Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Take on MTV's True Life: "I Have Diabetes," Episode

Last night Mtv aired it’s True Life: I Have Diabetes, episode.

And I have to admit, I was ready to go in there swinging and with fists in the air for what I was prepared to view. I was ready for it to be dramatical, sensationalized and completely off base - And for the most part - I was wrong.

As I watched, I found myself wanting to jump through the television screen and wrap my arms around the three young people featured with diabetes. I wanted to protect them fiercely and bring into the Diabetes On-Line Community’s embrace!

And I wanted to smack some of the non PWDs (People With Diabetes) in the episode (and a few in the editing room) for many reasons - Including their lack of compassion.

During the episode, those of us watching in the Diabetes On-line community who were on the twitter were continually telling the @MTV folks to get us in touch with the PWDs featured on the episode!

Facebook status updates, (including my own) were filled with peoples thoughts and concerns! Conversations were generated and are still generated about the episode!

In the episode we were introduced to Kristyn, a 20 something type 1 who had close to $9000 worth of credit card debt - Almost all of it diabetes related.

She was working two jobs and moving back home in order to get her finances in order. Her insulin pump was on its last legs and she needed a new one - like yesterday!

Her mother made her sign a contract that covered everything from a clean neat room, to doing dishes, to keeping good glucose levels and giving up all fast-food and soft drinks.

I found her mother to be incredibly tough and judgmental at times and I think her behavior was a perfect example of how you can care and love someone, but sometimes it comes off as judging.

Her daughter was working two jobs (and literally around the clock,) to get out of debt and get a new pump (which would cost her $2200 out of pocket )and which she put on her credit card because out of necessity, and her mother was grilling her about EVERYTHING, including drinking diet soda? REALLY?

At one point Kristyn cried: I just wish she’d acknowledge when I make a little of progress!

And at that very moment all of us watching and tweeting about the episode felt the very same thing!!!

I was so proud of Kristyn for working so hard at her life & her diabetes - And I didn’t even know her! And quite frankly, I didn’t understand how her mother couldn’t be proud - Or at least not verbalize her pride.

It is so easy to tell some one what they should be doing with their life, and their life with diabetes. And sometimes we forget that a little acknowledgement and praise goes a hell of a long way!!

In the end, Kristyn got a new pump, and to paraphrase her own words: Decided to use her mother’s negativity and turn it into a positive - to get her out of debt.

The last shot of them together shows them working as team on a spread sheet re: Kristyn’s finances - And it looks as if their relationship had turned a really positive corner - And that makes me both relieved and happy for them both!

And then we had the opportunity to meet a college student named Matt, a type 1 since the age of 13.

By Matt’s own admission, back when he was first diagnosed, he was “the perfect diabetic” and had great numbers and control.

But since Matt entered college, not so much. His focus is on partying and having the same college experience he thought all his friends were having. And as person with type 1 who had diabetes in college - I get that, I do.

I think all of us who had no choice but to take our diabetes to college with us, had our moments of being Matt - though perhaps not to the degree he took it - At least according the the show’s editing of his drinking.

College equals freedom for many and diabetes is a constant - Matt knew it and so I - but in college, my diabetes wasn’t a priority. Its so hard to embrace your own normal in life, not to mention college, because you want to fit in and be like everyone else!

And let's face it, Diabetes Burnout happens regardless of your age!

Matt’s friends were certainly concerned and aware of Matt’s health issues. He’d had three diabetes related seiszures since going off to college - And that not only worried his friends and family, it worried all of us watching!

His friends checked in on him when they were out and it was obvious how much they cared for him. When his bg was 405 and he was getting sick, they were really there for him.

Matt’s a1c was 8.4 and I have to say - I appreciated Matt’s Endo and his listening abilities. He didn't start off by judging him, which allowed for an open dialogue between the two of them - and Matt actually going to see his endo. At least that's my opion.

At one point Matt utters: Would I rather my disease be better or my life be better?

And he chose his life. FYI: I'm not sure if this was a direct response to a Producer's question or something that he said off the cuff and entirely on his own.

