Sunday, March 28, 2010

Diabetes tattoos are forever

I can picture the day (hopefully not too soon) when my daughter asks me if it's OK for her to get a tattoo. Now her mom and I don't have any body art and kinda cringe at the prospect of our kids getting inked.

Cassie is an accomplished debater. I'm sure she'd pose a hypothetical question like: "What if the tattoo said I have diabetes?" That way, it could eliminate the need for a medic alert bracelet.

I've seen some of nice ones, like the one pictured here by Erin from the Tu Diabetes forums. But tattoos are permanent. And I'd like to think she wouldn't need that tattoo forever.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Casey Johnson

Sadly, Casey Johnson's death has been attributed to complications from diabetes. Casey's dad shares her story in this interview on FOX. He also tells us about a friend who would have given a large portion of his wealth for just one day without diabetes. I can totally relate. I think most dads would gladly give whatever they could for the health of their child.

Healthy is Contagious

At the TED Conference this February, Nicholas Christakis, a Harvard social scientist, posited that our social networks can shape our lives. He spoke about the obesity epidemic in the US and how your friends' friends' friends can make you fat (3 degrees of separation). I think that may also hold true for healthy habits.

Living with diabetes, our entire family had to learn how to inject with syringes, work a glucometer and understand how to break down an insulin pump in the wild. Good diabetes management, we have learned, also requires knowledge of nutrition and exercise. After all, exercise and the kinds of foods we eat can affect blood sugars levels. We've learned to count carbs, read nutrition labels on cereal boxes and have learned portion control. By taking care of Cassie and her diabetes, our entire family has grown to eat healthier diets.

Last week, we kicked off a new soccer season. Cassie had hemmed and hawed about try outs and really wanted "out" of this spring sport. But we persisted and encouraged her. We feel that school sports are great for her fitness and are a wonderful opportunity to socialize with friends outside of facebook. Afternoon exercise is also a good way to keep her blood glucose levels regulated in the afternoon. As Cassie works out, we have all begun working out regularly as well. Our whole family has ended up in better shape.

What's weird is that our behavior has had a positive effect on our friends' lifestyles and our friends' friends lifestyle. We ask them out to go to the gym with us. When we order out at restaurants they also sometimes try some of the healthy dishes we've grown to love (tofu can be yummy- really!).

So it may seem counter-intuitive, but can diabetes make everyone healthier? In our case, it seems so.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Healthcare Reformed

I won't lie to you. I don't have a firm grasp about the healthcare reform bill that just passed. What I DO know is that my daughter's and wife's diabetes have always categorized them in the woeful category of outcasts with a "pre-existing condition." Insurance companies treat this special group like lepers and small business owners like me pay a hefty, hefty premium in order to make sure that my family gets coverage.

Diabetes supplies like glucose test strips are expensive, but lots of testing leads to good control. Good control has big benefits in the long run. There's lessened chances of diabetic complications like blindness, heart disease and amputation. You think insurance companies would recognize the benefit of this, but in practice they don't. They think more short term and bet that you'll switch policies before they realize the benefits of a healthy policy holder.

We're lucky we have the coverage even though we sometimes have to battle with the insurance companies to get the supplies and treatment that are necessary for tight control. But we get what we need. Others aren't so lucky. I have run into some lower income parents when we do outreach at the hospital and I worry that their kids wouldn't get the proper care after their diagnosis. It's sad and frustrating.

I hope that this bill will help them get good care for their children who now fall into the "pre-existing condition" class. Diabetes is hard enough to manage without one more label to deal with.

Make sure to check out the spirited discussion about the health care reform bill on the Juvenation forum.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tune in on Teens

Once you feel that you may have mastered good blood sugar control with your child, you're faced with an entirely new and different species- the teenager with diabetes.

As your child with type-1 diabetes approaches her teens, a whole host of new factors and fears come into play: hormones, dating, driving. Dealing with the emotional baggage associated with the disease may be the largest hurdle you face. And it's hard to do it together as she begins to assert independence and responsibility for her own care.

My friend Moira wrote a fantastic post on the diabetes mine blog about her daughter Lauren's struggles to manage her diabetes through these tumultuous years. As our daughter Cassie, begins the journey through adolescence, it's very helpful to learn what's in store for us. Check it out for yourself at:

UPDATE: We've added a new form on Juvenation for parents of teens with diabetes. Be sure to check it out and join the discussions.