Is Ignorance Bliss?

Yesterday my friend Tom Karlya asked the question, “Do you wish you had a lot more knowledge about (not the managing aspect) of what ‘it meant’ when you or child was diagnosed with diabetes?”  It got me thinking back to our life in the early years of diabetes.
I had no knowledge of diabetes before my son was diagnosed.  My mom had a friend with a son with diabetes but I knew them in the days before reusable pens, home blood glucose testing and the popularity of insulin pumps.  He was just a child who sometimes got to lay on the couch rather than play outside with the rest of us.
A bit more knowledge of the symptoms may well have empowered me to ask more questions and demand better answers the very first time my son was taken to the hospital. Hindsight is always 20/20 however.
After diagnosis, there was also a period of ignorance. I knew about Dead in Bed and I was suitably terrified. I understood highs and lows and really didn’t want to leave the perceived safety of the hospital.  When we were forced to go home, terrible things did happen.  One day my son was whining and demanding to go inside. It was the first nice day after a long winter and I was enjoying getting some yard work done. I made him wait. He passed out in the dirt.  I didn’t know that his whiny toddler behavior was also a sign that his bg levels were dropping. I learned quickly after that.
Our first illness and broken arm were also dealt with in relative ignorance. I was still trying to wrap my head around what to do and how things worked. I gave him insulin no matter what. I prayed he would eat–he often didn’t but when he was sick, that seemed to be okay. Ignorance allowed me to continue somewhat buffered. I didn’t fear all of the things that could go wrong. I was clinging to my own sanity, overwhelmed by what I did know and not able to begin to think of all that I didn’t.
My heart goes out to the nurses and doctors out there who do know.  The ones who can “see” and imagine to the extreme.  Ignorance allowed me to learn at a pace that I could psychologically handle. A bit more knowledge before diagnosis may have saved us some serious stress but after? No thanks, the learning curve was steep enough.

Pandering to the Ignorant

As many of you may have heard by now, on the 15th of July, the Southside Times printed an article written by Wendell Fowler.  I have read that he claims to be a “Food Literacy Activist, Motivational Speaker, Entertainer, Nutritional Consultant, CBS TV Host, Food Journalist, and National Health Columnist”. He may host something on CBC but he definitely is lacking on all other fronts–unless of course his article was written for entertainment. Since it was incredibly offensive, I am guessing he missed the mark there as well. 

The article in question is called “Pandering to Diabetics? You bet!”  The author claimed outrage that a group fundraising for children with diabetes were doing so with an ice-cream social. He equated this to serving an alcoholic “just one beer”.  He state that,It’s crystal clear why rates surge when diabetics are encouraged to eat just a little of the poison. Drug company cartels, researchers, and Big Medicine who peddle this misnomer don’t want people to be healthy using food; they just love to sell drugs. With ‘friends’ like that, who needs enemies?” His article goes down hill from there. 

The social was created for the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana and was organized by the American Dairy Association of Indiana. The executive director Jenna Holt sent a scathing reply to the Southside Times chastising Mr. Fowler’s rudeness and ignorance. She was but one of many people from the diabetes community and the Diabetes Advocacy community who attempted to set the record straight. There has even been a Facebook page created aimed at educating the newspaper.  

It took me a few days before I had a chance to read the article. After hearing all of the furor it had created, I fully expected to see a retraction or apology in a recent edition of the newspaper. Imagine my surprise when I saw none! This newspaper, through its writer, insulted the entire diabetes community.  It suggested that people with Type 1 diabetes should follow Drew Carey’s example and they too would not have diabetes. A number of comments (close to 40 at last count) offered education and information on the realities of Type 1 diabetes including the fact that people with Type 1 diabetes can eat ice-cream and did not develop their disease because of poor eating habits.

Maybe this article was created to see the power of the diabetes community?  Maybe they wanted to sell more papers and increase their readership?  The many links that now lead to their site because people are so outraged and others what to see what the fuss is about has to be sending their traffic through the roof. But does that justify the article? Of course not. 

They have targeted a group of people–those living with diabetes and blamed them for their disease.  We know that people living with Type 1 diabetes did not “do” anything to get this disease.  My two year old was not IV fed an ice-cream drip causing his pancreas to self-destruct.  People living with Type 2 diabetes are also not to “blame” for their condition.  It is a complicated disease that has a large genetic factor as well as other factors contributing to this metabolic condition.  There are skinny people with Type 2 diabetes and there are obese people who do not have this disease. 

Mr. Fowler and the South Side Times did a wonderful job of bringing attention to those living with diabetes.  They tried to shame them but instead fueled them. The diabetes community has been loud and strong.  They have taken exception to the rantings of a man who has refused to educate himself about the real story.  They have written blogs, sent in letters to the editor, made phone calls and created Facebook pages.  They are educating and working hard to correct the damage done by this misinformed article and I applaud them! 

If you are going to write about diabetes do not write fiction or face the wrath of an increasingly powerful group of people living with the disease.

Me feeding my son a scotch…or my son’s first ever ice cream cake for his birthday