Welcome?

If you have found this blog, saying Welcome does not really seem appropriate. I know you wish you weren't surfing the internet for diabetes. I felt the same.

A big part of me wishes I were not writing about diabetes, nor did I anticipate to become so opinionated or informed on the subject, but it happened. In 2010, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

It wasn't really part of the plan… Correction - it was not part of the plan, but it happened. It is not always easy, but I think we are all doing okay, and I hope we continue to do so.

Why the Middle East? I happen to live in Dubai. I don't think that living in the Middle East makes mine or my son's diabetic experience any more unique or challenging than it does elsewhere in the developed world.

I hope you stick around, or read something you like. Feel free to comment and join the conversation, subscribe or follow this blog by liking the Facebook page Diapoint.

Please note: This blog does not give medical advice. I am opinionated, and I share my experiences, but the first rule of diabetes is to follow up with your doctor and/or nurse educator about your care, diagnosis or medication. If you do not have a medical practitioner that is helping you find your way through this crazy world, then do not give up until you find the right one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Keep Calm & Hakuna Matata

Happy New Year!

While I am not a big resolution person, I do like to start the new year with a good plan and bigger picture of the things that need to be done.

A few weeks ago when I started going through my new business planner, it suggested to pick a word for the year. Honestly, I was blank.. Like really blank. There are so many words that could serve someone in a year it is hard to pick just one.

I left it blank and kept planning.

I took off for the new year thinking I would mindfully figure out my word of the year as I stared at the ocean.  But it still did not come to me.

I was thousands of miles away in the beautiful island paradise of Zanzibar and it still was not coming to me.

It didn't take long to explore the 1km stretch of white sand, rocks and seaweed where we watched children from the local village play and collect seafood every morning.  During that walk one of the men from the village approached us to ask if we would like a tour on his boat. We definitely wanted to do that to visit the nearby mangroves and watch the sun set. However we were not prepared to take his phone number to find him later as we left our phone back at the hotel in an effort to digitally detox.

"Hakuna Matata WhatsApp is everywhere" he tells us.

What?! Did I just hear words of the famed Lion King song and WhatsApp used in the same sentence?

Of course this Swahili phrase of Hakuna, meaning "There is not" and Matata, "Problem" has been around long before the Lion King. And Timon and Pumbaa joyously sing about it in a very passive approach because they want to be lazy.

In real life, this man did not use it this way at all. He was not worried because he was solving a business problem with the resources available to him. He was not going to wait for us to come back and not find him in a case of opportunity lost. I loved his use of this phrase!

How many times do we come across a problem, or what we even think will be a potential problem and start to worry about the future and outcomes, or not achieving our goal. Sometimes we do nothing. Sometimes we start worrying about other issues when we should really focus on what matters.

That was it. That is what I want my year to be! I want an Hakuna Matata kind of year!

I want a year of less time lost on stuff that does not really matter. I want a year about getting it done with the resources available.

I think you can also apply Hakuna Matata to diabetes management - and I am not talking about taking the Timon and Pumbaa approach to your diabetes management and not worrying about it. Do not dare do that! Those two words will not solve your problems as suggested in the song.

However, if you are resourceful with the knowledge and tools that are available to you, you will be able to manage your diabetes well.

For example...

Hakuna Matata, I can estimate the carbohydrates in this pasta dish I am about to eat so I know how much insulin I will take.

Not...Hakuna Matata, I will just eat that pasta and not worry about it or giving myself any insulin.

Another one...

Hakuna Matata, I did not get the A1c result that I wanted, but I am going to work harder to manage my diabetes for next time.

Not...Hakuna Matata, I am not sure my A1c will be good, so I am not going worry about going for a check up.

I think you get the idea.

Do not take a "no worries" approach to mean that you are not going to do anything about it.

Be resourceful, and focus on solving the issue, or whatever goal it is you want to achieve.

Whatever your goals are for the year, I wish you the happiest and healthiest year you can possibly have. And when needed, take the real island approach and be resourceful.

Hakuna Matata!

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Man In The Mirror

As 2016 ends, I struggle to find something significant to write or say that reflects on this year. I have nothing of diabetic significance to say that hasn't already been said. Maybe I will over the next week, but as I think of my sign off blog post for 2016, I am at a loss.

The world seems to be a mess for many reasons.. racism, war, terror and other atrocities we read about daily. At least my son is still young enough to live in a bubble. Although that bubble is slowly getting poked at.

