC came to the rescue!
The next day some DOC people sent tweets, Facebook messages, emails and possibly, but probably not, carrier pigeons to put out the call. Who could help? Who could save this damsel in distress kickass, sassy chick and get her back on a pump?
Enter the team at MySugr who are all too clever and aesthetically blessed for their own good, (seriously – they all look like poster children for….poster children), and the wonderful Marlis, who offered to lend Jo a pump.
Jo jumped on a cream coloured pony in a taxi and took herself to the MySugr HQ, hidden away in the streets of Vienna. She climbed the stairs to meet the woman with whom she’d been connected to help her…get reconnected. Marlis handed Jo
a brown paper package tied up with string her spare pump.
This is the moment where Jo and Marlis met.
And at this point, Jo was no longer pumpless in Vienna.
She continued her trip – next stop presenting at a conference in Lisbon. Where she was not pumpless. Where she could eat all the Portuguese tarts she wanted without worry.
And she lived happily ever after.
Now, this is all lovely and the outcome was, indeed, wonderful. But what was going on behind the scenes was not. Time zones are a pain in the behind to manage at the best of times; being in a different country to the one where a pump was issued is going to add a degree of difficulty to getting a replacement pump.
However, Jo faced obstacle after obstacle after obstacle from the people she expected would help her. Because this was not a tick-the-box-cookie-cutter problem, they were unable to provide her a satisfactory solution – a working pump delivered to Vienna. Diabetes is never tick-the-box-cookie-cutter easy. It is difficult, messy, crazy, all over the place!
Jo called Euro offices of the pump company – she was not necessarily expecting the Australian office to courier a new pump to the other side of the world. But everywhere she turned, she was faced with a brick wall.
Except when she turned to the diabetes online community which is made up of wonderful people living difficult, messy, crazy, all over the place diabetes lives.
I have told this story dozens of times and have presented it at conferences both here and overseas. People stop me in conference halls to ask me about it.
And the reason that I share this story – which is not mine, – is because it shows (yet again) the value and power of our community. And it shows that social media can be used to connect people in such meaningful – life saving! – ways.