Month: May 2011

Hopper the Dog

Admiring Our Heroes

2nd Annual Diabetes Blog Week

I recently watched a movie called “Love and Other Drugs” where Anne Hathaway plays Maggie Murdock, a character who has early-onset Parkinson’s disease. I think the movie was actually a romantic comedy of sorts, with people running around naked, and enough drugs to fill a doctor’s office. The lead character, Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), was a pharmaceutical rep…where is your mind at?

The “I notice you have an invisible illness, I have an invisible illness too” side of me could identify with a lot of the trials that Maggie was going through, even though they were sometimes probably downplayed for the sake of the film having popular appeal. One particular bit of dialog in the movie really stood out for me, because it resonates so loud in our world with diabetes, an incurable disease like Parkinson’s.

Maggie Murdock: I’m gonna need you more than you need me.
Jamie Randall: That’s okay.
Maggie Murdock: [crying] No it’s not! It isn’t *fair*! I have places to go!
Jamie Randall: You’ll go there. I just may have to carry you.
Maggie Murdock: …I can’t ask you to do that.
Jamie Randall: You didn’t.

Well break my heart. If that doesn’t connect with you, you’re cold-hearted and you need to go find a puppy or a kitten to hug on (stat!) before you freeze to death.

Hopper the Dog

Think about your world with diabetes for a minute. Think about the times that you’ve needed someone, and they’ve been there, without you ever having to ask them to be. Think about the reality of knowing that there may come a time, at some point, where you will have to rely on someone else far more than you will be able to rely on yourself. Think about how guilty and vulnerable that makes you feel. It’s scary, and a really hard thing to admit to ourselves and accept. Although we strive so hard each and every day to manage our diabetes in such a way that maintains our independence and well-being, sometimes the unpredictability of it wins, and we need a little help.

Take a deep breath, because it’s okay.

Think about how lucky we are to have someone…a partner, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a coworker, a roommate, a neighbor, and sometimes even a trained dog…who is there for us, even when we can’t ask them to be.

Want to know who I admire? It’s those heroes.

Take a moment and read this post from one of my favorite bloggers, Saucy…well, her significant other, actually: FF’s Take On Diabetes

TPD Patch & Badge

More Cops and Low Blood Sugars

While trying to figure out a good topic to write a blog post about while enjoying a giant cup of coffee at a nearby Starbucks, I spied with my two eyes a table of three police officers who were on break. I recently read a great blog post by my buddy Scott Johnson titled “Cops and Low Blood Sugars” about a conversation he had recently with a couple of officers about traffic stops involving diabetes and low blood sugars. Feeling curious, I decided to follow Scott’s lead, so I grabbed my blog business cards and headed over to the table o’ police and asked if I might be able to interrupt them for a few minutes. To my surprise, they were very polite and happy to accommodate me, and invited me to sit down and join them.

These particular three officers worked traffic duty with the Tallahassee Police Department. One of them had also worked for a time with the Florida Highway Patrol. The former FHP officer was the most vocal of the group, and seemed to have had the most experience encountering diabetes behind the wheel.

TPD Patch & Badge

I started with the same question that Scott did, inquiring if they had encountered traffic stops involving diabetes and low blood sugars. The former FHP officer said yes, and proceeded to share a couple of the more extreme cases he had dealt with. One story involved a man who was having a low blood sugar while driving on I-95 near Jacksonville into oncoming traffic. The officer said that he had to force the driver into the guardrail on the side of the highway to stop his car and keep him from injuring someone in a potential head on collision. Another story involved a PWD behind the wheel who was having a diabetic seizure and crashed into a tree.

I proceeded to ask the officers how they distinguish a diabetic medical emergency from driving while intoxicated (DWI). The short answer, they don’t. At least, not initially. A low blood sugar and a DWI can cause such similar behavior that stopping the vehicle and getting the driver away from the wheel in the name of public safety is of the highest priority to the police officers. There was a lot of head nodding at that statement, so they appeared to be in agreement on this point.

The officers said that they can sometimes distinguish a diabetic medical emergency from a DWI based on smell. Two of them described a sweet odor that comes off of a PWD when they are having a severe low, as opposed to the pungent smell of alcohol. I’m guessing what they are describing is the odor from the clothes-soaking sweat that sometimes accompanies a sudden low. Still, I’m not going to bank all of my points on an officer being able to help me based on smell alone. What if that officer has a cold on that one day that I need his sniffer to be fully functioning to save my life? To my relief, they also acknowledged other typical low blood sugar symptoms including confusion, sweating, inability to focus or respond to basic questions, shakiness, and in extreme situations even seizures, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. I gave them a mental check mark for knowing those.

So what happens, after the car is stopped and everybody is safe? If it is a diabetic medical emergency, the officers confirmed that paramedics would be called. After that, they said to fully expect the applicable punishments according to law. Read: citations and possible suspension of driving privileges until review and approval for reinstatement by the medical review board. They informed me that the steps that a PWD would have to go through after such an event would likely be similar to those that someone who suffers from epilepsy would have to go through to get their license or have their license reinstated, including a period of time (unspecified how long, and probably varies by situation or state) showing that their diabetes is in good control. Still, they deferred to the medical review board, as once the traffic case is closed, they are often left out of the loop as to what exactly happens in the long term.

