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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Diabetes & The Unexpected

Today’s topic – Diabetes And The Unexpected…. Is that not like every day?

The amount of unexpected that could happen seems endless if you really think about it.  It is difficult to risk manage your way out of all of it. 

There are many routine things in diabetic care. For example, changing insertion sites and filling reservoirs (if you have a pump), injecting your long lasting insulin at the same time every day, regular doctor check ups, counting carbs and weighing your food when you cook - just to name a few. However, on most days, I would say that we face something unexpected.

It can be a small unexpected nuisance like waking up before school with a random high blood sugar because a pump insertion site was kinked over night.

Large scale might include loosing or misplacing a critical supply or medication, or fighting an insurance company for something critical to your health.

But note: Never underestimate the small scale of unexpected incidents. They can easily become large scale problems if not addressed quickly enough.

We have dealt with all of the above at one time or another. So how can I define THE mother of unexpected diabetic situations?  Maybe it is best told through a story....

Once upon a time in a village not so far away....

One summer, when my son was much younger, a girl of his age pushed him off a pier into water while he had his pump on. Don't worry, the water was not too deep nor was it too shallow. He could swim. There were no sharks, jellyfish or anything dangerous in there. 

But I bet if you have anything to do with diabetes, those potential issues did not even cross your mind. This was back in the day before pumps were waterproof like so many of them are now.

This is a pier where children played and swam daily. So pushing someone into the water might seem like a fun thing to do for another child. Unfortunately, my son was not dressed or ready for swimming at all. He was incredibly upset because even though he was only about five, he knew his pump shouldn’t get wet. After he was in the water, humiliation did not set in. He was more concerned for his health. "My pump! My pump!" he cried.

To magnify the unexpectedness of it all, this incident happened in a seaside village in Turkey where my mother-in-law typically spends her summers. The closest qualified hospitals, doctors and pump companies were all in Istanbul approximately a four hour drive away. 

As we live in Dubai, we did not have a real relationship with any endocrinologists there so its not like I could just call up the local Medtronic rep and ask for a new one… Although now that I know better, I realize I probably could have done that.

We were pumping insulin, so we had no long lasting insulin with us. We had not used long lasting insulin since the first few months after diagnosis. Pumping so there is no need for long lasting insulin, right?! Maybe wrong. 

Perhaps I would have found long lasting insulin at the pharmacy in town, but I had no idea what we would need. Fearful that a local pharmacist there would not understand Type 1, or suggest the wrong kind of insulin, I stuck with what we knew.

Dealing with the unexpected when you have a life threatening disease makes you really entrepreneurial in how you address the unexpected. We were scheduled to leave about two days after this unexpected glitch, so we managed the rest of that time using only short acting insulin injections. 

Was this ideal? Absolutely not. But it worked.  I was always waking up for night checks with my son anyway, so what's a couple of more? Who said vacation should be relaxing anyway?

The difficult part was that he was still very much afraid of injections at that time. There was a lot of negotiation involved, but he understood why we had to do it.

As for the pump, I immediately took the battery out and used the hair dryer to dry it. It was the most advanced technology I had access to after our pump, a refrigerator and an old television. After running the self test function numerous times and testing several boluses over the bathroom sink, much to my surprise the pump seemed to work . However, I did not dare attach it to my son again because like I said, back then, these devices were not water proof. I heard tales of them going into washing machines by accident and surviving, but I was not going to test that. What if it malfunctioned?

And you might be wondering, what about the girl that pushed him into the water? 

I think she learned her lesson. When she pushed my son in, she also pushed in one of the more elder, respected men of the village who was standing there with him, so it really magnified the situation. Everyone was pretty angry with her for pushing him off the pier too, so she and her mother heard a lot of complaints that day. 

I never said anything to the girl or her mother. I was beyond furious. I also knew that this girl was five years old, and really had no idea that my son was wearing a pump.

The mother later came to apologize to me. What could I say. She didn’t understand Type 1 and how much a new insulin pump cost. Forget the cost, she did not know that a Type 1 would go into DKA very quickly without insulin, and what that really means.

Her daughter learned a lesson through her humiliation. It was done. There was nothing I could do at that point. More importantly, I was too angry, way too emotional and too inexperienced in dealing with the unexpected at the time to make it an "educational moment" about diabetes.

So the unexpected… It happens. It can happen at any time, on any given day. It is usually when it is most inconvenient. You learn from it. You learn to deal with it. The bigger the unexpected incident, the more you learn.  

I am convinced that there is a Murphy's Rule Diabetes Special Edition out there somewhere...If you get ahold of it, could you please send me a copy? Until I get my hands on that book, I always try to be prepared, and deal with the unexpected in that moment when it occurs. 

I guess this is why I often refers to diabetes as the "zen disease". It keeps you in the moment with it. Just because one blood sugar was great, doesn't mean the next one will be. You never know what it, the environment, or another person will throw you - or if another person will throw you.

Its diabetes. It demands our attention when we really don’t want to give it our attention.

So how does the story end? We returned back home to Dubai and got a replacement pump. It seems so long ago. That was our first really big lesson in the unexpected after diagnosis… but it was only the beginning. 

Within that Murphy's Rule book of diabetes, there is likely a whole chapter on diabetic events in remote villages. The following year when we were back in the village, we ended up with a stomach virus. This was before I learned about Zofran for nausea...

I am happy to say we continuously learn from these experiences...

The images in this blog are some that I have shot over the years from that lovely village. The pier is the actual pier where our unexpected occurred. But when I look at it, I do not see the unexpected. 

Children swim and play there every day. The village handy man fishes at the end of the pier every evening under the moonlight. We see the good stuff.

I only recall those unexpected memories just enough to come prepared in case the unexpected might happen again. 

And a camera. I always bring a camera to not forget the beautiful things in the world.

This was my first post for the annual Diabetes Blog Week. I am very happy to be able to participate once again.  This initiative was started and is managed by Karen over at the Bitter Sweet blog. This sharing circle of so much diabetic knowledge, goodness and positive energy continues to grow every year!

Today's topic:

Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.  What are your best tips for being prepared when the unexpected happens?  Or, take this topic another way and tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your, or your loved one’s, life that you never could have expected? 


  1. Oh my goodness!! Your poor son. I am like that now and I've had diabetes for 24 years and I'm 33 haha. I couldn't imagine the poor thing's mind set at five years old dealing with that. Good thing he had you! Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. He was over it much more quickly than I was :-)

  2. Wow, what a scary experience that must have been. Now about that Murphy's Rule.....can I get a copy too??

    1. Thank you Karen - Way longer than I planned, but your topics often get me reflective!

  3. Wow, I think today I'd be too scared to swim with my waterproof pump! Sorry that you and your son had to go through that, but it seems like you were able to improvise well enough!

    1. Ya, I wouldn't want to test it either.. I would be ok on a sea kayak or something... but I once met a pump rep.. he let his son throw the pump into his pool and it stayed there for a few days and he said it still worked :) .. but ya, I'm not wanting to try it out on my son :D

  4. "We see the good stuff." a beautiful way to view the world and life, while dealing on a daily basis with an often-frightening diagnosis. i am happy for your son that he has such a loving advocate on his side, always.

    1. Thank you April! And thank you for reading!

  5. My goodness Pam - I really felt for you when you were telling that story! I so admire your attitude & I guess you DO need to add zen to being prepared with diabetes - something those who are lucky enough not to have type 1 diabetes in their lives don't need to be! And such great advice - no matter what is happening to remember the beautiful things in this world :)