As I wrote in a previous post, I recently found out that I received a scholarship to study in Estonia for a year. Once my initial excitement at learning this abated, I realized that I hadn’t been given a confirmation postcard to send back or a telephone number to call. The only thing in the envelope besides the letter was a medical form to be filled out by my doctor.
Did the organization just assume that anyone lucky enough to get the grant would accept it? Well…maybe. But, as wonderful as the grant is, that seemed a little extreme. When I finally found the phone number of the organization online, the woman to whom I spoke told me that there hadn’t been any mistake. Before I could sign an agreement accepting the grant, the committee would need to review my completed medical forms to make sure that any problems I had could be dealt with in my host country.
Of course, the first thought that came to mind was: Will having diabetes prevent me from getting medical clearance?
When I think about it logically, I know it’s not likely that this will happen. Estonia is a fairly advanced country. There are hospitals and access to medical supplies in the university town where I’ll (hopefully!) be staying. Diabetes is also a common disease, so it’s safe to assume that doctors in most places will have experience dealing with it.
Nevertheless, the thought that diabetes could prevent me from taking advantage of an opportunity is jarring–even in the abstract. When I was first diagnosed, I was given the usual literature reassuring me that diabetes would never stop me from leading a normal lifestyle. And it’s true that in the two years since that time, I’ve hiked up mountains, swam, and travelled abroad for two weeks. Still, who knows what might happen in the future? It always makes me disturbed and slightly shocked to hear about other people encountering roadblocks because they’re diabetic–for example, Michael Aviad’s inability to get health insurance for the Rotterdam Marathon. I think I have a good chance of getting medical clearance to go to Estonia, but do diabetics applying to less developed countries feel similarly confident?
Yesterday I had an appointment with my doctor to fill out the medical forms. She looked over the section that I had filled out, annotating some of my answers. (For instance, I had checked “yes” next to the box asking me if I ever have or have had swollen feet or ankles; since being diagnosed with diabetes, I’ve had some trouble with my left ankle swelling slightly. My doctor made a note next to this question saying that the swelling is minor and not at all incapacitating.) At the end of the form, my doctor wrote that my diabetes was well controlled on my current medication, and recommended me for the scholarship.
So for now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good news.