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July 31, 2009

Healthcare: Which Way Should I Go?

Two weeks ago, I was in Washington, DC with the Better Health team, listening to people talk about voting down government health care.

Last week, I was in Chicago at BlogHer, part of a lunch meeting with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison, listening to women at BlogHer talk about passing the government health care bill.

And I have now just entered the land of confusion.

Valerie Jarrett spoke with a room full of bloggers about health care, but she also listened.  She listened while women told their personal stories and she seemed to understand that health care situations aren't as simple to solve as we'd like them to be. Women candidly told their stories and a few tears even slipped out.  But she listened intently.  And she said she wanted to give a voice to those who might not speak up for themselves.

"Often the people who need it the most don't speak up because they don't feel like they have a voice. Give the grass roots a voice, empower them, work together informing people within their communities. You can work to help them get their voice, get info that they don't have."

Valerie Jarrett

This lady is important.  Her cell phone rang several times during our lunch (it could have been THE PRESIDENT, for crying out loud) and she had her assistant take the call so she could focus on us.  She handed out her card and scheduled phone calls between some bloggers and her staff to help with the specific health issues that these bloggers were dealing with.  Sure, for them it was a matter of being in the right time at the right place, but she really listened.  I've never sat in a room before with a member of high political influence who paid attention to the people more than the information on her cell phone or in her planner.  (Maybe that means I've been in the room with the wrong politicians?)

It was a remarkable experience, and the room was electric with hope.

And now I'm even more confused about this health care issue.  I want insurance coverage, I want good coverage, but I don't want to be excluded due to my pre-existing condition.  I can't find a happy mental medium with this, but I know there has to be a way for people like me to find health coverage despite diabetes. 

With that thought, I'm off to the Joslin Clinic in Boston, with my pregnant best friend in tow, to immerse myself in the best that health care has to offer.  And I hope that whatever decision made by our government leaves me with access to the people I need to help manage my care.

July 30, 2009

Hanging with the BlogHers.

So the panel was why I was there, but there were plenty of perks that came with being part of the BlogHer conference.  Like meeting other BlogHers.  And exploring the fine city of Chicago.

I'd never been to Chicago before, other than layovers at O'Hare.  So I definitely stole away for the conference for an hour or two with Rachel and Julia to take in some of the artsy-fartsy sights.  

Take, for example, this enormous chrome bean: 

Rachel, Julia, and Kerri at "the bean."

I also had a chance to see the Chicago skyline from the top of a very sky-scrapey building where Ms. Poppy Buxom was hosting a fabulous party (Thanks to Julia for getting us all in!!!) with fabulous lady-bloggers such as Jasmine, Blackbird, Cinnamon, and the Hotfessional.  I couldn't resist having my photo taken with Ree, because she inspired the hell out of me at the panel that day.

The party at Poppy's.

There were people everywhere.  Tim Gunn was doing some Tide promotional stuff down in the Expo hall.  We listened as Elisa, Lisa, and Jory gave the opening keynoteRachel and I sat in on the Healthcare By Committee panel, featuring Kim from Emeriblog.

The BlogHer days were long, and the nights were even longer.  Sessions started early in the morning and the parties began right after the evening keynote.  This was exhausting, and I was constantly thinking about Leah Jones's post about "PTMO," or Permission To Miss Out.  After a very hectic travel day on Thursday and an early, kind of stressful Friday (including speaking on the PatientBlogger panel), I needed to chill out and take some time to recuperate.  I gave myself PTMO.

Kerri and Jenni and this puffy fella.
 
I spent a lot of time with Jenni from Chronic Babe.  We got to know one another very quickly, and in three short days, we hung out with the Michelin Man, lizards, had our own "fake Chicago skyline" photo opportunity, and beat our collective chronic illnesses into submission so we could make the very best of the conference.  (Note to Jenni's friends:  If she suddenly starts shoving her iPhone down into her shirt, forgive her.  She developed some serious insulin pump envy during BlogHer, and now she wants technology in her bra, too.)  And Jenni and I experienced what can only be called Mrs. Potato Head Effect, which may spawn a party for next year's BlogHer conference.  (Click through for an explanation.)

