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.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
The world seems to be a mess for many reasons.. racism, war, terror and other atrocities we read about daily. At least my son is still young enough to live in a bubble. Although that bubble is slowly getting poked at.
Just last week he was curious about 9/11 after a discussion in school about Phillippe Pettit who walked across a tight rope between the two towers in 1974. Some children were aware that those towers no longer exist, but were not completely sure as to why. Of course I "mommed up" and told him the full story.
Today I took the day off and we went to visit the Legoland that recently opened in Dubai. On the drive home, I put on my favorite playlist in Spotify that I fondly call "Peanut Butter & the JAM". Full of songs I love, it is definitely my most played - and keeps growing.
Michael Jackson's "Man In the Mirror" came on. My son asked if we could listen to it again. He is very much my child - listening to a song again and again until he understands all the lyrics.
I asked him if he understood the message in the song. He did.
He replied, "If you want to make the world a better place, you should change yourself".
After a few seconds of contemplation - as he often does - he says, "You know mom, sometimes you can just change the world with your smile. Your smile can change people."
And you know what. He is right.
Everyone wants a change. Sometimes it is hard to decide what to change, or where that change should start. Sometimes it feels bigger than us. And while sometimes it is bigger than us, and we can't move a mountain right away, maybe a smile is a start.
In many cases, a little kindness can go a long way.
In the context of diabetes.. I can't add much today.. Maybe it is a cure you want, or people to better understand your challenges, or you just want to understand why your blood sugars act up... whatever the case may be.. maybe he is right. Start with a smile. Whether that is to others, or showing yourself some compassion, a little can go a long way.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
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
|The First Insulin Pump - Invented in the 1960s|
Saturday, November 19, 2016
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.
|A diabetic sick day. It looks like the flu. Please know|
the signs! It could save a life.
Monday, November 14, 2016
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 Dhabi, Doha, Bahrain, Jordan 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:
- Dubai Beat Diabetes Walk, Zabeel Park. November 18th
- Kuwait's Dasman Diabetes Institute is having an event on November 17th
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Saturday, November 5, 2016
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 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!
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
A couple of days ago a dear friend informed me that one of her closest friends suffered a brain hemorrhage. It appears to be the result of high blood sugar untreated. As I understand the story, her friend was insisting to treat her diabetes with only homeopathy, and it failed.
Now, I have a very strong belief in complementary medicine. I have used it myself on several occasions and I do believe there is a lot to be said for the benefits. However, the key word here is "complementary". Whether it be homeopathy, ayurvedic, Chinese medicine or whatever other form it is, it may not always be the 100% full proof cure for the condition or disease that you have. Complementary medicine should be used together with, or integrated with traditional medicine.
I am a huge fan of all of these and others, and integrate them into my lifestyle whenever possible if there is no medical harm in doing so. I like homeopathy, and I get acupuncture often. (Yes, kind of ironic considering I hate that my diabetic son has a life sentence of several needles daily.)
It is difficult to accept that we might need medical intervention. Perhaps even more so if you were healthy most of your life, always abided by healthy lifestyle guidelines and beyond, and never needed any medical support before your world was rocked by something unexpected.
I am living proof that no amount of organic, healthy eating, exercising, breast feeding, making baby food with organic ingredients most of the time, and all that other positive stuff could protect my son from getting Type 1. I did it all right and then some. I was close to the walking poster child for "that kind of mom". However, I am now on a new poster and it might say "Stuff Happens".
But back to my point. Complementary medicine is exactly that. Complementary. While traditional medicine cannot always guarantee you a cure, complementary medicine is not an alternative treatment that will cure everything either. And in some cases it cannot help you treat the condition and may make it worse.
Since I started DiapointME and hash tagging images and entries with diabetes, I get at least one "miracle cure" follower every day and several more likes. On average, most promise to cure diabetes in three weeks.
I started getting so many miracle cure comments in this blog I recently started moderating comments. I welcome comments, but I am also very cautious that I do not want followers to misunderstand the severity of diabetes and what Diapoint is about.
Well intentioned friends send me all kinds of links and concoctions with the miracle cure. I politely respond back. There is some research that suggests that some natural remedies may help regulate blood sugars (and mostly in Type 2) but there is no miracle cure. To that I often receive the response "What are you afraid of?" or "Well, you never know."
Sadly, I do know. I do know that if I took my son off insulin and administered anyone of those concoctions or miracle cures that he would die without insulin. If I took him off insulin and tried one of those "completely cure your diabetes in three weeks" solutions, be sure he likely would die before the three week period was up.
It is awful to say. It is so painful to see those words in print. However, I do not know how else to explain the severity of diabetes. It is deadly, and not easily fixed with the latest pop culture miracle diet. Diabetics need medical oversight, medical education about managing their disease, sometimes medication (in the case of Type 1, insulin) and regular medical check ups.
