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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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It happened To Me

By on February 12, 2014 in See It Here, The Way I See It, Writing

I felt empathy for the woman in the red dress standing behind President Obama who became light-headed while he explained the failure of the HealthCare.gov website. She was having a low blood sugar–one of the givens for the three million Americans who deal with Type 1 diabetes every day. I have it too.

A normal–OK, let’s say “healthy”, human body operates with a blood sugar of about 100. Diabetics can drop as low as 11 (yeah I’ve been there) and lose consciousness or go as high as 600+ and ruin their eyesight, kidneys and a list of other organs if it’s not treated. Control requires a daily injection of insulin before every meal and then testing of a blood sample throughout the day to check the glucose levels.

It’s not fun, it can be embarrassing, and it can be expensive without health insurance but even with health insurance, it’s a disease that affects the wallet as much as it affects the pancreas (the organ in the body that produces insulin). In a diabetic, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a “healthy” body, hence the need for insulin injections. Too much insulin and you begin to feel light-headed, and unable to focus and too little insulin, you become thirsty, hungry and need frequent stops in the bathroom.

There is no cure despite non-stop fundraising walks, dinners, bike rides and academic and National Institutes of Health grants for research. In my lifetime, there may never be a cure. Quite frankly, I don’t spend a lot of time wondering what life would be like if there were?

It requires a philosophy though: I choose to say “There are X amount of people with this disease in the world and I’m one of them so that means someone else doesn’t have to have it.” I’ve been called simplistic for that approach. That may be true but it works for me.

People have witnessed it happen to me and once I come back from wherever a low blood sugar takes you, I’m apologetic and embarrassed and promise never to let it happen again and put more friends and strangers through having to call a paramedic.

The woman with the red dress is feeling all of this right now. It’s proof we need to really take a look at the idea of a national health care effort and how to make it work better. I know there’a lot of noise about how bad it is but one has to be naive to think it can all run as planned on the first lap. Henry Ford built prototypes of the Model T before launching it in 1908. We’ll be seeing the same thing with health care….and diabetes. The naysayers are just doing their job and I hope the researchers, web geeks, politicians and presidents continue to do theirs.

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