Captain Glucose and Meter Boy!
Living with diabetes sometimes requires us to be as vigilant and brave as ... well, superheroes. Good thing we have Captain Glucose and Meter Boy! These two heroes, sporting tights and a friendship as tight as Dangermouse and Penfold, are champions of diabetes awareness and are doing their part to educate the public. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Bill Kirchenbauer (Captain Glucose) and Brad Slaight (Meter Boy).
KERRI: Captain Glucose and Meter Boy aren’t your average superheroes. How did this dynamic duo come to be?
CAPTAIN GLUCOSE/BILL KIRCHENBAUER: Since you asked so nicely we’re going to answer your questions as our secret identities…but don’t tell anyone.
METER BOY/BRAD SLAIGHT: Uh, Bill, Kerri has a very successful blogsite which is read by many, many people.
BILL: Oh, well I guess it’s too late now …okay, but make sure to tell them not to tell anyone else.
BRAD: The characters of Captain Glucose and Meter Boy came about shortly after Bill was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
BILL: It really caught me off guard. I went to the doctor because I started having blurry vision. He did some tests…and then I got the news. Brad has had diabetes for a long time so I called him right away to help me sort things out.
BRAD: Not too long after that, Bill and I decided that we wanted to help other people. We thought the best way to do that was to create these comedic characters as a way to focus on diabetes in an entertaining yet informative way.
BILL: We made them a cross between Batman and Robin and The Incredibles …
BRAD: …or as we like to call ourselves The Not So Incredibles…
BILL: …it was a way to have some humor along with a serious message. The humor comes from us being well meaning, but somewhat bumbling superheroes. Captain Glucose and Meter Boy have no real powers and despite their good mannered ineptness, succeed at helping others.
KERRI: Was there a physical fight over who got to be Captain Glucose? And are the tights a bit itchy?
BILL: The tights are itchy…like right now.
BRAD: You’re wearing your tights now? Under your street clothes?BILL: Uh…no…I’m just saying. Forget about that; let me answer the part about who got to be Captain Glucose. There was no physical fight about it…but if there was I surely would have won.
BRAD: In your dreams.BILL: Because it’s a parody of most superhero duos it made sense that I play the role of Captain Glucose. Since Brad is shorter, looks younger....
BRAD: ...and has hair!
BILL: …it was only fitting that he play Meter Boy.
KERRI: A little diabetes advocacy goes a long way. What made you want to be involved in spreading the facts about diabetes?
BILL: Good question. We saw a need and wanted to do something to fill that need. We’re trying to offer a different approach to those facts than others are doing. Our mission is to Educate, Enlighten, and Entertain people of all ages.
BRAD: We feel that it will take many voices and many different approaches to get the word out and communicate to those who have diabetes, to those that don’t know they have it yet, and to those at risk for getting it in the future.
BILL: We kind of see Captain Glucose and Meter Boy as characters who might be able to grab the interest of some people where traditional methods might not. We’re hoping that what Smoky the Bear did for fire awareness we can do for diabetes.
KERRI: So you’re not only the superheroes, but you both also have diabetes. Like the Sy Sperling's of diabetes. What kind of diabetes do you have, how long ago were you diagnosed, and how do you manage your disease?
BILL: I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about five years ago and currently take Metformin and Byetta. I’ve slowly but surely been changing my lifestyle and have lost some weight and working on losing more.
BRAD: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 23 years ago. My diabetes is managed with Humalog and Lantus…and exercise. To me, exercise to as important as any medication on the market.
BILL: Managing my diabetes is something that I realize is a 24/7 thing. I can’t take a day off from it.
BRAD: Good point…you must have gotten that from me!BILL: No, I’m pretty sure I invented that.
BRAD: Yeah, right. (to Kerri) We both have really good endos (endocrinologists) who have no doubt made that point to us many many times. Having a doctor you trust and that is current with their diabetes knowledge is very important.KERRI: Alan Thicke, the Commissioner of Diabetes (complete with jazzy red phone, no less), has a child with diabetes. You both have diabetes. Is everyone on the Captain Glucose and Meter Boy Team affected by diabetes in some way?
BILL: Alan was great to help us out with the PSA and a total pro. We hope that when we do the full length DVD he will be able to play The Commissioner of Diabetes for that as well. He is perfect for the role. I owe a lot to Alan, not the least of which is the character I played on his show Growing Pains lead to me starring on my own sitcom Just the Ten of Us.
BRAD: Everyone in the PSA was definitely affected by diabetes in some way. The actress in the clip has Type 2 diabetes. When we do our longer DVD we plan on casting other actors who have diabetes.