BlogHer '10 is in NYC next year.  No flight required for me.  That, plus the knowledge that many of these fine blogger friends wil be in attendance, makes my attendance almost definite.  Hopefully next year there will be more medblogger panels!!

July 29, 2009

PatientBloggers at BlogHer09.

The catalyst that brought me to BlogHer was a conversation back in October 2008 with Lisa Stone.  Lisa and I met at the BlogHer Outreach event in October and I talked with her about the patient blogging community and how we're truly changing our health outcomes through blogging about our illnesses and connecting with others.

Fast-forward to July 2009, when the PatientBlogging panel debuts at BlogHer, with Jenni Prokopy, Loolwa Kazoom, Casey Mullins, and me on deck as panelists, with Mr. Lady as our moderator.

I will admit to being very nervous before this panel, because it's one thing to write online behind the protection of a computer screen - another thing completely to speak candidly before an audience about our personal health issues.  But sitting there, in front of people who actively sought out the PatientBlogger panel, and elbow-to-elbow with some terrific patient bloggers, I felt like it was almost instantly comfortable once the discussion started.

(It helped that my fellow medbloggers Rachel, Lee Ann, and Kim were right there in the front row.  Familiar faces ease nerves!) 

The PatientBlogger panel at BlogHer.  More on this photo later.  Sorry I'm not smiling.  :)
The PatientBlogging Panel at BlogHer '09.  For some reason, I'm not smiling.  But I was v. happy.

Jenni opened up by talking about the highs and lows of patient blogging, including the notion of being defined by our diseases.  Easy for me to chime in there - "That's actually the tagline of my blog, and I think it's important to remember that diabetes is definitely a part of me, but it's only one part of me.  I'm also married, but that doesn't mean I'm only someone's wife.  There are many, many parts to the whole.  Diabetes is just a part of me."

We talked about what it was like to connect with people who "get it."  About connecting both on and offline with people who share our experiences and sharing best practices while making it clear that we aren't offering medical advice.  

"Big, fat disclaimer, guys."  I kept repeating myself, when asked how we deal with people thinking we're offering medical advice.  "It's not medical advice.  We aren't perfect. Just because we’re patient-bloggers and we’re writing about our illnesses, it doesn’t mean we’re awesome at managing them. I’m writing about diabetes every single day, I’ve been diabetic for 23 years, and I don’t have perfect blood sugar results.”

Loowa talked about her experiences with chronic pain, and how she battled the healthcare system to get the care she rightly deserved.  As a panel, we chimed in with our similar stories of what being a patient in this healthcare system is really like, from Casey fighting for insurance coverage for injections that would preserve the positive outcome of a previous surgery to Jenni talking about how her condition (fibromyalgia) isn't even recognized as legitimate by the medical field at large.   

It was like being in someone's living room, having coffee, only we were miked and people in the audience raised their hands to ask questions.  But it was intimate.  Comfortable.  We, as a group, were protected within that room.  People spoke their minds, and let themselves cry, without fear.

So much that Ree of the Hotfessional boldly took the microphone, introduced herself, at at the gentle urging of Mr. Lady (okay, Mr. Lady offered to make out with her but work with me on this, I'm in the moment), pulled off her wig and exposed her beautiful bald scalp to the room.  "I look like I have cancer, but I don't."  Ree lives with alopecia and despite her assertion that she doesn't experience "symptoms" of her illness, she is a professional woman in a professional environment, dealing with being bald as a woman.

"No one has seen me without this, except my husband and my children."  She was crying, along with almost everyone else in the room who was watching her in awe.  "The way you react mentally to your life with your illness is your own business, but putting it out there, you will get the support you want.  It will do wonderous things for you."   

