Friday, November 14, 2008

World Diabetes Day (Why It's So Important)

Today is World Diabetes Day. I have other things on my mind this morning and I may blog about that later, but I couldn't let this very important day go by without putting in a little effort myself. Because no matter what else might be going on in my life, diabetes is always there. It always has a place in my heart and in my mind.

Below is an excerpt from an email I received about WDD. It is powerful and says things better than I can, so I copied it for you to read. After the email I've added a few thoughts of my own.

Whatever you are doing on World Diabetes Day, take just a moment to consider the facts behind the campaign:

** Every 10 seconds a person dies from diabetes-related causes.

** Every 10 seconds two people develop diabetes.

** Over 250 million people live with diabetes worldwide. In 2025, this figure will reach 380 million.

** Over 500,000 children under age 15 worldwide live with type 1 diabetes.

** More than 200 children a day develop type 1 diabetes.

** In developing countries, close to 75,000 children live with diabetes in desperate circumstances.

** Type 1 diabetes is increasing fastest in pre-school children, at a rate of 5% each year.

** Type 2 diabetes has been reported in children as young as eight.

** Type 2 diabetes affects children in both developed and developing countries.

A few reasons why we're here today: World diabetes Day is an action-oriented campaign in support of people affected by diabetes around the world. The campaign is inspired by issues of paramount importance to people with diabetes and their families. Here are some of the stories that motivate us. (All names in the stories below have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals involved.

Sachin's story : Sachin is a 13-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes and pulmonary tuberculosis. His diabetes is not under control. Most of the time his blood sugars range from 300 – 500 mg/dl (16.5 – 27.5 mmol/L). He usually gets up multiple times during the night to visit the bathroom. Some nights he wakes up with low blood sugar, which terrifies him. Sachin has no means to check his blood sugar. He sees a local physician who has never before treated a child with diabetes. The government of Sachin's country have no plans to subsidize the cost of insulin for children with type 1 diabetes. This means that the greatest obstacle that young Sachin and his family must face is how to meet the combined cost of his tuberculosis medicine and the insulin he needs to survive.

Mollie's story: Mollie is mother to two girls with type 1 diabetes (13-year-old Rebecca and 5-year-old Rose). For Mollie, diabetes brings new challenges every day as she takes care of her girls. School is the hardest thing for Mollie, Rebecca and Rose. Neither of the girls' schools has a nurse and neither school can provide the supervision to allow Rebecca and Rose to take shots and test their blood sugar levels. As a consequence, Mollie has had to quit her job to stay home and take care of the two girls. She visits the school where Rose is in kindergarten at least 3-4 times a day to check her daughter's sugar levels and give her insulin. Mollie's own mother is a teacher where Rebecca goes to school, a blessing which keeps Mollie from running between two schools all day.

Pablo's story: In March this year, Pablo started to experience the classic signs of diabetes. He needed to urinate frequently and was thirsty all the time, he was extremely tired, losing weight and found it difficult to concentrate. His vision became blurred. On top of these symptoms, he got an eye infection that would not go away. Pablo did not think about diabetes. He was not familiar with the warning signs and thought that diabetes was something not very serious that happened to old people. Soon he became very unwell, unable even to stand by himself. Living alone and at a distance from his family, he had no support. He couldn't pull the strength together to contact his loved ones. The young man watched on helpless as his condition got worse day by day. In April, a fortuitous visit from Pablo's mother resulted in an immediate trip to a nearby hospital, where blood tests showed that Pablo's sugar levels were dangerously high. At this point, the young man was so weak that he could no longer speak. After four days in hospital, Paco was started on insulin and told that he would need multiple injections every day of his life or face certain death. The financial consequences of this news were devastating. The hospital visit that had saved his life now threatened to leave the young man destitute and presented him with an uncertain future. He would need to quit his studies immediately.

Robert's story: One day Robert, a young man with type 1 diabetes, became dizzy on the way to his university class. He rushed into the dining hall to grab some juice but it was too late. He blacked-out, collapsing into the juice machine, smashing it to pieces and badly cutting himself in the process. Robert came round as the police arrived on the scene. Assuming Robert was drunk, the police refused his cries for juice as he lay on the ground bleeding and confused. They held him down and asked him over and over for his social security number and home address. Robert's hypo was so severe that he could hardly remember his own name let alone deal with the situation unfolding around him. He was overcome with the sense that he was going to die if he did not get something sweet and began screaming in the middle of the packed dining hall "I NEED JUICE! GIVE ME JUICE!" Robert could hear people in the background murmuring "He's crazy, why does he want juice?"

Don't ignore diabetes! The light shines 900 strong. Diabetes has spent too long in the shadows. Despite the enormity and severity of the pandemic, the disease is often overlooked by politicians, misunderstood by the mass media and shunned by the major donors. As a result, it has flown in under the radar. Yet the global diabetes community refuses to let the world ignore diabetes. Today, diabetes stakeholders everywhere (the diabetes representative organizations - including all of IDF's more than 200 member associations - the people affected by diabetes and their families, all the diabetes bloggers and committed individuals working diligently for change, the official World Diabetes Day Partners and many others) have united to bring diabetes to light. Today sees the culmination of all our effort. We have come together again to secure an incredible 900 monument lightings to mark our day. Enjoy it. The day belongs to all of us.

Yes, the day belongs to all of us. It doesn't matter what color you are, how old you are, or what country you live in. If you are affected by diabetes in any way,this day if for you.

This day is for all those children/young adults that will receive a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes today. Their lives will change forever. They will forever be dependant upon synthetic insulin to live.

This day is for those that will be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes today. They will each have struggles of their own. And, this day is also for those who have already received that diagnosis.

This day is for those kids who have lived with the needle sticks, the lows, and the highs for way too long. For those kids (and adults) who don't ever remember a day where they were not stuck with a needle.

This day is also for the family members of these people. It is for the parents, siblings, spouses, significant others, aunts, uncles, grandparents who see what this disease does to their loved ones and feel powerless to stop it.

No matter what is going on in your life today, take a moment to stop and think about the millions upon millions of people who are affected by diabetes every day. Take a moment to realize how devastating it is. Take a moment to tell at least one person why today is so important for everyone, why it's so important to you.

It is so important to me because my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 3 years old. He is one of those that will never remember a day without a needle stick. He will never know the freedom of opening a kitchen cabinet and pulling out whatever he wants to eat without first weighing in his head what it might do to his sugars. He will never play sports without thinking about the delicate balancing act of exercise and insulin.

To those of you who organized this day, thank you. There are not words enough to express my gratitude. I believe that there is power in numbers. We have the numbers and this day gives us a way to exert our power.

Happy WDD to you all.

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