Just last week he was curious about 9/11 after a discussion in school about Phillippe Pettit who walked across a tight rope between the two towers in 1974. Some children were aware that those towers no longer exist, but were not completely sure as to why. Of course I "mommed up" and told him the full story.

Today I took the day off and we went to visit the Legoland that recently opened in Dubai. On the drive home, I put on my favorite playlist in Spotify that I fondly call "Peanut Butter & the JAM". Full of songs I love, it is definitely my most played - and keeps growing.

Michael Jackson's "Man In the Mirror" came on. My son asked if we could listen to it again. He is very much my child - listening to a song again and again until he understands all the lyrics.

I asked him if he understood the message in the song. He did.

He replied, "If you want to make the world a better place, you should change yourself".

After a few seconds of contemplation - as he often does - he says, "You know mom, sometimes you can just change the world with your smile. Your smile can change people."

And you know what. He is right.

Everyone wants a change. Sometimes it is hard to decide what to change, or where that change should start. Sometimes it feels bigger than us. And while sometimes it is bigger than us, and we can't move a mountain right away, maybe a smile is a start.

In many cases, a little kindness can go a long way.

In the context of diabetes.. I can't add much today.. Maybe it is a cure you want, or people to better understand your challenges, or you just want to understand why your blood sugars act up... whatever the case may be.. maybe he is right. Start with a smile. Whether that is to others, or showing yourself some compassion, a little can go a long way.

Monday, December 5, 2016

News or False

I subscribe to various news alerts for diabetes. There is so much happening in the world of medical research and technology that it would be impossible to keep up with it all from one source.

How else could I have learned this week about the potential of the malaria vaccine to help Type1s produce insulin, or a new joint venture that will bring an implantable Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to market. Many exciting things are happening every day.

While I cannot read every single newsflash, for the articles I can read, I have a mental categorization: News, Not Quite Newsworthy, and False.

This week an article from a newspaper in a not so far away continent came buried in my string of news emails.  The title started “How I Naturally Cured Diabetes….”

I have written before that the natural cure promise is not always possible, and in some cases it is impossible. I am a strong advocate of complimentary medicine - complimentary in the sense it should compliment what has been prescribed by your endocrinologist or someone else on your medically certified diabetic team.

I typically ignore these types of claims now as there are too many to count. But this one I have to highlight because I do believe the confident tone of articles like these misleads a lot of people, and could result in the harm of unsuspecting diabetics, or those new to this crazy world of managing diabetes.

This article addressed the “most frequently asked questions”. Question number 2 was “There can’t be a cure for Type 1 when your pancreas is damaged, how are you going to make a new pancreas?” Which is a legitimate question to someone that offers you a miracle cure.

The answer. “Its only an organ and every organ of the body has the capability of regeneration”

ONLY an organ? ONLY? There is so much wrong with this statement. But I think my son has lived with diabetes long enough and I have worked around physicians long enough that I can openly say, your organs and body parts are NOT JUST ORGANS. They are incredible parts of you that give you life, breath, energy, vision and all of those amazing things that allow us to live the lives we do. Forget the very important overlooked detail that beta cells kill any regeneration of cells in the pancreas of a Type 1, and will continue to do so until a medical cure for this autoimmune issue is found.

The next question goes on to ask, “Then why do doctors not tell their patients?”

The answer “Its because they will lose their license if they do not promote harmful and toxic drugs from large pharma companies”

While it is true doctors would fear to loose their licenses if they told their patients to stop their medication because a regimen of only cinnamon and ginseng would cure them, it is not for the reason cited here. The "cure" promised here is false.

I will keep this short and brief, but please be aware. No matter what part of the world you are in, there is no cure for diabetes. Type1s are insulin dependent. They cannot live without insulin.

Type2s may need insulin, but they can often manage blood sugars with diet and exercise as prescribed by a doctor or nutritionist.

Please do not take my word for it. Ask your medical doctor first.

If there were a natural way to cure this thing, be sure, the more than half a million children counted by the IDF with Type 1 diabetes would have been cured by now.

Cinnamon and ginseng over insulin.... file under FALSE




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Diabetes - More Than Just a Month of Blue Circles

As today is the last day of November, Diabetes Awareness Month, I had a different message prepared today. 

All month I have attended events, posted a fact a day and bombarded my social media with other things to raise awareness about diabetes. 