Sometimes it's hard for us to blog about our diseases.  It can be really emotionally intense to log on to your blogging platform and post, for the whole internet to scrutinize, the real struggles we experience as we live with chronic illness.  Sometimes readers lash out and attack us for our opinions or our care regimen.  Sometimes we are forced to have thicker skin than we'd like.

But sometimes blogging about our conditions is what gets us through the day.  Sometimes it's the email from someone saying, "Hey, me too," or "You helped me feel stronger today."  Sometimes it's the comments from people who really understand what it's like to live with these diseases.  And sometimes it's simply knowing we aren't alone.  And that we never have been alone.

And now, with the support and love of our communities, we never will be alone again.

Patient blogging ... that's some powerful stuff.  This was an inspiring experience, I'm honored to have shared this panel with such inspiring women, and I'm humbled to be part of this incredible community.

July 28, 2009

Weak Arms ...

... are why I opted not to fly from Indianapolis to Chicago.  Yes, that's why.  Not because of a fear of flying.  Nooooo ...

Thankfully, no one at the travel department for Roche thought I was unreasonable for preferring to rent a car vs. fly in an itty-bitty airplane from Indy to Chicago.   And double-thankfully, Lee Ann Thill from The Butter Compartment decided to come along for the ride.

We left the meeting in Indianapolis a little bit on the earlier side so I could make my Speaker's Orientation in Chicago.  Lee Ann and I are riding along to the airport with our driver when my heart collapses. 

"OH MY GOD we have to go back!  I forgot a bag!!"

And it wasn't just any bag.  This, of course, was my black carry-on bag that contained my Nikon D40, my wallet, and every single diabetes supply I needed for the next four days. 

"I'm so sorry, but we have to turn around.  Is that okay?  We have to go back because my medical supplies are sitting out in the luggage stack, baking in the sun."  I apologized profusely as we turned around, headed back to the building we just came from, I leapt from the car and actually hugged my black carry-on when I found it, then resumed the journey.

Thankfully, we passed this hemorrhoid sign on the highway several times while driving to and fro, giving Lee Ann and I plenty of time to zoom in for a shot.

Lee Ann and I had met a few times before and I always liked her, but we'd never had a chance to spend much time together.  Being stuck in a car with someone for hours on end gives you a chance to get to know someone.  :)  And we learned plenty about one another as Lee Ann busted out singing and dancing to a Journey song right at the outset of our drive, as we encountered traffic for hours due to an overturned "simmee" (read: semi-truck), and as we scanned the sky for potential tornadoes

We drove past cornfield ...

Photo credit:  Lee Ann Thill, getting used to the Nikon.

... after cornfield ...

Photo credit Lee Ann

... after cornfield, covering miles of Indiana turf until we finally reached our destination:  Chicago.  For BlogHer09.  We were so close!!!  Almost there!!

... and then we sat in traffic again as we eeked into the city limits.

Damnit, traffic!  Lee Ann and I were very well-acquainted by this point!  No need for extra time due to traffic!  And also damnit traffic, you made us wait so long that the rental car place closed!  And damnit traffic!  My legs were starting to ache from sitting down for such a long time!

Thankfully, we had the GPS.  (Chris and I have named it Linda.  Don't ask.) And once it turned us onto Wacker Street, we knew we were close.

Ha!  Wacker.

"Hee hee.  Upper Wacker."

I'm not sure which one of us said it, but we both laughed like immature eight year olds.  And I'm still not completely sure why.

But we were at BlogHer.  And that sets the stage for my next few posts.  :)

(Thanks for making the drive to Chicago with me, Lee Ann.  It was definitely an adventure!) 

Charlie and the Twitter Factory.

I have a lot to catch up on, including a post about Lee Ann and I braving the Indiana highways and then the BlogHer conference, but let me just say this first:  I like Charlie Kimball.  I like him as a person, as a fellow diabetes advocate, and as a race car driver because, really, that is just damn cool.  So there's my big disclaimer:  I like Charlie.  (I even have a post ready to write about meeting up with him at Friends for Life a few weeks ago.)

