I spent Friday night in an emergency department with my daughter so that she could be evaluated after taking nasty fall during a climbing competition. (She’s going to be fine. She just needs to let a neck sprain and mild concussion heal.) When the resident who was taking Grace’s medical history asked about family history of medical conditions, I told her that Grace’s brother has type 1 diabetes (t1d). Her next question was, “Is everyone else healthy?” My response: “Yes, and so is he.” I know. It was a complete overreaction to an innocuous question. In my exhausted, worried state, the question just triggered something.
From the time Liam was diagnosed at the age of 7, he told us that we could not refer to his t1d as an illness or a disease. We landed on the term “medical condition” in our house. The reality is that Liam is a strong, healthy kid who also carries a significant vulnerability. He’s not sick, AND he requires special protections. He has to be allowed to eat on the school bus if his blood sugar is low. He needs to be able to take a math test at another time if his blood sugar is too high or too low for him to be able to concentrate.
This plays out on the larger stage as well. People with t1d do amazing things. They serve on the Supreme Court. They climb Everest. They race Indy cars. The messages of empowerment conveyed by these feats are so important to those living with t1d. However, sometimes t1d results in terrible complications, and sometimes it kills. Conveying both equally important sides of the coin can be tricky. People with t1d accomplish incredible things, AND please please please fund research to cure this terrible medical condition so that it doesn’t take any more lives.
Written by Susan Ramsey