From their no-nonsense point of view (and the one point where we disagreed), having a low blood sugar behind the wheel of a car and driving drunk are both totally preventable and are entirely the choice of the driver. One officer said that it is person’s choice whether or not they want to take responsibility for their diabetes and keep it under control, no different than a person’s choice to drink alcohol before they get behind the wheel of a car.

Obviously, he didn’t have diabetes. Nobody’s perfect. *wink*

We know that the realities of living with diabetes are not necessarily preventable or predictable. Life happens. Still, rather than argue, I encouraged the officer to continue, because I wanted him to understand that I’m asking for a HUGE number of people who live with diabetes each and every day. I want to make his job and our lives both easier in the unfortunate event that we do find ourselves on the side of the road having to deal with each other. What can we do, as PWD’s, to help police officers help us in a time of need?

Wear a medical alert ID on your wrist.

All three police officers acknowledged that recognizing a medical alert bracelet on the wrist or around the neck of a person is part of their training. They even followed up by saying that the wrist is the first place they would look, since they are trained to make sure they can see a driver’s hands at all times.

I also inquired about bumper stickers or window decals that say “Diabetic Driver.” They all said that it might help, but a medical ID on the wrist would be better. In a traffic stop, they are trained to look for other things beyond what a bumper sticker or window decal says, and a medical ID on the driver is more indicative that they are indeed the person in need of attention.

Get your drivers license to indicate that you have diabetes or are insulin dependent.

In Florida, if you indicate that you have Type 1 diabetes you can get a stamp on our license that says “INSULIN DEP” in bright red letters. I actually took my license out and showed it to the officers, and they said that because that is the only red ink on the entire license, it stands out and they will notice it. They also said that sometimes (unfortunately, not 100% of the time) the dispatch officer will also point out to them when they run the license number that this is a person who is insulin dependent and may need assistance. Check with your state to see what your options are. (I’d also be curious to know if there are any options like this for those with Type 2 diabetes.)

Check your blood sugar EVERY time before you get behind the wheel of a car.

The officers (and me) all agreed that managing diabetes is the most important thing we can do before getting behind the wheel of a car. Before you drive anywhere, stop and take 30 seconds to check your blood sugar, and if necessary treat accordingly. Let’s be honest, you probably need to check it anyway.

May Day Reflection

Sunday night I was running behind schedule. I was scrambling to finish laundry, pack, gather my diabetes supplies, and get everything together for a last minute business trip to New York. Then my phone chirped with a text message: “Turn on the news.”

I knew that I was traveling the next morning, and given the news I expected elevated security at the airport, so I stayed up late and evaluated everything that I had packed to try and limit any security issues I might have with all my diabetes accoutrements. So focused on the business of travel, I didn’t have time to get online and look at Twitter or Facebook until right before I stretched out with my cat in bed for a couple hours of sleep before getting up to go to the airport.

I was encouraged and comforted by some of the short status posts and tweets about the event. Many were hopeful for peace, for healing, and for the closing of a terrible chapter in our lives and nation’s history. At the same time, I saw many negative and passive-aggressive remarks that came across as almost a jubilation of hatred, and made my heart hurt for those lost. After Sunday night, I decided to let Facebook go for a few days. I honestly couldn’t handle the hatred and celebration of death that was overwhelming my news feed and inciting arguments, both amongst my friends and within myself.

I believe that things happen for a reason. I have faith, and allow myself to trust sometimes even when I cannot see the bigger picture of things. I had no plans of going to New York prior to a week ago, but then I got a call for a meeting and packed my bags, never imagining that I would be in the city 12 hours after news that the world had been waiting to hear for nearly a decade.

After my plane landed on Monday morning, I took a cab to my hotel, dropped off my bags, and made my way to Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero. I stood next to people who were cheering and waving American flags, and observed their transitions from previously defeated to recently victorious. I stood quietly next to people who were praying, remembering, and would always have a hole in their soul from what was taken from them one terrible Tuesday morning. I walked through St. Paul’s Chapel, and through the cemetery behind it nearest Ground Zero, imagining the many resting souls there who had shepherded to the other side those that had lost their way on September 11, 2001, just out of human sight.

It occurred to me that no matter what the news of the day was, the history and loss was still there and present. The death of a single terrorist while I was standing amid the headstones in a graveyard with a front row seat to the tragedy of 9/11 had as much effect on me as a cure for diabetes for those that have already been lost to the disease. That is to say, it didn’t really change much.

There are men and women from all different nationalities fighting for a better world right now, who are leaders, soldiers, and heralds of change, who realize that the reality of terrorism and injustice may always exist, but believe that it doesn’t have to keep anyone from the opportunity to achieve their dreams. The goal is to one day eliminate terror and violence from this world, but even if that never happens, they will at least have made positive changes in the quality of life for so many.

As a diabetes advocate, I am one of many fighting for a better world also, where the reality of diabetes may always exist, but it doesn’t have to keep anyone from achieving their dreams. Our goal is to one day eliminate diabetes from this world, but even if that never happens, we will at least make positive changes in the quality of life for those living with the disease.

In addition to a productive meeting and an enjoyable time with friends from all over the city, I wonder if that realization and appreciation might be the real reason that I was meant to be in New York on the day that I was.

The Cross at Ground Zero

The Cross at Ground Zero