Monday, March 31, 2008

My diagnosis: Misinformation about diabetes

Finding out that I was diabetic and checking into the emergency room were all very traumatic for me. What made everything worse was that I didn't know very much about diabetes. I thought my life was over.

I remember my mom talking to me in the hospital during my stay there. She was still reluctant to believe that I was truly diabetic. "Well, you're not fat," she said, speaking of the stereotype that all diabetics (with no differentiation between type 1 and type 2) are overweight.

"You're not a kid, so it can't be juvenile diabetes," was the other line of logic.

My sister made it up to see me on my second full day of hospitalization. I remember her lying in the hospital bed with me, holding me while I cried. "Why did this have to happen to me?" I asked, over and over. "Why me?"

The problem was that I really didn't know much about diabetes, and what I did know sounded pretty bad. My biggest source of information was from The Babysitters' Club, a series of preteen books that I read when I was younger. One of the club's members, Stacey, is a type 1 diabetic. In one of the early books in the series, she gets tired of not being able to eat sweets, and starts sneaking some here and there. Then she wakes up in the hospital, having almost died.

With this as my only basis for comparison, I thought I was never going to be able to eat ice cream again.

My other source was Christopher Pike's Remember Me, in which the protagonist's brother almost dies when he is injected with air. I lived in fear of air bubbles — until an educator at my doctor's office finally told me that air in the syringe can't really kill you. (You'd have to inject a large amount of air directly into a major artery in order for it to have an effect.)

There is a lot of inaccurate information in the media about diabetes, and I think that has a lot to do with why people see it in such pessimistic terms. When I tell people I'm diabetic, sometimes they look at me as if I'm already dead. Other people treat it like it's something shameful.

Even the medical industry seems to be confused about diabetes — which brings me back to my medical records and my hospitalization. I'll talk about that in my next post.


Anonymous said...

Exactly! When I was first diagnosed in 2001 at age 11, I thought I could never eat sugar again because my main sources of information about Type 1 were Babysitters Club and Lurlene McDanielle books!

Katharine Swan said...


So glad I wasn't the only one! :o)