Tuesday, July 3, 2012
So you're a diabetic...
One thing that I greatly appreciate about diabetes is that it is one of those conditions that you can't necessarily tell exists by merely looking at a person. It doesn't show signs of intense treatment like chemotherapy, signs of gradual physical degeneration like MS or even noticeable ailment like a common cold's runny nose. When under control, a type 1 diabetic just looks human and not like their sickness.
Granted if a diabetic (either type) lets their blood glucose go unchecked for long amounts of time, signs begin to creep onto a person that their body isn't functioning as it ought to. Obviously I experienced those signs right before I was diagnosed, but the worst-case consequences of diabetes can leave very visible, lasting marks... such consequences can include the loss of sight, amputation of limbs or organ failure. But seeing as these outcomes are entirely avoidable with self-care and a healthy dose of responsibility, there is no reason that a diabetic could not live a normal life without such unfortunate complications.
That being said, I was identified the other day as a diabetic before an introduction was even made. While sitting in class, minding my own business and listening to the professor lecture my pump beeped to alert me of the necessity to test my post prandial blood glucose. It's a relatively unobtrusive, obscure beep that most people don't even recognize as coming from my pocket... in the age of cell phones and portable technology its almost like unless you have an obnoxious ring tone we've been conditioned to ignore the notifications that come from elsewhere than our own concern.
Anyway, at the break this kid walks up to me and makes the statement "so you're a diabetic." Not an inquiring question, a blank statement. He continued "I heard your pump go off and thought it was mine."
How funny. As it turned out, he is a fellow Medtronic Minimed user and has been an insulin dependent diabetic for 17 years.
It is interesting to me how when you open your mind to the option of viewing the world through a different lens (in this case the perspective of a diabetic) you begin to notice different things about the world around you than you did before. That beep would have meant nothing to me previously, but this kid was totally right in his recognition of my beep beep beep as "ding ding ding and we have a diabetic folks!"
I remember last autumn while we were standing at the dog park my HB nudged me and pointed out a lady with her dog. I of course checked to see if I recognized her or the dog first (which I didn't), but as it turned out HB had identified her as a diabetic. He recognized the infusion set tubing running from her coat pocket up under her shirt. I don't think either of us would have noticed that before. Another time I was at the Virginia Runner shoe store getting yet another pair of running shoes when a lady sat down next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a black clip in her pocket and upon turning to look at it I realized she too was wearing an insulin pump. It was a different brand than mine, but an insulin pump none the less.
Just goes to show that my conceptual cloak of insulin-invisibility isn't as undetectable as I had previously thought. Go figure.