I wanted to highlight that many may be tired of my daily posts about diabetes. 

I wanted to highlight that this is okay because it is small in comparison to how often a diabetic has to consider the information I have shared over the last month.

I wanted to highlight that diabetes is more than a post, or internet meme you can scroll through and pick up a quick soundbite. 

It is more than walks and fundraisers. 

It is more than the smiling faces of the children you see representing research efforts. 

While many diabetics manage and live with diabetes every day, all day, to the fullest, they are too often reminded of how horrific this disease can be. 

This morning, I was sadly reminded once again. A beautiful young woman lost her life to diabetes last night. I do not know her personally, but I do know her face and her smile. I do know the disease that took her life too soon.  I am not sure of the circumstances of her case, but I do know that she was in DKA because of Type 1.

Please know the signs, symptoms and what to do in the event of a diabetic emergency. 

If you are diabetic, please consider all the risks and what you need to do to manage those.  

Please be more than aware.. 

Please know there are people out there fighting the other 335 days a year..






Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding Gratitude In The Diabetic World

Last weekend we celebrated American Thanksgiving. Every year the same 25 or so children and adults come to our home for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Although I am the only one that grew up in America among the group, we are all always very thankful for this gathering and the special things in our life. 

And while I am not thankful for diabetes, I am thankful for many things it has given me - appreciation for health, the amazing people I have met as a result of this journey, those who are working diligently to find a cure, and I am thankful that we have access to the current technology to manage it.

When my son was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I was overwhelmed. I worried that he would miss out on a typical childhood experiences - having fun, playing with his friends and doing all the other things kids do that we often take for granted. I think every parent of a newly diagnosed Type 1 questions if their child will have a “normal” childhood.

As I learned more about diabetes and became less anxious with the daily routine of care, I realized that it is a manageable condition. Life saving insulin coupled with available technology allows my son to have a normal childhood.

So while I am very thankful for insulin, I am also incredibly thankful for that technology and the flexibility his insulin pump has given us. I am also thankful for how far the insulin pump has come.

This invention is a little older than I am, and has drastically improved over time. The first one was was the size of a very large backpack. Today’s insulin pumps are about the size of a pager (Anyone remember those?) and they have made diabetes management easier for many people.  

Pumps have many advantages including the elimination of several insulin injections a day and the delivery of insulin more accurately. There are also some models that when coupled with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), suspend insulin delivery to avoid life threatening low blood sugar. 

However, many people think an insulin pump is a cure. It is not. 

It still requires several blood glucose checks per day, changing of the insertion sites every 2-3 days, plus the need to accurately count carbohydrates and determine appropriate insulin coverage.  The diabetic, or caretaker of the diabetic still has to be supportive and vigilant.

Recently in the U.S., a new pump was approved that the media labeled as an "artificial pancreas". While it was a significant advancement to help patients maintain normal glucose levels, intervention and diligence will still be required.  While it is not a cure, it is a significant innovation that will make life easier for diabetics to manage.

I am thankful that the future is bright for diabetics.  Diabetes will continue to present its daily challenges, but at the present moment, insulin pumps and other technology have provided my child a flexibility not seen by previous generations of diabetics. 

I am thankful we are living in this time of research and scientific development that have allowed my son and others like him to be kids. I am thankful that in their lifetime they will (hopefully) continue to see much more advancement.

The First Insulin Pump - Invented in the 1960s



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sick Days And The Signs

More from the photography series "Diabetes Every Day". 

The pancreas can sometimes tell a Type 1 if they are sick long before other symptoms show up. Blood sugars increase for what often seems like no good reason only to find out a few days later a flu hits, or there is something going around the school that the body needs to fight. 

This picture was taken when my son was sent home from school with a very low grade fever. Because of a high blood sugar, the school nurse checked his temperature, and even though it was only one decimal point above the allowed limit with no other symptoms, he was sent home for the day. 

As a parent, you want your child healthy. As the parent of a diabetic, you want it even more as true sick days are very severe and can result in DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis). But if they are not ill, you want nothing more than for them to be normal, in school learning with their friends. Some diabetics already miss more school because it takes them longer to recover than the average non-diabetic child. 

I won't lie that these situations where he is sent home healthy frustrate me and make me wonder how many low grade fevers and other flu-like symptoms are lurking in the school hallways unnoticed or unreported. Sometimes it feels like my child gets the short end of the deal because no one runs around the halls with a thermometer checking anyone else that is symptomatic for flu. 

