Making Diabetes Sexy

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Making Diabetes Sexy

Pictured is my “Keeping Diabetes Sexy” bag. If you saw it in my purse you would think it was a make-up bag. It’s pink, it’s pretty, it’s girly, it’s sexy. It has character & looks glamorous. But, that is not the sexiest part of this bag, what is? The contents contained within.

Inside is a back up infusion set, tubing, cartridge, Tegaderm, AAA battery, pen tip, lancet, 1/2 unit pen with rapid acting insulin, test strips, Dex 4 gel, SweetTarts (in it’s own sexy container), ketone meter, ketone strips, BG meter & gum. GUM?!? Yep. What’s the one thing that is so not sexy when you have a high sugar??? Bad breathe!!

So why are these items that are products to support my diabetes in a time of high or low blood sugars sexy? Let me convince you they are by telling you what is not…

1. In 1995 I worked full time at a daycare. Driving home from work I realized that I was going low. All I had with me was a really ripe banana. Cayla & Kurtis were in the car with me. I managed to eat the banana & arrived at a convenience store only to discover I had no money on me. At that time there was no debit, no cell phone. I decided I could make the 15 minute drive home to get the juice I so badly needed. I don’t remember driving home. I could’ve killed my children, someone else or left my children without their Mom.

2. Just this past November we attended a Christmas dinner. We stayed overnight. About 2am I woke feeling very, very sick to my stomach. I tossed & turned until I realized I should run to the bathroom. I didn’t make it. From that time until about 8am I continued to vomit violently. My muscles ached, I couldn’t shake it. My BG’s were between 12-15 mmol/L. I determined they were high because of the stress of vomiting. I thought for sure I had food poisoning as the salmon I ate dinner was a bit ‘funny’. I continued to correct & at one point did see my BG drop to 8 mmol/L. Finally at 8am when I was struggling to breath, my chest felt so heavy, every breathe I took burning like acid, I turned to my fiancé & asked him to take me to the hospital, something was really wrong. It was at that moment I picked up my pump to correct a high one more time & realized I could feel the wet insulin coming through the tubing at the connection of the cartridge. It was only then I realized I was in DKA. Thankfully I had an extra site change, tubing & cartridge with me. I changed it up & took a sufficient bolus to avoid hospitalization. I reversed the DKA fairly quickly on my own. I had no ketone meter & no ketone strips to test & avoid this. So not sexy…my fiancé cleaning up after me every time I threw up not knowing what else to do.

What’s else makes our diabetes look unattractive?

1. Having a low & asking someone for something… anything… because we didn’t have our sexy bag.

2. Running out of test strips & ‘guessing’ BG’s only to find out they were out of target & resulted in being sensitive to someone that was unnecessary…or thinking you’re low when you’re high, treating & ending up being really high…because we didn’t have our sexy bag.

3. Being stressed because the infusion set tore out & now acutely making a Plan B to get insulin by injection or an infusion site….because we didn’t have our sexy bag.

4. Having the insulin pump run out of insulin & no access to any for several hours…by the time you get to some you are very high, feel sick & really, really crappy…ugh!! Not sexy!

5. Having the lancet device in your ‘poker’ bend (believe me it’s happened!!) & have no way to check for a full day because there isn’t a sexy bag with a back up…refer back to #2.

6. Having your infusion sweat off to the point of you having to hold in place for hours because the ‘sticky’ stuff is no longer working or accidentally ripping a stainless infusion set out when taking off your shirt to put on a gown for an x-ray. Sexy is having a Tegaderm & infusion site to to stick it down or replace it.

All these events don’t sound so attractive do they?…quite frankly, if you stood back & watched someone have these things happen AND they had pulled out their “Keeping Diabetes Sexy” bag you would’ve thought to yourself…wow, that person has it together, even living with a 24-7-365 disease…that’s attractive!! AND…what is so good looking & sexy about a plain old blue or black case that stores your pens, meter & pump stuff?? Dress them up, make them yours!!