So I do not like to see Charlie, the guy, under such attack for the @racewithinsulin Twitter account.  Plenty of bloggers are up in arms about the Novo/Kimball union and its steps into social media, like John Mack from the Pharma Marketing Blog.  I felt a little protective of my fellow PWD, which prompted me to do a little investigating.  I wanted to know how Novo, the company, feels about this whole Twitter/marketing/Pharma thing.

So I asked them.

Charlie Kimball and Kerri Sparling.  Dressed almost identically.  Weird.

Ambre Morley, Associate Director of Product Communications at Novo Nordisk and I met at the Friends for Life conference, and I told her that I was concerned about the backlash towards Charlie and the branded Twitter account.  "I have a ton of questions, and I know some of the PR people who are questioning the account might do well to hear the answers.  Like why the account doesn't follow anyone.  And what's the deal with those blatantly branded Tweets?"

She agreed to answer my questions.  And since Novo is the first I can think of to jump in with a pharma-branded Twitter account with a "real face," I wanted to hear the answers.  (Note:  All links to pages within the answers were added by me.)

Kerri:   Charlie is a valued member of the diabetes community, so I can understand why you guys chose to partner with him. But what made you decide to start a Twitter acct?  

Novo:  When we decided to partner with Charlie, we explored a number of different opportunities. He was already "tweeting" personally, however, when he asked about tweeting about our partnership, which includes the insulin he takes everyday, Levemir and NovoLog, we knew had to figure out a way to do it right. We didn't think it was right to ask him to put the prescribing information on his page and monitor every time he tweeted about diabetes. So we created a new account that we could ensure met all regulatory guidelines. Why Twitter? He was already doing it, so we wanted to create something that would easily fit into Charlie's lifestyle.
 
Kerri:  Why are Charlie's personal Tweets and his Levemir Tweets exactly the same?  
 
Novo:  It's important to understand that Charlie does all of the tweeting, both on his personal page and on the Novo Nordisk Race with Insulin page. It's up to him. They aren't always exactly the same, but where convenient and appropriate, he uses the same tweets, as it's probably easier to copy and paste. There are times when the tweets are different.
 
Kerri:  Does Charlie write the Levemir Tweets or is there an editorial vetting proces? Can you explain the thoughts behind the "branded" Tweets?  
 
Novo:  Charlie writes all of the tweets, including the Levemir and NovoLog branded tweets.  We provided him with instruction for how to tweet about the brands and comply with pharmaceutical regulations. So, anytime he tweets the words Levemir or NovoLog, a link to the product prescribing information has to be included.
 
The reason? Take a look at the page from your computer. You see the patient safety information on the left, along with a link to novonordiskcare.com on the right, which contains all of the prescribing and other important information. The challenge is, because the majority of Twitter users read and update their accounts from mobile devices, we knew most people would not see that information if Charlie wrote a tweet. That's why the prescribing information is there. It's required. It's similar to when a company does any stand-alone promotion of a product, that information has to be there.
 
More importantly, it's important to understand that the branded tweets aren't random. Charlie takes Levemir and NovoLog, so when he decides to tweet that he just took his insulin, he really just did. We don't believe a pharmaceutical company has tried to do branded tweets before, much less with a spokesperson who takes the insulin. But we're still learning and trying to figure it out. It's been a fun and definitely interesting time.  
 
Kerri:  Why doesn't the @racewithinsulin Twitter acct follow or reply to anyone? What kind of regulations must be in place for a Twitter acct of this kind?  
 
Novo:  While Charlie is the face of Race with Insulin, it is a corporate account for Novo Nordisk.  At this time, we aren't able to follow anyone, as pharmaceutical usage of social media is very regulated and we want to ensure we do it right. This is just the first phase and as we grow and learn, hopefully we will be able to follow people in the future. We are also open to suggestion.

After speaking to you, we took your advice and set up an e-mail address for the page. (Editor's Note:  I suggested that the account would seem a bit more accessible if they, at the very least, had some contact information.)  You should see an image update in the next week with the new address. But as I know you know, social media moves in real time and we haven't quite caught up to that speed in pharma. We're making baby steps but we're trying to stay in the race.
 