Sent home from school with a fever one decimal above the school limit - only
discovered as a result of high blood sugar.
....And there are real sick days. The next image was less than 24 hours after blood sugars that were on the higher side did not go down right away. Meaning, there was not enough insulin in the body - which makes a person feel sick. They feel very sick. 

There are times that a blood sugar will not go down right away... could be a pump site that needs changing, could be a bad vial of insulin..could be many other things.. But the point is, it does not take long for high blood sugars to cause a Type 1 to not feel well. 

Nausea sets in pretty quickly.. a doctor will most often assume this is flu in a child that has not been diagnosed for Type 1 diabetes. Once we found the root cause of the insulin not getting to his system, and corrected that, in a very short time he was up and running again. 

My point in sharing this image - I want to further drive home the point that Type 1 can be, and sadly is often mistaken for flu. Please know the signs. This image looks exactly like flu.

A diabetic sick day. It looks like the flu. Please know
the signs! It could save a life.
As a parent, I debated to share these images. However, as I once again read of another life lost to undiagnosed Type 1 my heart breaks.

Common Signs of Diabetes Include: Frequent urination, Excessive thirst, Increased hunger, Weight loss, Tiredness, Lack of interest and concentration, A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, Blurred vision, Frequent infections, Slow-healing wounds, Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu). All of these signs need not be present - it may just be one or two. 

If you have any of these signs consult with your doctor immediately

Monday, November 14, 2016

Happy World Diabetes Day

Happy World Diabetes Day!

What's to be happy about a chronic disease you may ask? As difficult as diabetes is, we have a lot to be happy about on this day that brings the world together to raise awareness in fighting this beast of a disease.

Every year on November 14th, the world marks this day with events, campaigns, activities and other things to help those with diabetes and raise awareness about its diagnosis, treatment and management.

This all started in the early 1990s by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Foundation. The day got the extra nudge when the United Nations adopted it as an official day of observance.

Why the 14th? This is the day that Dr. Frederick Banting was born. Dr. Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin in 1921. This forever changed the lives of many people living at that time, and continues to impact those who are diagnosed with Type1 and insulin dependent in Type 2. That in itself is a celebration of life - many lives that would not be here without their discovery.

So how am I marking this day? I am celebrating the entire month with a social media campaign that focuses on a diabetic fact a day. I am also visiting several hospitals and clinics to share my mission while participating in diabetic events in the UAE.  It has also been an honor to be invited to speak to companies, universities and other organizations about diabetes this month.

While I am pretty busy, I still find this very small in the grand scheme of things. There is much to be done to support the estimated 415million diabetics in the world. This number continues to grow. And at the rate it is growing, it will likely have an impact on all of us, if it has not touched your family and friends already. We all can do something.

As I told the employees at Eli Lilly yesterday where I shared our story, everything counts - no matter how small. If you are part of an organization that is making life saving supplies - in their case insulin - your contribution in your job is important. As they were about to go on about their work day focussing on various projects and initiatives, I closed by asking them to consider the drop of insulin in the image below. This tiny drop of insulin has such a huge impact for so many. Yes, something that small makes a huge difference.

Of course every diabetic wants nothing more than a cure. But thankfully, we have insulin until that time. Without it, my son and so many others would not be here. It is huge. These small tiny drops keep him alive.  It looks small, but its impact is so big.

So what can you do? A lot. Even sharing any of the factual internet memes that you see about the signs of diabetes could save a life.

If you are diabetic or a caretaker of one, and have ever thought about sharing your story, I encourage you to share it. It will definitely have an impact and help someone! If you don't have an outlet to share it, I welcome you to write a guest blog here!

Another great way to get involved is to participate in your local diabetes activities. Not only should it highlight the facts about diabetes, but it is a great way to raise awareness and get active in the process.

In the region, there were some great events held last weekend that you probably attended such as those in Abu DhabiDohaBahrainJordan and Lebanon and Turkey. If you could not attend these, bookmark their sites and reach out to them for more information about future activities. In Saudi, reach out to the Saudi Diabetes & Endocrine Association to learn about upcoming events.

If you are in Dubai and Kuwait, there are events coming up this weekend:

It doesn't take much to make a difference in your life, or in someone else's life. Please never think that it is not worth it, or that it does not matter

Sometimes, the smallest effort can have a very big impact.

Happy World Diabetes Day.