Last week I read Typecast: Amazing People Overcoming the Chronic Disease of Type 1 Diabetes. I appreciated this book for many reasons. Mostly because it highlights a few people dealing with Type 1 - some have it, some are caretakers, others are in the healthcare industry helping patients - and it focusses on how attitude can overcome the negative around the disease.
The author, Andrew Deutscher, is a caretaker of a Type 1 child like me, so I could relate to a lot of what he wrote. So much in fact, that early on in the book he could have taken the thoughts right out of my head. They are of course his own, but I often think similar things, and I am sure other caretakers do too.
It is a focus on attitude, which we know is pretty much the secret to overcoming adversity - diabetes included. How we choose to deal with a situation will give us strength, and also affect the outcome of the situation.
All of the examples were inspiring, but the one I appreciated the most was a discussion about Barbara Anderson, PhD, an Associate Professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She has worked at all the leading diabetic institutions in the US, and in 2003, won the American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator award. I am sure she has since won many more.
I so appreciated her views on how medical teams should deal with diabetic patients. In short, the message was to work as a team and focus on the process. Do not beat patients up on the outcomes. This is what I was getting at in an earlier blog post, but could not articulate it as well.
The discussion cited parents and doctors who really gave their children or patients a hard time for a "bad" A1C number, but this is not the answer to helping them. Focus on the process is key. Diabetes is a chronic thing that we live with daily, so just defining it by one number - even though an indicator of three months - will only leave the patient feeling negative about their care.
She compares it to horse whispering when she addresses the ADA in 2003, the year of her recognition I mention. I find this approach to be so true, and realize those doctors that I have "clicked" with, are those that are focussed on the process with me.
Earlier in diagnosis when we were back to Houston for a check up, my son's A1C was not where I wanted it to be. Although it could have been much worse, I was so disappointed in this number. We (I) had been working so hard. Day after day. Sleepless night after sleepless night. Our endocrinologist there (who I should really call my mentor in navigating this disease) basically told me well, it didn't work out the way you wanted it this time, so what can we improve to make it better next time?
I was floored by this response. There was no shame, no ridicule. But why should there be? No amount of ridicule would change the past. The only thing left to do was to work with them to fine tune ratios and settings and work toward the future.
I guess the lesson I learned is if we fall off the horse, the best thing we can do is try to get back on, or keep trying to work with it and "join up" as described in Dr. Andersen's speech.
Today, in 2003, we have learned that it is by listening to and respecting our patients' agendas and by being open to our patients' language that we can come to adjust our most fundamental tools - our words, minds, and our hearts - to create a more meaningful "joining up" with our patients.
To read the full address, click here.