SO….go shopping!! Have fun picking out a bag that says who you are. Fill it up! It’s time for you to own “_____________(insert your name) Keeping Diabetes Sexy” bag….it’s time to make your diabetes sexy!!

How Green is the Grass?

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How Green is the Grass?

This pic is where the movie Laura Croft Tomb Raider was taped. We were there when we visited Ta Prohm at Ankor Wat in Cambodia. I’m a big Tomb Raider fan. it was pretty amazing to be where it was filmed. The tree you see in the pic was jaw dropping. It was also amazing to think that something with such grandiose roots, reaching for the sky could survive in such barren conditions. It seemed it was in a totally foreign environment in which it needed to survive, yet it thrived & boasted so with its huge roots.

Thinking about that tree I reflect back in time. I remember being a “Diabetes Consultant” i.e. a sales rep for Novo Nordisk Inc. I fought hard to get that position. I knew I was fortunate to be there. I also was confident I had the passion to move it forward & benefit others, namely Health Care Practitioners. My goal was to influence so they would improve the lives of those living with diabetes en masse. I wanted to change the world of diabetes. I had been on the other side working in I.C.U. & I wanted to stop the madness. I believed that the best way to make that impact was in this way. Because I believed so passionately & so deeply about ‘my’ cause I passionately believed Novo Nordisk’s products were the best out there. No other pharmaceutical company selling insulin, pen tips, insulin pens or Type 2 oral agents could have a product as good as the one I sold. Their pipeline & success was overwhelming. Based on my steadfast belief & guidance from those who taught me to sell, I learned to sell & I sold well.

Did I sell like a pharma rep? I have & will maintain I didn’t. I had a hard time asking for the business, closing the sale. Instead, I believed through building relationships, earning trust & education inadvertently I did sell. When I left the company I was vying for 1st place out of 65 reps in less than 5 years. When I began the territory I looked after was flat lined, when I left it was growing in double digits. I steadily climbed the ladder of sales success. My drive wasn’t because of the money or recognition. Why did I ‘want it all’? Because I wanted to tell others that I succeeded based on building trust, relationships AND most importantly educating my clients with passion because I believed. I believed in the best for people living with diabetes & I wasn’t afraid to say so. My clients reassured me voluntarily they heard me loud & clear & I lead them to believe. They wrote the products I sold because they trusted that I would provide for them what was needed to take care of their patients living with diabetes. I would give them the information they needed to help them empower their patients.

Little did I know I was establishing my diabetes roots & standing out in an environment that is tough to penetrate. I was often asked why I wasn’t a diabetes educator. I just couldn’t envision myself doing it. I liked the rush of sales & the impact I made. I loved the relationships I had. I could walk into clinics & see Docs that other reps couldn’t. I didn’t think there was anywhere else I could make such a huge impact.

After my tenure with Medtronic, I honestly didn’t know where I belonged & believed exiting the diabetes world may be best for me to take care of myself & my family. What I learned was, when the roots are deep, it’s really, really hard to transplant somewhere else.

Seven weeks today I have been a Diabetes Nurse Educator at the most amazing clinic for Type 1’s. I don’t know of any other like this. As I said, first, I didn’t think I’d ever be an ‘educator’, which now I see I always was. Secondly but most importantly & the reason for this Blog is the deep roots I have established with the relationships & trust I developed over the past 9 years. All of these things have brought me to where I needed to be. Many I work with were my pharma clients, now they are my colleagues.

The greatest thing I have learned in the last 7 weeks? For all the products; insulin, meters, insulin pens, pen tips & pumps….my passion for certain products has dissipated a lot. I have realized & I have preached it…each persons diabetes is unique. It is their own. The product needs to chosen for the lifestyle of the person living with diabetes…not the other way around. I sit at my desk listening to my patients & I ask…what tools & education can I share with you to empower you to live with your Diabetes Beyond Borders?

The roots just keep getting deeper.

