Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lesson For The Day: Don't Put The Word "Severe" In Front Of The Word "Diabetes," EVER.

This past weekend I met a "friend of a friend" at a local watering hole. 
She was a first grade teacher and was telling me how much she loved her students and how they always kept her on her toes and continually made her laugh and how she learned from them just as much as they learned from her. 
And then someone else in the group interrupted us and asked: Kelly are you OK if we push back dinner for an hour?
And I was like, 'yeah, don't worry about me,' and turned my focus back on the conversation with Teacher Lady. 
Teacher Lady looked at me quizzically and I could tell she was puzzled.
Me: It's no big deal, I have Type 1 Diabetes and Lara just was wanted to make sure I was cool with the new dinner plans. 
Teacher Lady: Oh...., one of my students has "severe diabetes." He wears an insulin pump and goes to the nurses office three to 5 times a day to check his blood sugar and make insulin adjustments on his pump. 
SIdebar: Yes, I totally cringed when she said the term severe diabetes and did my best to put on my game face and present her the #diabetesfacts. I mean she was a really nice person and it was clear that she didn't know that severe diabetes wasn't such a great term.
So I whipped out my insulin pump & said: I love my insulin pump! And that's not "severe diabetes," that's life with diabetes. In this case it's life with Type 1 Diabetes.  The word 'severe', by it's very definition equals harsh and or bad and putting the word 'diabetes' in front of 'severe' makes the person you are referring to a harsh and bad diabetic/PWD. That can't be good for anyone, especially a 7 year old. How's he doing?

Teacher Lady: He's doing great...He's so funny and smart ... He's such a great kid! 
But wearing an insulin pump and all that testing, how can his diabetes not be severe? Sometimes his sugars are are on the higher side and other times he runs low. 
And I have to admit it, when she said that last part about his blood sugars being high and low I damn near laughed out loud. 

Me: Insulin pumps mean you have an electronic pancreas clipped to your hip. It's a little more work, but wearing one sure makes life easier.
Diabetes means that your blood sugars aren't perfect - And when they are "perfect," they don't stay that way. Sometimes my sugars are marching towards Canada, other times they head towards Florida. That's life with diabetes. 
Honestly TL, "severe diabetes" is considered a really derogatory/offensive term to many of us living with diabetes and in your student's case, it's the wrong terminology entirely. Your student's doing exactly what he has to in order to live and live a good life with diabetes.

Diabetes mean testing blood sugars anywhere between 7 and 10 times a day because our pancreases are busted & our bodies don't have the ability to measure, let alone control our blood sugars on their own. 
That's why we take insulin & that's why we test our blood sugars - Dude, that's why we have diabetes!

Instead of calling your student's diabetes  and his diabetes treatment 'severe', why not refer to him as being a smart, proactive, technically savvy person with diabetes who's doing what needs to be done as far as his diabetes is concerned.

Teacher Lady: OK, I never even considered anything you just said before. 

Me: I know, but you are considering it now - And that is a wonderful thing~ 

ANd then we clinked wine glasses - Because it was worth celebrating!


Katie said...

Way to keep your cool and explain the facts to her! I know it's so hard to not just react when people say things like "severe diabetes" or "brittle diabetes".

Cara said...

Go Kelly!!! :) You're such an awesome advocate. I'm sure you taught her more in that conversation than she's learned all year from having that child in her class.

jpnairn said...

Good job. The last time I had someone tell me how bad another diabetic had it because he was always checking his blood sugar and taking shots, I simply told him, "That just sounds like having diabetes to me."

Scott E said...

I'll clink wine glasses with you (given the chance) -- that's an awesome thing you did!

Brenda Bell said...

I have met one PWD who described her own diabetes as "brittle" because her blood glucose levels fluctuated so severely and rapidly, even with appropriate testing, insulin dosage, and diet.

So it may be a real term, just often misapplied or misused.

Or it might be like "diabetic": it's offensiveness (or lack thereof) is in the eye of the person living with it.

Colleen said...

I love that you changed the teacher's viewpoint of the student. Seeing him as a "bright young child" is definitely preferable to - "that poor sick child."

Scott K. Johnson said...

God Bless ya, K2. :-)

Mike Hoskins said...

Way to go Kel! Great advocacy over a drink! You rock. Slowly but surely, in all our little corners, we make a difference and educate!!

Marie Smith said...

Severe. Wow I hate that term. Thanks for blogging! I will be linking. I love everything you said.