Kerri:  We know you guys are breaking new ground with this Twitter account, so what should we expect as part of your growing pains?  
 
Novo:  We're still learning. We want to do a lot, but we also understand that the pharmaceutical industry is the most heavily regulated in this country. We won't be able to do things as easily as say computer or food companies, but you have our commitment that we do plan to try to engage. Stay tuned.  
 
Kerri:  How has Novo felt about the blog backlash to @racewithinsulin, and how has Novo moved to protect themselves and Charlie?  
 
Novo:  If no one talks about what you do, you probably haven't made much of an impact. That said, it would be nice if the talk was all positive and more importantly, true. We encourage people to ask questions and give us an opportunity answer. We're pretty transparent about our challenges and open to discussion about any ideas to make it better. There were some false assumptions gaining traction, but that's also the nature of this business. You can never please everyone, but you can only hope that social media will adopt some of the principals [sic] of traditional journalism and report the facts, before making assumptions. We're working to move quicker to respond but also encouraging anyone to just ask. As for Charlie, he has been great. He's in a profession where he already has a lot of attention on him and is working with us to help make the page a success.

Kerri:  What do you want the Twitter community to understand about the aims of @racewithinsulin?
 
Novo:  We are very happy to be working with Charlie and wanted to reach as many people as possible. Twitter was an application that Charlie was already using and we wanted to find a way where he could continue to do so and incorporate our relationship.

It's still new and we're just getting started, but we hope to continue to find new, innovative ways to continue to reach everyone with his powerful message that diabetes does NOT slow him down!

*   *   *

I'm glad Novo went out on a limb and dove into the social media space, and I'm also glad that they agreed to answer my questions.  Thanks, Ambre!  What are your thoughts about Pharma in the social networking space?  Don't just say "Hey, they're doing it wrong!"  If you think it's so wrong, what would make it right? 

July 27, 2009

Wait, You Wanted Pictures??

Wait, what's that?  You want to see pictures?  Oh hell yes I have pictures.

This event offered more than interaction with a seemingly open-minded Pharma company.  This event gave me the opportunity to meet and reunite with some of my favorite bloggers in the diabetes space.

Here's the standard shot that the crew at Roche took of all of us.  We look downright jolly.

Jolly bloggers

The night before our meetings with Roche, we went down to the hotel bar and hung out for a few hours (before getting kicked out, sort of, and ending up in Christel's room until the wee hours of the morning and being harassed by "Tim," who has been explained in several wrap-up posts from other bloggers).  

Here are three very special members of my diabetes family, even though this was my first time meeting Scott in person:

We are family.
 
But, of course, every family photo session has it's awkward moments where the big guy tries to toss the tiny blond in the air.  The Ninja and the me could only laugh and end up captured in awkward, eyes-closed grinniness:

Christi gets tossed.

There are plenty of wonderful people I finally connected with, but without formal photographic evidence.  Like Will from Life After DX, who I've been reading for years and am always inspired by.  And Bernard (spelled Bernard) from The Diabetes Technology Blog, who I should have met years ago but until this past week, had never had a chance to hug in person.  I had the honor of meeting Crystal (aka CalPumper), Christopher Thomas, Chris Bishop, Ginger Viera, and Brandy Barnes for the first time, too.  And there were also the several bloggers who I have had the pleasure of meeting before, like Fran, Amy, Manny, Christel, Scott Strumllo, LeeAnn, SuperG, Scott King, Kelly, Jeff, Gina, Riva, Kelly Close, Allison, and Bennet.

Also, my old friend Sandra Miller was in attendence, representing with Bennet Dunlap (again, I know!) and Jeff Hitchcock as the parents of children with diabetes.  David from Diabetes Daily was also there, on behalf of his wife Elizabeth (who is type 1).  Charlie Cherry and David Mendosa represented for the type 2 crew, and Kitty Castelinni stood as one of the few recipients of a pancreas transplant.