Anyway, I wanted to tell him that 30 comes around the corner so quickly, (not to mention other numbers,) and that having good diabetes control does equal a good life. The two can go hand-in-hand and one does not have to exist without the other. Actually, one will exist because of the other.

But that’s a reality that the person with diabetes has to realize and come to terms with on their own.

In the end, we see Matt drinking Crystal Lite at his 21st birthday party and trying to get his numbers in check before he drinks. He promises to cut back on his drinking and focus more on his health.

Next we meet Jen, a 19 year old woman who is 5 months pregnant and had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the same time she was diagnosed with being pregnant.

Personally, I thought the type 2 dx was more than a bit off! She was slender and I was thinking more along the lines of, type 1, LADA or gestational diabetes. It's a real shame her healthcare team didn't consider those types of diabetes.

The nurses continually used the possibility of using insulin as a scare tactic, and that really pissed me off! Obviously oral meds weren’t working and so many women w/gestational diabetes go on insulin to protect both the baby and themselves.

Jen was trying - but I really feel that she was lacking proper information and I was disappointed in her healthcare team.

She ended up going on insulin, having the baby induced early. Her son was whisked off to the NickU and suffered a "broad shouldered baby injury," a.k.a, Shoulder Dystocia. I'd never heard of it before or it’s direct link to diabetes and pregnancy before, so I was glad I learned something new

What really broke my heart was that Jen was obviously misdiagnosed. After she was able to bring her son home from the hospital, Jen was hospitalized 5 more times with high blood sugar and was re-diagnosed as a type 1. And MTV's explanation as to how and why that occurred was way off and the fact that she was misdiagnosed wasn't even brought up!

Because of her misdiagnoses, both Jen and her baby suffered tremendously and that pisses me off. Had no one in her healthcare professional circle ever heard of young adults being diagnosed with type 1 Or LADA for that matter?

For the most part, MTV did a good job, though I would have really appreciated a producer who had done their home work on type 1, type 1.5 and type 2. Which would have made their conclusion of Jen’s rediagnoses much easier to understand from a non-diabetes point of view.

Still, I was pleased with the episode as whole... FOR THE MOST PART. It showed very real issues associated with living and growing up with diabetes, but were there some things they could have done better?? ABSOLUTELY. Was "creative" editing an issue?? MAYBE.

UPDATE: MTV has updates on Kristyn, Matt & Jen and their lives since they filmed the episode! Click:

Now, if @Mtv could just get those featured in the episode (and those not, but living with diabetes) introduced to the diabetes on-line community!

Speaking of, other great DOC posts regarding the episode can be found at:

And if I've missed your post - Add it to the comments section so we can check it out!!


Kim said...

As always, I appreciate your viewpoint, and your voice as an advocate (and in general!). :)

Cara said...

Thanks for linking my post Kelly. :)

Mike Hoskins said...

Well written, as always, K2. You hit the nail on the head, once again. Like you, I was also pleasantly surprised that it wasn't what I expected and I thought MTV did a decent job for an hour-long show. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Traicy said...

I agree with you totally Kelly. It was pretty obvious to me that Jen was going to need insulin and I didn't like the scare tactic either. Well written Kelly.

Sara said...

Kristyn FOUND US!!!!

@followkristyn on twitter!!!

Jess said...

great post, k2! i appreciate you and others who wrote about the show, since i'm crazy and don't have cable... ;)

Meagan said...

Thanks for the low down on the show...I definitely want to watch it now. I wasn't sure at first since I too was worried about how well MTV would portray these "D" peeps. :)

Hallie Addington said...

We haven't watched it yet... but I really enjoy reading everyone's responses. I am totally appalled at Kristyn's mother. How in the world....? I'd go without air before I let my daughter go without the supplies she needs to stay healthy. In fact, in addition to a college savings plan we are thinking we need to start a medical savings plan, too. Because I don't want her to feel like she can't afford to be healthy. That's just me, I guess... But it breaks my heart. Diabetes is hard enough. I see it as my job to make it easier for her - in any way I can. And college?!? Ok, she's five - but it scares me to death! Oh boy...maybe I'll have to cover my eyes during that part!