Flashback: HANDS

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In my middle teens, except for when I was sick or when the calendar was marked in red, I took the bus to school everyday. I was in Italy back then, and the bus I usually took wasn’t a school bus. It was a regular city-bus, but in the mornings and evenings, it was full of students and a few adults going to and back home from work. The commute from Quartu Sant’Elena (where I lived) to Cagliari (where I went to school) was short, about 5 miles, but that translated into 40-45 minutes during rush hour.

That morning at about 7:40 the area surrounding the bus stop was crowded with students mostly about my age, some younger, some older–but either way taller!!–waiting for their ride.

I see the bus coming. It stops, and the driver opens the front, back, and center doors (exit only).  I have a monthly pass, so I can choose from either the front or the back door. I pick the back door. Wow, it’s crowded. It’s a jungle. Still next to the door, I’m standing on the tip of my toes to see if, by chance, any of the lucky passengers who are sitting will be abandoning the bus soon, making a seat available. I’m ready to jump wherever I have to in order to win one of those prized seats. Competition is fierce, and it’s not a good day for me.

Seats are precious, I think. I give up the hope of finding a free seat, and I let myself down from my tiptoes. I relax. Then, I realize that the spot where I’m standing is not safe. At the next bus stop I will be swept by a new surge of students ready to push and fight to conquer a spot inside. I shyly make an attempt to move forward. It’s not easy, but I’m now determined. I keep going.

I’m tiny, and all those backpacks make every step harder. The bad looks and curses (!!!) from the people I bother as I’m trying to advance make me feel guilty. I keep going. I finally reach a spot where I can stand safely on two feet. For balance I grab a pole that was already covered by many other hands. I’m staring at the pole and at my own hand, when my attention is caught by the black marks on the fingertips of the hand above mine. Yuck! I rapidly move my hand away. Some kind of infection, I think.

That hand, I know now, had tattooed on it the marks from checking blood sugar many times a day, every day, maybe without changing lancets often enough.

A friend of mine checks her blood sugar on her ears and has beautiful “clean” fingertips. BTW, my husband thinks my hands are beautiful, too!! That’s the power of LoVe!!

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Job interviewing & Diabetes, not exactly simple

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“What are you good at? What’s your major weakness? Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with your coworkers and how you dealt with it.” Being prepared for a job interview is a lot of work itself and always stressful.

If you are diabetic, you know that things are even more complicated because of the need to keep your blood sugar under control while you are trying to hide your condition to the potential employer. If you are reading this post, you happen to be an employer, and you are not diabetic please don’t get me wrong. We don’t try to fool anybody, but too often we diabetic face a hard reality named prejudice and we have to protect ourselves.

We can be as smart as anybody else.  We can be as productive as anybody else. That’s why we want to be evaluated for what we have to offer, and not to be under-ranked just because of diabetes. I’m aware that some employers don’t fall in the ignorant category, and that they would select the candidate on the basis of his/her potential contribution to the company. Although, the competition out there is crazy these days and we simply can’t take the risk. So, every time I’m notified of an upcoming interview and it gets scheduled I start to plan.

Blood sugar of course has an impact on the performance. So, my goal is keeping my sugars in a good range for the whole duration of the interview and quite often for a much longer time without the need of using my meter and doing any adjustment. I like to think of it as a game, and the game gets surely more challenging when I play away, but it’s still doable. For example, a couple of months ago I flew for an interview from Central Texas to the East Coast. I was interviewing for a small company, and I had the CEO picked me up at the airport. I turned my cell phone on as soon as we landed, and I knew from a voicemail I got that my interviewer was already at the arrivals waiting for me. I let him wait a little longer and made a stop to the restrooms. I checked my blood sugar. It was 125mg/dl. On my pump I set insulin to the 85% of the regular baseline for an hour. In a normal situation I would have never done it, but that was an extraordinary situation. I was sure that keeping insulin at 100% would have meant for me the need to eat something in about one hour maybe sooner than that, and I knew in advance that the interview was going to last about two hours. I met the guy and we drove to his offices.

During the interview my mind was clear. The guy told me that we would have kept talking at a nice restaurant nearby. I thought a sarcastic “Great!” I couldn’t check my blood sugar, but after having the baseline at its 85% surely I didn’t need to eat! Once at the restaurant I carefully avoided any source of carbohydrates or fruits, and ordered meat and a mixed salad, instead. The meat gets metabolized after 6 hours since you eat it, so my meal wouldn’t have contributed to increase my blood sugar of a bit while I was there. Again, my mind is clear. At this point I have neatly perceived the culture of the company, its successes and its flaws. The guy brilliantly goes to the restrooms giving me the opportunity to check my blood sugar: 143mg/dl (not bad considering the situation!). I don’t have time to calculate the correction bolus. I quickly push the buttons for 0.2. He’s back and didn’t see me playing with my pump. We keep talking and talking and talking.

Okay, the story ends with me not being offered the job. But it doesn’t really matter. As a professional that interview was a great opportunity for me to clarify first of all to myself what I want and surely what I don’t want from a job.  As a diabetic I proved to myself that with a little bit of extra attention to my body, I’m capable of managing things pretty well also in highly stressful situations.

I would love to hear your stories or to address your inquiries.

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Am I on call?? NO, I’m diabetic!!

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I have been diabetic for 10 years, and wearing a pump for the last 7. I started with injections, totally refusing the idea of been literally linked to something that I had to carry with me all the time no matter what. I also didn’t like the idea of “making clear” my condition to the world.

Then, my blood sugar was all over the place with highs and lows that I simply couldn’t keep up with through regular injections. I had to switch to the pump. And thank God I did! Life is much easier than it was. I have more flexibility in terms of what and when I eat, something priceless to me. But this is not the point. I realized that despite the incidence of diabetes in the young and less young population, the majority of people don’t have a clue on what diabetes actually is and what its management requires.

People obviously recognize a syringe when they see it, but what about an insulin pump? Do they know what it is? Today with a good level of confidence I say that many people don’t.

My name is Alice, and I named my pump Alice2, like if it was my alter ego. When I go somewhere new, I am not usually questioned about Alice2, but when I become a frequenter of a place, the curiosity of people that see me “playing” with my pump speechlessly emerges. Similar versions of what I’m going to tell you have occurred several times over the years. This is just what happened more recently, last week. I am at a dance party, sitting on a bench while setting a temporary baseline. A nice fellow, with whom I talked several times but never about diabetes, sits next to me. I can feel his eyes on my pump and me. He doesn’t ask. He sits next to me, and just looks. Then, I look back at him and I say, “ Yeah, I’m diabetic”. I can read the surprise on his face. I finally hear his voice “Diabetic?? Wow, I had no idea!! I thought you were someone important, and that you were on call.” I laughed. But then, while holding my pump, I turned serious and half facetious when I said, “ I don’t want you to think that I am less important just because this is not a pager”.  He smiled and said that a couple of years ago had a kidney transplant after several years of dialysis. I would have never imagined it.

So, if you have Type 1 Diabetes and refuse the pump because you don’t want other people to know, my invitation is to reevaluate your position. People who know what a pump is and how it looks like or how it works are usually really close to someone with diabetes, if are not diabetic themselves. Your life can be much better! So, why not choose to be on a pump?

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