Welcome?

If you have found this blog, saying Welcome does not really seem appropriate. I know you wish you weren't surfing the internet for diabetes. I felt the same.

A big part of me wishes I were not writing about diabetes, nor did I anticipate to become so opinionated or informed on the subject, but it happened. In 2010, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

It wasn't really part of the plan… Correction - it was not part of the plan, but it happened. It is not always easy, but I think we are all doing okay, and I hope we continue to do so.

Why the Middle East? I happen to live in Dubai. I don't think that living in the Middle East makes mine or my son's diabetic experience any more unique or challenging than it does elsewhere in the developed world.

I hope you stick around, or read something you like. Feel free to comment and join the conversation, subscribe or follow this blog by liking the Facebook page Diapoint.

Please note: This blog does not give medical advice. I am opinionated, and I share my experiences, but the first rule of diabetes is to follow up with your doctor and/or nurse educator about your care, diagnosis or medication. If you do not have a medical practitioner that is helping you find your way through this crazy world, then do not give up until you find the right one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Diabetes - More Than Just a Month of Blue Circles

As today is the last day of November, Diabetes Awareness Month, I had a different message prepared today. 

All month I have attended events, posted a fact a day and bombarded my social media with other things to raise awareness about diabetes. 

I wanted to highlight that many may be tired of my daily posts about diabetes. 

I wanted to highlight that this is okay because it is small in comparison to how often a diabetic has to consider the information I have shared over the last month.

I wanted to highlight that diabetes is more than a post, or internet meme you can scroll through and pick up a quick soundbite. 

It is more than walks and fundraisers. 

It is more than the smiling faces of the children you see representing research efforts. 

While many diabetics manage and live with diabetes every day, all day, to the fullest, they are too often reminded of how horrific this disease can be. 

This morning, I was sadly reminded once again. A beautiful young woman lost her life to diabetes last night. I do not know her personally, but I do know her face and her smile. I do know the disease that took her life too soon.  I am not sure of the circumstances of her case, but I do know that she was in DKA because of Type 1.

Please know the signs, symptoms and what to do in the event of a diabetic emergency. 

If you are diabetic, please consider all the risks and what you need to do to manage those.  

Please be more than aware.. 

Please know there are people out there fighting the other 335 days a year..






Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding Gratitude In The Diabetic World

Last weekend we celebrated American Thanksgiving. Every year the same 25 or so children and adults come to our home for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Although I am the only one that grew up in America among the group, we are all always very thankful for this gathering and the special things in our life. 

And while I am not thankful for diabetes, I am thankful for many things it has given me - appreciation for health, the amazing people I have met as a result of this journey, those who are working diligently to find a cure, and I am thankful that we have access to the current technology to manage it.

When my son was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I was overwhelmed. I worried that he would miss out on a typical childhood experiences - having fun, playing with his friends and doing all the other things kids do that we often take for granted. I think every parent of a newly diagnosed Type 1 questions if their child will have a “normal” childhood.

As I learned more about diabetes and became less anxious with the daily routine of care, I realized that it is a manageable condition. Life saving insulin coupled with available technology allows my son to have a normal childhood.

So while I am very thankful for insulin, I am also incredibly thankful for that technology and the flexibility his insulin pump has given us. I am also thankful for how far the insulin pump has come.

This invention is a little older than I am, and has drastically improved over time. The first one was was the size of a very large backpack. Today’s insulin pumps are about the size of a pager (Anyone remember those?) and they have made diabetes management easier for many people.  

Pumps have many advantages including the elimination of several insulin injections a day and the delivery of insulin more accurately. There are also some models that when coupled with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), suspend insulin delivery to avoid life threatening low blood sugar. 

However, many people think an insulin pump is a cure. It is not. 

It still requires several blood glucose checks per day, changing of the insertion sites every 2-3 days, plus the need to accurately count carbohydrates and determine appropriate insulin coverage.  The diabetic, or caretaker of the diabetic still has to be supportive and vigilant.

Recently in the U.S., a new pump was approved that the media labeled as an "artificial pancreas". While it was a significant advancement to help patients maintain normal glucose levels, intervention and diligence will still be required.  While it is not a cure, it is a significant innovation that will make life easier for diabetics to manage.

I am thankful that the future is bright for diabetics.  Diabetes will continue to present its daily challenges, but at the present moment, insulin pumps and other technology have provided my child a flexibility not seen by previous generations of diabetics. 

I am thankful we are living in this time of research and scientific development that have allowed my son and others like him to be kids. I am thankful that in their lifetime they will (hopefully) continue to see much more advancement.

The First Insulin Pump - Invented in the 1960s



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sick Days And The Signs

More from the photography series "Diabetes Every Day". 

The pancreas can sometimes tell a Type 1 if they are sick long before other symptoms show up. Blood sugars increase for what often seems like no good reason only to find out a few days later a flu hits, or there is something going around the school that the body needs to fight. 