So we all met up. 

And goofed off.

A potluck of bloggers ... and this isn't even everyone.

Including Bennet showing off his fabulous pink camera (ooooh!), a late-night packy run, Kelly sharing stories from her diabetes past that made me want to give her a huge hug, a Blair Witch moment and, of course, Christel throwing down to "Tim," a random caller who was intent upon snuggling with Mr. Diabetic Rockstar.  Needless to say, all 4'11" of Christi kept Tim from making any fast moves, and to say that Christopher owes her big time is a gross understatement.  ;)

(Sidenote:  David, I still think it was you who called from the bathroom, but the world may never know the real truth.)

It was a true potluck of diabetes bloggers, representing from all sorts of different demographics.  Unfortunately, there were several bloggers who were missing from this group, and I'm hoping - no, damnit, I'm demanding - that there is an invitation sent to more members of our influential blogging family for any future meet-ups.

These people are my friends.  They're the people who understand what living with diabetes is really like, and they are the external support network I have been hoping for since my diabetes diagnosis in 1986.  So thank you to Roche for giving me the opportunity to say hello to, and hug warmly, the people in this community that I cannot wait to see again.

More of my photos are in Flickr, and there's also a D-Blogger Summit photo pool where you can grab the best of the shots!   

Roche Diabetes Summit: SUM Edition.

You have already read some great wrap-ups of the Roche Diabetes Blogger Summit from some of my fellow bloggers - Amy, Manny, David, Gina, Christopher, Bennet (Note: Mr. YDMV's updates are fictional.  Well, mostly.), and Sandra.  I just wanted to chime in with my thoughts and add my photos to the collection.  :)

We met up in Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon, after I had flown from LaGuardia to Detroit and then to Indianapolis.  (Yes, I took two flights so that I could avoid taking the itsy bitsy plane that Roche originally had scheduled me on.  The travel people at Roche were very patient and understanding regarding my travel issues, and I really appreciate their compassion.)

But apparently my fear of flying wasn't kept within the travel coordinator circle, as several people from Roche mentioned at the dinner that "Some of us even traveled despite our fear of flying," and heads slowly turned towards me, to which my only xanax-laced response was "I walked."  

Good thing I don't mind being laughed at.  Or with.  More on that later.  

I'm no fool - part of what Roche wanted was to be talked about in the blogs.  Hence why they asked many of the diabetes bloggers to visit their headquarters and brainstorm about social networking and Pharma involvement.  But Roche did this right - they paid for our travel, they paid for our hotel, they made us feel as though we were valued guests, and they listened when we offered our opinions.  We didn't travel on our own dime and feel taken advantage of, but instead appreciated.  That's a good start, in my book. 

It was really a groundbreaking sort of event, with Roche having the balls (go ahead and quote me on that, Rodger the Social Media Warlord) to invite a pack of opinionated bloggers into their house to talk frankly about social media and Pharma - specifically, THEIR Pharma.  We talked about ways that Pharma can appropriately enter the social media space without being received by a mob with torches and pitchforks.

In my opinion, Pharma needs to simply embrace the fact that transparency, honesty, and being open to feedback can make a huge difference in how they are perceived by their patient base.  For Roche to sign on to a social networking site by creating a fake profile or pretending to actually live with diabetes, well that's just plain stupid because we'll sniff them out in a second and destroy them.  However, if Roche, or any other Pharma crew, is willing to put a face to their company and leap into social media by saying, "We aren't living with diabetes, but we want to help improve the lives of people living with diabetes - that's why we are here and that's why we want to be engaged" ... that kind of disclosure and transparency will go a very long way.

I gave the example of Albert Chen, a member of the Agamatrix team who, with grace, honesty, and class, joined the diabetes blogosphere with his blog "What Is Diabetes?"  He said, right in his bio, that he didn't have diabetes, but wanted to better understand the community he was working to serve.  That, Pharma companies who are reading this, is the way to work with the diabetes online community.  Get to know us.  See that we are more than just the sum of our co-pays.  Remind us that Pharma has a face, and more importantly, that you remember we are people, too.  

