Last week the diabetes online community helped raise over $26,000 for people who are dying without access to insulin and education. This week, the diabetes online community told a 75 year old woman to “eat” things and “suck” things that I would not repeat in polite company or impolite company.
I am not saying that just because someone in another country is struggling to find insulin does not mean that I cannot fight discrimination in my country (obviously). Comparing battles is a fight that no one wins.
What I am suggesting is that a little patience and kindness be delivered with the education (please read this excellent post by Kari). Just a few days ago, someone who I have been working with every day since October asked me what an insulin pump does. I am the first person with type 1 diabetes that my coworker knows (or at least feels comfortable asking questions to). If I respond with anger and name-calling (or even my oft used sarcasm) to his questions or ignorant statements, what will the reaction be when I ask the same person to spare a rose or donate to a walk?
Before diabetes entered my knowledge after my grandmother’s diagnosis, I really had no idea what checking a blood sugar using a blood glucose meter actually involved. There were no meter commercials back in those days. And then, it was not until my diagnosis that I had ANY idea of syringes, insulin pens, or insulin pumps. Until I was brought my first syringe in the hospital, I had no idea that insulin just had to be injected under the skin into fat and could be done quite discretely.
Yes, Miss Manners’ advice was misguided. Perhaps she has not seen a modern blood glucose meter. She may not know that meters today require a sample as small as 0.3 µL (that’s tiny!). As one of her readers humorously suggested in the comments of the Washington Post column, perhaps Miss Manners has not seen a coach bathroom in decades. She may not know that it is barely a safe place to actually use the restroom, much less take care of quick diabetes management needs. On the same note of the column’s comments, I was actually encouraged by the number of people who replied that they were not that familiar with diabetes yet also realized that the airplane restroom would be the best place to take care of diabetes management.
I am confident I have checked my blood sugar on almost every flight I have taken for the past 11 years. I am even more confident that not a single one of these checks took place in the airplane bathroom. When I needed to change my pump infusion set and reservoir during a layover due to a persistent high, I prepped everything right in the terminal. I did step into the bathroom (but not into a stall) to do the actual insertion only because it was located under my clothes.
Miss Manners was wrong. But the diabetes online community is also wrong to resort to name-calling and vulgarity rather than using it as an opportunity to educate with kindness and understanding. After all, I think even Miss Manners herself would agree that two wrongs don’t make a right.