Our goal in life with diabetes on board is to turn all the difficult decisions and adjustments into just a steady hum in the background of our day-to-day lives. But every once and a while, something happens to turn that hum into a high-pitched screech.
That screech was very loud for the many thousands of families with diabetes on board in Texas this week. Amidst the terror of having to grab essentials and flee their homes, they had to think about keeping diabetes supplies above water: How am I going to handle diabetes through this? Can I bring everything with me? What if everything is not enough?
The terror, and that screech, had to be jarringly real. But, according to those who lived it, another sound came through loud and clear as well: another steady hum. I’m talking about the sound of the support of the diabetes community.
“Diabetes came to the absolute front, “ said Christine Akelstad, who escaped the flooding of her home along with her 13 year old daughter, Lulu, who has Type 1 diabetes. “It’s like while you know you have to get ready for other things, the number one thing is absolutely diabetes. Do I have enough glucose tabs? What about our pump supplies that were supposed to be delivered? Do I have enough insulin? What if I cannot get more? While it should be all about the overall, it really was all about making sure my child had everything she needed to continue living. In that moment, it’s all about that.”
Aklestad was able to flee with all that and make it to a relative’s home (wading through high water to get out). And as she escaped, she said, that other hum became loud and clear.
“Oh my gosh,” she said. “I realized there was never a doubt in my mind that I’d get help if I needed it. Our community is unreal. In the back of my head, I just kept thinking: they will be there for me if I need help. They just will be.”
And we are.
Early into the flooding, Insulin For Life stepped up and tweaked their usual daily mission of sending diabetes supplies to countries in need and focused all their efforts on Texas. Within hours, their team and board had built a system to deliver insulin and supplies. And right away, they had help. The social media program Project Blue November stepped in to help spread the word and keep people up to the minute on information and connections. The American Diabetes Association stepped in with major help on many levels. And JDRF joined in to do all of the above as well.
For JDRF, there was no question of stepping up and being a lead part of the effort.
““JDRF is a community, and that feeling is profound every time we come together for an event,” said JDRF CEO Derek Rapp. “Providing support to those in our community affected by this terrible storm was an obvious choice for us. Our hearts go out to the people who have been directly affected.”
Rapp, who has a son with Type 1, said as a member of the community, he and all of JDRF simply had to step up.
“Anyone who has T1D or who cares for someone with T1D knows that it is always a challenge and can imagine how difficult and how scary it must be for people who are concerned that they may not have access to the supplies they need to stay alive.”
Rapp said the Insulin For Life program was a natural partner.
“We felt we needed to help as quickly as possible through the most efficient means, in this case working with Insulin for Life and American Diabetes Association, and also shine a light on the ways individuals in our community can help—because we know that those who are in danger now will still need assistance for some time. Of course, our focus remains a world without T1D, and we long for the day when in the time of such a natural disaster, nobody will even need to think about diabetes supplies.”
More folks are helping as well. Boots on the ground leadership is coming from local endocrinologist Dr. Stephen Ponder and CDE Kelly Chamo Crumpler. Ponder, well known nationally (and the AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year this year), said the effort is worthy. He, too, has Type 1, and simply reacted in a way he feels is natural in the diabetes community.
“”People with diabetes stick together and not because they’re hyperglycemic! We are all soldiers of the #type1army in combating Harvey,” he said in between delivering boxes of needed supplies to shelters.
Katina Mein, who lives in the flooded area but was not touched by flooding, said she simply had to step up and help. As the mother of a child with type 1 and an active member of the diabetes community, she said it’s purely instinct.
“We were blessed,” she said of her family. “Blessed that our home is fine. Blessed that we had power when so few did. Blessed that we had plenty of food. I think that in and of itself deserves going out and helping others.” But there was more at play here.
“I am part of the diabetes community,” she said proudly. “It’s been amazing to watch our community come together and do all we can to help – and vow to continue to do that, and to be proud of that. I see us now and I say, ‘by golly: that’s my people!’ We were brought together by a cruddy situation (a diagnosis) but we are together for all until the cure. This effort will prove that. Honestly, I’m not surprised at our reaction at all. This is who we are.”
Mein helped a family that got out of their home with barely their lives. They were without their diabetes supplies. She realized it was just a beginning of the help this family family and thousands of others will need.
“There are stories like that all over. And they are going to need more, over a lot of time,” she said. “They have so much pain ahead of them, so much challenge. If we can relieve the burden of [figuring out] their diabetes, we shall. By all means, they’ve got enough on their plate.”
Efforts are continuing, and will need to. Families who are displaced may still need supplies and will in the future as things as simple as a mail order prescription delivery can be a huge challenge. You can help in the following ways:
Donate supplies or cash to Insulin for Life.
Contact Dr Ponder via Facebook.
Visit Project Blue November and purchase a T-shirt that shows your support and from which all profits go to Harvey relief efforts. here: