Recently the JDRF in the US took out an ad in the New York Times and elsewhere that has generated a lot of talk amongst people living with type 1 diabetes. It simply stated that 1 in 20 people with type 1 diabetes will die because of hypoglycemia. It was geared to speed up FDA approval on the Artificial Pancreas Project.
The fact that people die because of hypoglycemia is not disputed. Those who have diabetes living in their house are well aware of its dangers. We remind our loved ones to test and be in range before driving anything from a bicycle to a motor vehicle. We wake up multiple times throughout the night to test and make sure that our loved ones are safe. We know that diabetes is a deadly disease.
Many were shocked at the figure however--1 in 20. Many of us have hundreds of friends with diabetes listed on Facebook. A quick scan would mean that five of every one hundred people we know will die of hypoglycemia. That is terrifying. It brings the worry and the desire for a cure and better treatments to a whole new level.
Is that a bad thing? Jessica Apple discussed this in her recent post. She suggested that November not be a time of feeling good and turning things blue but asking for change to save lives. Over the years I have taken this same approach--take no prisoners and show the down side. Yes my son can do everything his brother can but.... and its the but that should not be there. Its the but that allows him to live. Its the "but" that we need to change.
Its a fine line however in giving your child hope and showing the world the darkness. I like the power of the JDRF ad but fear my son seeing it. While I present the dark to politician and the general public, we focus on the positives at home.
As a parent though, when I stop, personalize the statistic and think of 20 children with Type1 diabetes including my son and then realize that any one of them including my son will die of hypoglycemia? I just can't go there. I cannot spend more than a second on the thought. It makes me ill and shakes me to the core. My heart is crushed and I am terrified. Maybe that is not the worst thing either.
That fear motivates me to work harder. It makes me want to spread information to a larger audience. It makes me want to focus more on ensuring access to things like pump therapy and a CGM for my son and the 19 other children (of all ages) whose lives could be saved by better technology. It also makes me want to take a harder look at the work of the DRI and other groups who claim to be working for a cure.
One in twenty people living with Type 1 diabetes will die because of hypoglycemia. That stark number needs to change. We can work to prevent this. We can work to "fix it". As a parent, I cannot fix my son's body and take diabetes away from him but I can work to fix a system that keeps lifesaving tools just out of reach.
This disease is serious. We need to be equally serious about keeping out loved ones alive and providing everyone with access to the tools to do so. We would not deny someone who could not walk a wheelchair. We cannot deny someone who cannot produce insulin the tools to deliver and monitor this lifesustaining liquid.