Gaining Perspective

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Gaining Perspective

This is me at age 8. It was 3 years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I am standing at the entrance of Camp Huronda, a summer camp sponsored by the Canadian Diabetes Association for Type 1 children & teens. It was the first time away from home longer than a day since I was diagnosed with diabetes & hospitalized for 10 days in 1975. I learned to inject myself with insulin within a few days of being at Camp Huronda. From that day forward I didn’t want anyone else injecting me. I liked that I could control how my injections felt & when the needle was going in.

Fast forward to 1987. At the age of 16, one morning my Mom finds me in bed, unresponsive, laying in my vomit. After calls to my Paediatrician & attempts to give me fast acting sugar with no success, my parents rush me to the hospital. The things I remember of that morning are Dad standing me in the snow in my bare feet to get me into the car as I refused to, seeing my church as they drove by it & watching my Mom cry at the foot of my bed in Emerg. A few days later as I lay in my hospital bed I noticed that the nurses caring for me didn’t know a lot about diabetes. I mentioned this to my Mom. To this day it seems almost unbelievable to think my Mom prophesied my future career without knowing how big of an impact I would make in the world of diabetes. When I told her my thoughts, she said to me, “You can change that. You can educate them so they know.” She encouraged me to go into Nursing.

If you go back to several of my Blogs you can read about the many experiences I have had living with diabetes & being a parent of a child, teen & now young adult living with diabetes.

Fast forward to 1999. After working in a Licensed Daycare as the School Nurse & caring for 2 children with Special Needs for 2 1/2 years, I decided to start a Home Daycare so I could be home with Cayla & Kurtis. Within 6 months I had a ‘full house’. It was a very busy time but I loved that I could be home for my children & create a home atmosphere for the little ones who couldn’t be home with their parents. Once Kurtis started Grade 1 I felt it was time to gain some hospital experience. While running the home daycare I completed my Critical Care Certificate. Working at the daycare & running the home daycare taught me so many things; time management, communication, creativity, nutrition, working with Special Needs, how to be calm when chaos is all around.

I still remember my first interview at the hospital. The 2 managers interviewing me mentioned I didn’t have any experience. I asked them how was I going to get experience if they didn’t hire me? I surprised myself that I asked them that question. I wasn’t one to challenge anybody. They were surprised too. That got me in.

After several years of working in several areas at the hospital & particularly the Intensive Care Unit, which I loved, I didn’t like the fact I was caring for people with complications, mostly from Type 2. There was one patient who died from complications of Type 1. It devastated me. She wasn’t much older then me. My colleagues would ask me certain questions about diabetes. I liked that. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was at the wrong end of the diving board. My time in ICU was invaluable. I learned time management, critical thinking, stamina, diplomacy, focus, patience, perseverance, when it was the right time to cry when I lost a patient & when I needed to hold back my tears,. I also learned that there are times that the truth needs to be told no matter how hard it is to hear. Working in ICU made it very challenging for me to keep my sugars in check. A critical situation would drive them sky high & a missed break could bring me low.

In 2002 I attended the JDRF Walk For the Cure. To this day, I don’t know what possessed me to do what I did. Kurtis & I used a Lifescan glucose testing meter. I heard there was a new one on the market & I wanted one for each of us. I walked over to the Lifescan booth & began talking to the rep. He gave me 2 new meters. After a few minutes of conversation, my mouth opened & without plan or thought I asked him if his company was hiring. Huh? What did I just do? It just so happened that he was being promoted & his position was opening. WHAT?!? Timing is everything they say. So it was with this as well. The interview process went smoothly, the offer was ready to be presented when an internal applicant surfaced. As with most companies, he was given the position. How did I feel? I was okay with it. I didn’t think it was the right time. The kids were still young & I had a great job-share position that was flexible with shift work. It worked for our family at the time. The Rep I met from Lifescan told me he would keep me connected & that he did. My foot was in a door I didn’t even know existed.

