I’m fairly sure most of you reading this right now have already heard about the Jimmy Kimmel drama (over nothing). Quite frankly, his diabetes joke didn’t offend me. Many of those who are angry at Kimmel, like me, are the parents of a child with diabetes. And being the parent of a chid with diabetes is a highly stressful life. Not only do we have to constantly work to keep our children alive, we have to try and make their lives feel normal. But we’re up against a world of people who make living a normal life even harder because, basically, the whole world is critical of us. People with diabetes always get blamed for having diabetes. They ate too much sugar. They did this to themselves. And all the jokes (Is this double chocolate brownie going to give me diabetes? ) that might seem innocent or cute to most, are loaded with insinuation for those of us who live with diabetes. Just guess how many times someone has asked me if my son ate a lot of sugar before he got diabetes?
However, Jimmy Kimmel didn’t say anything like that. He simply said that diabetes was sweet. It is sweet. The full name of the disease is diabetes mellitus, which means sweet siphon (referring to the frequent passing of urine associated with the disease). The name of the publication you’re reading is ASweetLife. Plenty of parents refer to children with diabetes as sugar babies. So, really, all Jimmy Kimmel did was state a fact. Was it an unnecessary thing for him to do? Yes. Was it insensitive? Yes. Could he have tweeted an apology to the diabetes community? Yes.
And we could have done things differently, too.
Here’s what we did: We tweeted, blogged, posted a million times, yelling at Jimmy Kimmel because he made a dumb joke.
And I kept thinking to myself, this is what people are getting mad about? At a time when the future of healthcare is at stake. At a time when funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has expired. According to a Washington Post story from earlier this month, “Congress just allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provided low-cost health insurance to 9 million children, to expire.
If action is not taken soon to restore the funding, the effects will become obvious in schools across the country, with many of the children in the program unable to see a doctor for routine checkups, immunizations, visits when sick and other services.”
Among those other services, is diabetes care for children like my son. We can’t afford private health insurance. We can’t afford to pay out of pocket for my son’s insulin and diabetes supplies. And when I see fellow parents of children with diabetes, among them some of the most passionate and compassionate people in the world, tweeting again and again about a comedian’s bad joke, I’m angry. I want to see our community redirect all that passion, all that fury, and all those good intentions, toward the things that matter most.
Puerto Rico is another good example of where we should be focusing our efforts. During the same week as Kimmel’s post, there were reports that people with diabetes in Puerto Rico were running out of insulin and test strips. Stat News reported, “Puerto Rico has a higher rate of diabetes than any state, according to 2015 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The same article continues to state, “Many residents are still unable to get to clinics or health centers for their chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Diabetes test strips and dialysis equipment have been in short supply since the storm. Patients went days or weeks without medication and treatment. Nutritious food and working refrigerators to store it in are scarce.”
There have been some wonderful efforts by people in the diabetes community to help in Puerto Rico, including by insulin pump maker, Medtronic, which opened its plant as a shelter for its employees. But we could do so much more. We need to advocate for our community and support all people with diabetes, and we have so much more work to do before we can allow ourselves the privilege of getting angry over a really bad diabetes joke.