This picture was taken when my son was sent home from school with a very low grade fever. Because of a high blood sugar, the school nurse checked his temperature, and even though it was only one decimal point above the allowed limit with no other symptoms, he was sent home for the day. 

As a parent, you want your child healthy. As the parent of a diabetic, you want it even more as true sick days are very severe and can result in DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis). But if they are not ill, you want nothing more than for them to be normal, in school learning with their friends. Some diabetics already miss more school because it takes them longer to recover than the average non-diabetic child. 

I won't lie that these situations where he is sent home healthy frustrate me and make me wonder how many low grade fevers and other flu-like symptoms are lurking in the school hallways unnoticed or unreported. Sometimes it feels like my child gets the short end of the deal because no one runs around the halls with a thermometer checking anyone else that is symptomatic for flu. 

Sent home from school with a fever one decimal above the school limit - only
discovered as a result of high blood sugar.
....And there are real sick days. The next image was less than 24 hours after blood sugars that were on the higher side did not go down right away. Meaning, there was not enough insulin in the body - which makes a person feel sick. They feel very sick. 

There are times that a blood sugar will not go down right away... could be a pump site that needs changing, could be a bad vial of insulin..could be many other things.. But the point is, it does not take long for high blood sugars to cause a Type 1 to not feel well. 

Nausea sets in pretty quickly.. a doctor will most often assume this is flu in a child that has not been diagnosed for Type 1 diabetes. Once we found the root cause of the insulin not getting to his system, and corrected that, in a very short time he was up and running again. 

My point in sharing this image - I want to further drive home the point that Type 1 can be, and sadly is often mistaken for flu. Please know the signs. This image looks exactly like flu.

A diabetic sick day. It looks like the flu. Please know
the signs! It could save a life.
As a parent, I debated to share these images. However, as I once again read of another life lost to undiagnosed Type 1 my heart breaks.

Common Signs of Diabetes Include: Frequent urination, Excessive thirst, Increased hunger, Weight loss, Tiredness, Lack of interest and concentration, A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, Blurred vision, Frequent infections, Slow-healing wounds, Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu). All of these signs need not be present - it may just be one or two. 

If you have any of these signs consult with your doctor immediately

Monday, November 14, 2016

Happy World Diabetes Day

Happy World Diabetes Day!

What's to be happy about a chronic disease you may ask? As difficult as diabetes is, we have a lot to be happy about on this day that brings the world together to raise awareness in fighting this beast of a disease.

Every year on November 14th, the world marks this day with events, campaigns, activities and other things to help those with diabetes and raise awareness about its diagnosis, treatment and management.

This all started in the early 1990s by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Foundation. The day got the extra nudge when the United Nations adopted it as an official day of observance.

Why the 14th? This is the day that Dr. Frederick Banting was born. Dr. Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin in 1921. This forever changed the lives of many people living at that time, and continues to impact those who are diagnosed with Type1 and insulin dependent in Type 2. That in itself is a celebration of life - many lives that would not be here without their discovery.

So how am I marking this day? I am celebrating the entire month with a social media campaign that focuses on a diabetic fact a day. I am also visiting several hospitals and clinics to share my mission while participating in diabetic events in the UAE.  It has also been an honor to be invited to speak to companies, universities and other organizations about diabetes this month.

While I am pretty busy, I still find this very small in the grand scheme of things. There is much to be done to support the estimated 415million diabetics in the world. This number continues to grow. And at the rate it is growing, it will likely have an impact on all of us, if it has not touched your family and friends already. We all can do something.

As I told the employees at Eli Lilly yesterday where I shared our story, everything counts - no matter how small. If you are part of an organization that is making life saving supplies - in their case insulin - your contribution in your job is important. As they were about to go on about their work day focussing on various projects and initiatives, I closed by asking them to consider the drop of insulin in the image below. This tiny drop of insulin has such a huge impact for so many. Yes, something that small makes a huge difference.

Of course every diabetic wants nothing more than a cure. But thankfully, we have insulin until that time. Without it, my son and so many others would not be here. It is huge. These small tiny drops keep him alive.  It looks small, but its impact is so big.

So what can you do? A lot. Even sharing any of the factual internet memes that you see about the signs of diabetes could save a life.

If you are diabetic or a caretaker of one, and have ever thought about sharing your story, I encourage you to share it. It will definitely have an impact and help someone! If you don't have an outlet to share it, I welcome you to write a guest blog here!

Another great way to get involved is to participate in your local diabetes activities. Not only should it highlight the facts about diabetes, but it is a great way to raise awareness and get active in the process.

In the region, there were some great events held last weekend that you probably attended such as those in Abu DhabiDohaBahrainJordan and Lebanon and Turkey. If you could not attend these, bookmark their sites and reach out to them for more information about future activities. In Saudi, reach out to the Saudi Diabetes & Endocrine Association to learn about upcoming events.

If you are in Dubai and Kuwait, there are events coming up this weekend:

It doesn't take much to make a difference in your life, or in someone else's life. Please never think that it is not worth it, or that it does not matter

Sometimes, the smallest effort can have a very big impact.

Happy World Diabetes Day.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Diabetes - Its A Family Affair

"Your child has Type1 Diabetes" was not an easy thing to hear. Those first days and months were a real struggle as we adjusted to the realities of this condition, how it would affect my son throughout his life and how to manage it on a daily basis.

The learning curve in the first year is steep and it impacts the whole family. Life changes for the entire family - everything from routines to personal or career priorities changes. Siblings are also affected as they can feel neglected or have difficulty adjusting to the new routine of living with a brother or sister with diabetes. While a diagnosis of diabetes often puts stress and pressure on the family unit, in time, it can bring families closer together.

To overcome the challenges that Type 1 Diabetes brings, it is important to have every family member educated and involved in diabetes management early on. In fact, research has shown that the way children manage their diabetes later in life is positivity influenced when their family is supportive and involved.

There are many ways to support a diagnosis of diabetes in the family. Some things to consider include:

Open Discussion.  Successful diabetes management requires constant review and control.  Getting used to the "new normal" is not easy and it is difficult for the child with the diagnosis. Discuss the kind of support with your child that they feel they need. Even if they are in need of more support than they express, or do not know, just having the ability to feel heard and understood is critical. Sometimes these will need to be one to one discussions, but it will also be helpful for the diabetic to share these feelings with the immediate family.

Educate yourself and all family members.  Learn and share as much as you can about the disease. For younger children, this is critical, as they need constant support to manage their diabetes. If possible, invite family to attend diabetes education classes with you.

Adopt mindful eating habits for the whole family. Type 1 is the dance of balancing activity with insulin and carbohydrates. Diabetes provides a great opportunity for the entire family to get involved in learning about nutrition. Understanding how food fuels the body with carbohydrates, fats and protein is good for everyone. Preparing meals together is a good family activity and can teach younger members the importance of balance and moderation.

Practice Get the family involved in carb counting, checking blood sugar and administering insulin. Put that new found information into action. Also practice what to do in the event of a diabetic emergency.

Managing diabetes is not easy. It may not seem possible to help as it is only happening to one person, but family members can be involved with many of the tasks. While we will never truly understand what it is like to be diabetic, we can – and should - support them in their journey.

This in turn will help them develop coping skills, build confidence and encourage personal responsibility as they learn self-care.   Family Matters!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Supply Closet

Here is another image from the series Diabetes Every Day.

This is The Supply Closet. I would say these are just 50% of the supplies we use. 

In a closet that used to be covered with pre-school art before we passed that age, hidden behind one of those doors is a mini pharmacy. We have other supplies in the bathroom, a slew of fast acting sugar in the kitchen and traces of diabetes in almost every room of our home. And don't forget our life line, insulin, in the refrigerator. 

This does not include the emergency bags in cars and the backpack we never leave home without. There is also a larger emergency backpack behind the door if we ever needed to evacuate. 

Overkill?  I don't think so.

With the exception of our big survival backpack we use every single supply we have and have to restock often.... This is Type 1.

The Type 1 Diabetic Supply Closet

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November!

The year is wrapping up so quickly. We are already into November! Today is November 1st. Wow.

November is not just important because it is the month before December and for many the last mad dash to finalize things before the year end.

It is an incredibly important month that is relevant to many people throughout the world. It is an important time to share information, be active and learn more about the issues.

This is the very important month that the world comes together to raise awareness about diabetes.

The first ever World Diabetes Month was recognized back in 2007. World Diabetes Day is November 14th. This is the day that Dr. Fredrick Banting was born. His birth is significant because he discovered insulin in 1922.

Despite the many global and local campaigns and initiatives, there are still so many misconceptions about diabetes! Too many!

At Diapoint, I am participating in several local activities this month. I will also be sharing diabetic facts and busting some diabetic myths across my social media.

I will also share a photography series with you that I have been working on called "Diabetes Every Day".  In this documentary, I will highlight the way that diabetes is always with us. Sometimes in our faces, other times in the background. Below is an image from that series.

If you want to stay up to date with my activities, daily facts, images and my other random diabetic thoughts and experiences, you can follow at any of the links on the right side of this page - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Hope to see you there!

Have a happy, healthy November!

A routine blood sugar check before dinner. This 8 year old diabetic has to check his blood sugar by pricking his finger at least 5 times a day. It is usually more than that. He sometimes uses a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) which requires fewer finger checks as it transmits the blood sugar numbers to his pump.  Not every diabetic is so fortunate. In some countries, glucose test trips are so expensive, or not available, that children cannot check their blood sugar so frequently - maybe once a day or even less.