In 2004 I ended up with one of the best jobs I could ever imagine having. I became a Diabetes Consultant for Novo Nordisk. It was one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs. I learned Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes inside out & backwards. The company kept me current in Clinical Studies & relevant literature. What I liked most about it was meeting Family Physicians for the first time & them telling me they don’t ‘do insulin’. Several years later I had these same GP’s thanking me for teaching them & how much easier it was then they thought. Through out my years at Novo Nordisk my Mom’s words echoed in my mind several times. I educated Nurses, Dieticians, Doctors, Pharmacists and Nurse Practitioner’s. I did business on all levels of health care including hospital contracts & nursing homes. Working at Novo Nordisk helped me learn time management, business planning, triaging, focus, drive, passion, knowledge about every insulin available on the market, knowledge about every oral anti-hyperglycemic agent on the market, every insulin pen, syringe & pen tip available & it’s implications on therapy.

One of the most difficult decisions I ever made in my careers was leaving Novo Nordisk to work for Medtronic. It provided me an opportunity to expand my career, work experience and meet more Health Care Providers working in the field of diabetes. It was a short tenure as Medtronic decided to restructure the Corporation both in the U.S. & Canada. I was one of ~ 100 in Canada who lost their jobs as a result. Being a Territory Manager at Medtronic taught me many skills I needed to become better at or hadn’t experienced. It was a valuable experience despite the outcome. I learned about all of the insulin pumps provided by the medical device companies. I got to know Pumps & Continuous Glucose Monitoring really, really well. Little did I know how much of an advantage that would be. I worked within a team of 3 & communication was essential to follow up & close each sale. I learned how to work directly with the consumer & their needs. Though out the years I learned how to read body language & verbal tone very well. It took a long time but I learned to listen to my gut. For the most part it was right.

After I lost my job at Medtronic, I decided I wanted to leave the world of diabetes. I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I was certain I didn’t want to be an educator. I couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk staring at someones blood sugars, listening to their excuses. Why did I have this perception? I have thought about that a lot. How could I think like that given I live with diabetes? I think that in my mind a diabetes clinic consists of Type 1 & Type 2 together, intertwined…somehow connected but shouldn’t be. I didn’t want to educate like that. They are 2 different animals & so they should be treated as such. It wasn’t the patients fault I felt like that, it is how clinics are structured that frustrates me. So…I went out on my own as an educator & consultant through my company “Diabetes Beyond Borders” to change that. As a result Diabetes Beyond Borders has over 6,700 ‘likes’ on Facebook. I became a Certified Pump Trainer for Medtronic & Accu-Chek. I had a contract with a large on- line pharmacy in which I created marketing materials, provided education on insulin pump infusion sites & cartridges.

I have applied & been through several interviews for diabetes sales jobs. I would’ve taken them if they were offered but I just didn’t feel it anymore. What was I meant to do? Where was my passion?

A few months ago I was invited to a conference. It is called Type 1 Think Tank. It’s mandate is to more or less “think out side the box” to provide better care & outcomes for people living with Type 1 diabetes. I didn’t realize I was that important! I didn’t realize my experiences were so valued. At the conference I met a long time friend & colleague. She is the founder of the Charles H Best Diabetes Centre. I called on her clinic as a Diabetes Consultant & Territory Manager from 2004-2009. My son Kurtis went there briefly after his diagnosis in 2000 before a Paediatric clinic opened closer to home. The founder, Marlene, approached me and asked if I would be interested in a position as a Diabetes Nurse Educator. I never turn down opportunity but I was pensive given it was a 2 hour/day commute & I would be ‘stuck’ inside 4 walls 8 hours/day.

As soon as I sat down to the interview I understood why I had experienced so much throughout the years. This is exactly where I needed to be, where I want to be. I just didn’t know it. I have travelled down a road of learning & ultimately making an impact though all levels of diabetes. It was time to share those experiences with the people that really, really mattered. It was time to share my experiences with the children, teens, young adults, adults & their families living with Type 1 diabetes.