Make the Call


Make the Call

This is the first thing I saw as I opened my eyes on June 18, 1996, the 5th Birthday of my daughter Cayla. A toilet.

As I open my eyes and look around I realize I am sitting on the floor of the bathroom. I am freezing cold. I am covered in something sticky. It is in my hair, on my face. It is all over me. My lips are numb. My left thigh aches.  I note I have on the same clothes I wore to bed.  An oversized t-shirt with the decals that celebrated the Toronto Blue Jays World Series wins in 1992 and 1993.  The t-shirt is so soaked in cold sweat it could’ve been wrung out. I am shaking profusely.

I then look over to my left and see my then husband. He is sitting on the edge of the tub. I mumble to him “I’m low.”. I see that he is holding my glucose meter.  As he shows me the face of it, evident he has just tested my sugar I notice his hand is shaking. He says “No, you’re high.” and shows me the number on the meter. I feebly argue I am definitely low despite the number on the blood glucose meter. I then say my leg is sore and ask if he gave me a needle.

He then explains to me the events that occurred that lead to this point.   As he is sound asleep in bed he feels my arm fall across his chest in bed. As he grabs my arm to remove it from his chest, he realizes that it is very cold and clammy. So cold and clammy he wonders if I am alive. After placing my arm back at my side, he nudges me and ask if I am okay. According to him the only sound out of my mouth is a moan. He continues to tell me that he then picks me up out of the bed and carries me to the kitchen where he attempts to feed me honey, as he tries to tuck the honey into the corner of my cheek to allow it slowly drain into the back of my throat, down into my stomach where it will begin to raise my sugar, I fight.

According to those who have cared for me during a severe low, I am not a nice person.  Despite my small stature I am a fighter & don’t like to cooperate.  I have been known to be holding my son Kurtis when he was a baby, refusing to give him up, insisting I need to protect him.  When I injected my insulin using vial and syringe I made a habit of leaving a new syringe and vials of insulin on the kitchen table so I didn’t forget to take my insulin.  After being carried from the bedroom, unresponsive and seated at the kitchen table, while my caregiver gets the honey out of the cupboard, I have been known to unconsciously draw up my insulin from the vials into a syringe & insist I MUST give me my insulin.  With adrenalin kicking my mind into fight mode, I have been known to hold the syringe full of insulin tightly in the air, making it challenging for the person trying to save me from my low to get close enough to treat it.  I have been known to place both feet on either side of the outside of car door to prevent my caregiver from getting me in the car to take me to the hospital.  Yes, I am one of THOSE in a severe low.

He continues to attempt to place the honey in my mouth.   According to the story I hear the # on the BG meter reads high, well above target.  As a result he re-adjusts his plan and determines that when he found me in bed I was not low but high. He injects 10 units of Humulin® R (regular) insulin in my left thigh. I don’t remember any of it.  It is 5am when he found me cold and clammy in bed, it is 10am when I wake up to see the toilet.

After I come to my senses in front of the toilet, he helps me clean up and leads me to the couch. I feel so guilty. Not because I had the low…it was considered inevitable with that type of insulin and I always tried to convince myself it wasn’t my fault. Back then the insulin I took caused me many severe lows.

I feel guilty because it is Cayla’s 5th birthday and birthdays are important. My Mom always made birthdays a very special day and I made a point of carrying that tradition on for my children.

I felt guilty because I am not able to get up and make Cayla’s morning as special as I typically did. I am not able to smile, hug her and wish her a Happy Birthday. I felt guilty because I can’t make her Birthday breakfast.

Instead, she is witness to her Father trying to bring her Mother out of severe low.

I feel guilty because I have to lay on the couch testing my sugars every few minutes to make sure I don’t bottom out from the 10 units of Humulin® R I have active in me.  I feel guilty because I am a bystander as I watch her Dad present her with her new bicycle. I feel guilty that on that day, her special day I feel like a failure as a person, a parent, as a person living with diabetes.

The learning I received from this morning is that she was more worried about me then how the morning of her 5th Birthday unfolded. She smiled as he presents her with her new bike. Then she says to her Dad, ” Daddy, I think you should’ve called for an ambulance.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference….” –Reinhold Niebuhr

Making Diabetes Sexy


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!!

Gaining Perspective


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.