BILL: Unfortunately we’ll have plenty to choose from. Seems like every day we hear about another friend or acquaintance in the entertainment industry who has diabetes or has just been newly diagnosed.
KERRI: What’s the goal of your adventures as Captain Glucose and Meter Boy?
BRAD: To offer people a humorous and informative way to learn about diabetes.
BILL: We have the first script written which contains a lot of important diabetes information but presented in a way that will be extremely fun to watch. We’re looking for a corporate sponsor, like a meter company, to help us get this important DVD out into the marketplace.
BRAD: We want the people who watch it to both laugh and learn at the same time. It’s important that we as diabetics develop a sense of humor about diabetes to go along with realizing the serious nature of it. I hate this analogy but it really does fit for what we’re trying to do “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
BILL: Can’t you find something better than that?
BRAD: I’m working on it.
BILL: How about “If life gives you diabetes, make lemonade with Splenda!”
BRAD: You think that’s better?
BILL: Hey that’s your department, I’m just trying to help.
BRAD: Maybe Kerri can come up with something better. She’s a very clever writer. How about it, Kerri?
KERRI: I'll throw it into the Think Tank. (clunk) The public perception of diabetes is generally tangled and confused, ranging from “Can you eat salt?” to “Can I catch it?” What diabetes misconceptions have you experienced in your life?BILL: There are so many misconceptions out there like: “Eating sugar caused your diabetes.” Not true.
BRAD: Or “You can only get Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes when you’re a kid and Type 2 when you’re an adult.” Not true.
BILL: “Diabetes can be cured.” Not true...not yet.
BRAD: “You can get rid of diabetes just by eating better.” Not true.
BILL: “Having diabetes makes you incredibly good looking.”
BILL/BRAD: That one is TRUE!
KERRI: Living with diabetes means dealing with daily maintenance and monitoring. How do you ward off “diabetes burnout?”
BRAD: Most days I don’t even notice the inconvenience of testing and taking my insulin. I’ve been doing it so long it has become part of my daily routine that just seems so natural. However, there are those days when it just becomes a big pain, figuratively and literally. For me, the glucose meter is my saving grace. When I see a good number I consider it a reward. It motivates me to keep on being in good control.
BILL: I don’t think we should beat ourselves up if we have a bad day. There are times when I have “slipped up” in the past where I really let it get to me. But those times are few and far between and I concentrate on the 99% of the time when I do the right thing. We’re all human and we’re vulnerable to making mistakes. The important thing is that you move on and do better…there’s always tomorrow!
KERRI: What advice, as the Superhero fellas you are, would you have for someone who has recently been diagnosed?
BILL: It’s not the end of the world…
BRAD: …it’s just the start of a new life.
BILL: We’ve spoken to so many people with diabetes who have actually said, “Diabetes made me healthier.” Most people won’t understand that, but many diabetics will. It’s the ultimate wake-up call and for most people it scares them enough to start making some major lifestyle changes for the better.
BRAD: I eat better, exercise more, and am more in tune with my body than I would have been if I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes.
BILL: Our motto is “Be your own personal Superhero.” That basically means that you are in control of your diabetes and you are the one who has the most at stake. You have the ability to control diabetes instead of it controlling you.KERRI: Okay, so you have the keys to the Six Until Me Hot Air Balloon. What do you choose to fly over and why?
BILL: Your hot air balloon needs keys?
KERRI: They're just for show.BRAD: Bill, she’s just giving us an “imagine if you will” kind of question to let our imaginations run wild.
BILL: Oh, I knew that. And your imagination doesn’t need any help running wild.
BRAD: I’d fly over cities and drop leaflets down on the people below that said: “Diabetes is a treatable disease and you might have it. See your doctor to find out if you are at risk.”
BILL: My leaflets would say, “Auditioning for new Meter Boy. Be a sidekick to one of the most handsome and fearless diabetes superheroes working today.”
BRAD: Captain Glucose and Meter Boy would fly that hot air balloon all over the world looking for people to help. Because…Whenever a Type 2 wonders what he should have for lunch, we'll be there. Whenever someone flunks a Glucose Tolerance Test, we'll be there. Whenever a Type 1 needs help learning how to inject, we’ll be there. Whenever…
BILL: We’d better go now before he cues up the music and turns this interview into some kind of corny old movie. Thanks for having us, Kerri. And thanks for all you do for diabetes. You are the real Diabetes Superhero…all you need now is a costume. No doubt you will look better in tights than we do!
For more information on Captain Glucose and Meter Boy, visit their website. And stay tuned for updates on their Superhero adventures!