So please today I ask that you take the only medical advice I will ever give, and seek out medical advice for your diabetes. If you are thinking to try something alternative or a miracle diet or cure for your diabetes, please consult with your doctor. And not just any doctor - please go see a medical doctor that is educated and experienced in managing diabetes. And I bet they will be open to discussing complementary things that you are interested in to help you on your journey of managing this condition and living life to the fullest as a healthy diabetic.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
It is a complicated disease and there are several differences between the different types. There are also HUGE misconceptions about them.
As many of you probably know, November is Diabetes Awareness Month and November 14th is World Diabetes Day.
Among my many activities planned, in honor of this month, I will be sharing important diabetic facts and busting a few myths as well.
I will also share some images from a photography series I have been working on about diabetes. When I am not working on a diabetic initiative, I am a passionate travel and documentary photographer. At the advice of another photographer, I am finally putting some of those skills to use to bring light to some of the daily challenges diabetics face.
So if you are on Instagram and are not following me yet, you can find my Diapoint account here.
Hope to see you there!
Sunday, October 16, 2016
I think it can be just as difficult for the school nurse to take in. After all, they have hundreds of children to worry about and take care of. Understanding their challenges and the sometimes lack of awareness of diabetes is important.
There is a lot to think about. Having a clear Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) in place is key. Not only does it include the medical orders about how to treat a particular child, it is also a document that fosters communication between parent and school nurse about how a child should be cared for. I say particular child because each diabetic is different and each diabetic should have an individual DMMP. While there are some general guidelines to follow, DMMPs are not a one size fits all.
One of the most important views on this is in a statement from the US National Association of School Nurses.
Managing diabetes at school is most effective when there is a partnership among students, parents, school nurses, health care providers, teachers, counselors, coaches, transportation, food service employees and administrators.
It is the school nurse that provides the health expertise and coordination needed to ensure cooperation from all partners in assisting the student toward self - management of diabetes.
If you are a school nurse, your role is critical in supporting our children. If something is wrong at school related to our child and their diabetes, you will likely be the first to know before anyone.
Sometimes there are not enough nurses to support a diabetic child at school, or they may be hesitant to do so as they have never dealt with a Type 1 child before. What should you do?
I never assume the school will have all the answers, so typically my son's school nurses and I partner to coordinate my son's care. Sometimes I take the lead and reach out to the teacher, or who ever needs to be reached, other times it is the nurse.
Like the DMMP, there is not exactly a one size fits all template as to how to do this. It is not easy. Ever.
Even with the best nurses it will still require work. But it is one relationship that is well worth the time and effort that you will never regret investing in.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
However, there are an overwhelming amount of Type 2s all over the world, and the Middle East is not immune to that trend. Type 2 and "pre-diabetes" are also seen in teens and young adults here.
So while we always see images of senior citizens in Type 2 diabetes ads, this is not always the case. Some populations are genetically prone to develop it at younger ages.
What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?
Type 1 is when the body stops producing insulin altogether. This is typically autoimmune related. It was not caused by food, but food has a lot to do with how it is managed. Type 1s need insulin to survive.
In Type 2, the pancreas can make insulin, but not enough of it. Or, that insulin is not able to get where it needs to in order to create energy in the body. Sometimes Type 2 patients take insulin, sometimes not. There is no cure for diabetes, but leading institutions share the belief that you can often manage your Type 2 to decrease the amount of medication you require, or delay the requirement of medication.
So if you are Type 2 and in school, or have a Type 2 going to school what should you do?
- Tell those who need to know. Of course you can advocate and share information about Type 2 with others, but at minimum, those closest to you or your child need to know. This includes the school nurse, teachers, coaches, bus drivers and any other personnel on the bus and close friends.
- Make sure you have your medical supplies with you at school, or kept in a safe place where you can easily access them when you need them. This includes your glucometer, medicine if prescribed, treatment for low blood sugars, etc.
- Speak to your doctor or nutritionist about how to handle school parties and food.
- Focus on healthy eating and learn about what food best fuels you or your child's body to help manage diabetes.
- School can be stressful, especially during exam time. It may effect blood sugars as do the hormones in our bodies that change as we grow. Ask your doctor how to manage blood sugar fluctuations that result from these. Also, do not under estimate the value of activity. Playing sports, or even going for a walk will help manage stress and blood sugars.
And whatever you do, do not be ashamed of your condition. You did not choose diabetes. It chose you. There is continued compelling research out there that indicates Type 2 diabetes is the result of genetic factors.
Do not let diabetes stop you or your child from achieving your goals!
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
School starts next week!
All teachers and nurses are back to my son's school today. That does not give me much time to connect with them and my son's newly assigned teacher to give them the Type 1 highlights before school starts.
Anticipating this, I sent an email to the nurses last week requesting a meeting with them and my son's home room teacher. In some cases you may have to be persistent and follow up. It is not that they do not want to meet with you, but they have many meetings in those days and are quite busy. Never be afraid to follow up or call to set a time.
I use this meeting to start the year off with open communication. It is informative, but it is equally important to enforce the message that I want to work with them and make their life easy so they can focus on the job of teaching.
