A few days ago, I heard about the JDRF ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post, but I didn’t see it until my friend Laura Houston posted it on her blog. The ad shows a beautiful little girl with type 1 diabetes, along with a statistic that made my jaw drop. One in twenty people with type 1 diabetes will die of low blood sugar. One in twenty will die from hypoglycemia?! Seriously? 1 in 20?
My first thought was that they must have left out the word “thousand.” It has to be one in twenty thousand. It can’t be one in twenty. I read about diabetes all day, every day. And somehow I have never seen that statistic anywhere, not presented like that, at least. 1 in 20.
Of course, I’ve always known the stakes are high. That’s the reason when I wake up in the middle of the night, I sometimes touch my husband’s forehead to see if there is sweat on his brow. If there is, I wake him to check his blood sugar. That’s the reason I cried when I first injected insulin into my thigh before I went to sleep. It wasn’t the pain. It was the thought of the two of us sleeping on insulin. The stakes are high, but 1 in 20…?
There’s a good chance 100 people with type 1 diabetes will read this post today. 5 in 100.
I bet I have at least 200 acquaintances with type 1 diabetes. 10 in 200.
I want to ask you something. Am I the only person who thinks we’re doing Diabetes Awareness Month all wrong? Parties, cheering, patting each other on the back, dressing up as blue as Smurfs, lighting up monuments…? That’s all nice, but it doesn’t bring about real change. So, we can’t all take out an ad the New York Times, but if you get together with people on November 14, World Diabetes Day, you can take a sign with your photo on it that says “SAVE MY LIFE.” If twenty of you get together, take a photo and write a horrifying caption with what the statistic says will to happen to someone in the picture. You can let your local newspapers know what you’re going to do. As Laura Houston says, “Be bold.”
Our most important goal in diabetes month must be to change the statistic 1 in 20. We should all be screaming at the top of our lungs for the artificial pancreas. SCREAMING! And when it’s here, we should all start screaming to make sure it’s available to everyone who needs it.
If you want to educate people about diabetes this month, don’t do it by trying to prove that we are equal in all ways, and that we can eat that. We aren’t equal. Trying to prove that we are the same, and putting on our brave faces may in fact be our fatal flaw. Wheelchair users don’t get cities to put in curb ramps by pretending they can walk. We have a life-threatening illness. Every time we eat, we inject insulin. That means every time we eat, we’re risking our lives. And the more carbohydrates we eat, the more insulin we take, the riskier it gets. 1 in 20. Stop saying, yes, I can. Start screaming, No, I can’t. Maybe then the world, and the FDA, will pay attention. Let us all begin to eat in peace.
Click here to sign JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Petition.