For the nurses, we review all medication doses, snack timings, blood sugar checks and emergency protocols among other things. It is also important to note that my son is in the 3rd grade. If you have a high school student, the student will play a bigger role in their care. However, it is still good to request a meeting before school starts - particularly if diagnosis is new, or you are at a new school.
When meeting with the teacher, I suggest that a school nurse also join. At that time I review the basics of what Type 1 is, and how we treat it. Having the nurse there also helps open the dialogue for how they may manage certain situations with the teacher. Based on your experience, you may have ideas or suggestions for them, so do not be afraid to share your thoughts.
I typically use a template for this discussion. For example, this Guideline for Schools, I found from Australia is a good place to start. I do suggest to read everything word for word. I use various guidelines as an outline and I take the best of their information that is relevant for me here and include things specific to my son and his care.
Other guidelines to consider can be found at Diabetes UK or at this American site, The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
There is a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming - for both you and the school staff. I use this information as a foundation and edit it when it comes to specifics for my son and his treatment. Every diabetic is different. For example, the way one child reacts to, or feels a low blood sugar is not the same as another. Be sure to highlight information specific to your diabetic.
It is also important to note that Type 1 school guidelines often include legal information specific to a country. It may not always be relevant for you, so update it to be in alignment with your location.
I typically focus on the following topics with the teacher and nurse:
- What is Diabetes, and the difference between Type 1 and Type 2
- Hypo and Hyper Glycemia. What is the difference, signs and why are they important?
- DKA (Ketoacidosis). It is likely that a DKA would be managed at home on a sick day, but I still explain what this means as it is critical, and could happen at school.
- How the teacher can help. (This is essentially, the expectations and support your child needs to function as a normal child in the classroom)
- Diabetic Emergencies
- Other topics. For example, depending on the age of the child, you may want to discuss discipline, what to do during tests, field trips or other things.
- Thank them. Thank them all for their time and encourage them to reach out to me if they have any questions.
- Note any action items. Do they need any more information or supplies from you? Do you need more information from them?
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Sunday, July 31, 2016
For me, it is the start of a new chapter for lack of a better analogy.
Last week I left my corporate job. I have been doing that routine for over 20 years, and I was with this company for the last 9.5 years. It was even longer than I thought!
It wasn't that it was bad. On the contrary. It was an interesting global company with a lot of internal opportunity. I had a child while I worked there and found some kind of work-life balance - even with diabetes in our lives, and my colleagues were great too. Perhaps I could have worked there the rest of my work life.
But I couldn't.
Something had been gnawing at me for almost two years or so. I wanted to do more. I was already doing a lot, but I wanted to do more to help diabetics somehow. I have over 15 years of experience in healthcare management and another five in corporate education and development. I am already active in some advocacy and share my experiences in a few presentations every year, but I need to do more.
It was not an easy decision, but it was. Yes, leaving the comfort of a regular salary and job behind is frightening, but I could not ignore my conscious any longer.
On my last day my boss gave a really nice overview of the work I had done over the last four years in my current position. One of the things that was highlighted was how even at the most stressful times when I would have every right to be going nuts, I was calm. She put it much more eloquently than that, but kept referring to my ability to smile and stay calm. I didn't expect that to be such a highlight. I mean, I can manage stress, but I didn't think I had this office zen vibe she was describing.
In the past, a few colleagues asked me how I was able to deal with certain situations or difficult people. My honest response: "Well, no one died." No one ever died from a lost deal, from an incorrect spreadsheet, reworking an agenda for the thousandth time, or redoing a powerpoint presentation until it saw a diminishing margin of return. I lived through some of those situations, and I lived to tell about it.
As I listened to my boss say these things, I kept thinking the same thing. I was calm because no one was dying as we were in the office at 10pm or as I was waiting for emails at 1am to finalize a big presentation. Furthermore, those times were temporary.
I used to work in clinics and hospitals. Medical mistakes have huge implications compared to a small mistake in a presentation. And there are so many risks that can contribute that must be considered. This is why waiting for an email until the wee hours of the morning, while not ideal, did not bother me too much.
Now I do not believe that anyone outside of healthcare should approach their jobs with a "no one died" attitude. Nor do not say this to belittle the work. This is not the case at all.
I believe we should all give 110% and work hard. Work as if you live for it when you are there. If you start thinking well, no one will die if I don't finish this report, you won't finish it. It becomes an excuse, and not a good one as that is not what you are paid for. The more you give, the more you will get. You must always deliver.
My moment of zen is that when someone gets really upset about something small, and I know I gave 110% or more, I try reframe it.
While no one was dying at my great corporate job, the sad reality that pushed me to make this move is that people do die.
As the caretaker of a diabetic, I am very well aware of the fact that adults and children die from diabetes. This was my challenge. This is what was running around in my conscious for more than a couple of years.
It is always heartbreaking to read about a diabetes related death that could have been avoided - whether that be a misdiagnosis or a mistreatment. It shouldn't happen.
So now armed with my healthcare management and education background, and the knowledge I have from managing diabetes for a child, I moved into the next phase. There is so much to do, and I am excited and overwhelmed at the same time.
I woke up today, and immediately got to work.