The Roche team didn't always directly answer the questions, but I can understand that "Why aren't strips cheaper" isn't a question that they can answer without sounding like a business.  However, they need to understand, and always remember, that their business is our life.  So while that chasm remains wide, I think this was an important step in beginning to bridge that gap.

The gap - we're making efforts to bridge it.

July 24, 2009

It's in the Fridge.

I have a boatload of photos to upload from the Roche Diabetes Blogger Summit, but I'm currently at the BlogHer conference in Chicago and the bags under my eyes are hollering for SLEEP.  Photos next week!

However, since Ms. Rachel has already outed me on my Walgreen's purchase, I figured I should just tell this story and get it over with before someone else makes fun of me.  (Ahem, Scott Johnson.)

So this morning on the bus going from the hotel in Indianapolis to the Roche headquarters, I was sitting next to Scott.  And we're talking and then all of a sudden ...

"Oh my God!  Oh shit, I left the curling iron in my room!"

We'd already checked out of our suites and our luggage was waiting in the foyer of the lobby for our return.

"I have the number for the hotel - can you just call them up?"  Scott rummaged in his wicked cool Cozmo bag for the hotel reservation print out.  

"Yeah.  But, um, I'm embarrassed."  Blushing and realizing how goofy this sounds, "My curling iron is in the fridge."

Scott laughed at me, unsure.  "The fridge?"

"It was hot after I used it so I put it in the fridge to cool it down so I could pack it in my suitcase.  And I forgot to grab it."  I tried to make this sound like a normal thing to do.

Scott was laughing at me and could barely speak.  "Oh, I can't wait to hear this phone call."

I dialed the number and did my best to be discreet on the crowded bus.

"Hello?"

"Hi, I just checked out and I realized I left my curling iron in my suite.  Is it possible for someone to grab it and stick it in my suitcase?"

"Hi, yes we can do that for you.  What is your room number?"

"Nine, sixty-three."

"And where is the curling iron?"  I could hear her typing as she spoke.

"Ha.  Well, it's in the fridge."

Her typing stopped.  "Excuse me?"

"It's in the fridge?  It was hot and I stuck it in the fridge so it would cool down and I could put it in my suitcase.  So the fridge.  It's in there."  I spoke calmly and tried to ignore Scott's shaking shoulders as he giggled at me.

Silence from the woman on the other end of the line.  I had to say something.

"What, you've never heard that before?"

She lost it.  The woman let loose with a guffaw that I think other people on the bus could hear.  

"No, that's a first for me, miss.  Let me get your Sparlings taste like chicken.last name and we can rescue your iron from the fridge."

"It's Sparling.  S-P-A-R-L-I-N-G."

"Tyson?"

"Tyson?  No!  Sparling!  Like darling with an S-P!  How did you get Tyson?!"

And then I remembered I was the one who was calling to retrieve her curling iron from the refrigerator.

And so I shut the hell up.

July 23, 2009

The Doctor Is: OUT.

Earlier this week, I had a bit of a medical issue.  Painful urination, high blood sugars, and the constant need to pee.  (Ladies, I know you already know what's up.)  Urinary tract infection looming large.  I was livid, because it was the day before I was scheduled to travel for this week's business.

I haven't got time for the pain, so I called my primary care physician, Dr. CT.  "Hi Nurse of Dr. CT!  It's Kerri Sparling.  Listen, I'm pretty sure I either have a kidney stone or a urinary tract infection, and I need to rule it out before I leave for a week-long business trip."

Dr. CT was on jury duty.  Damnit.  So I had to call a local walk-in clinic, instead. 

The clinic was a hole in the wall.  Part of a strip mall structure.  My confidence wasn't high, but my blood sugars were and my whole body was screaming for attention, so I knew I had to follow through.

The receptionist was very nice.  The nurse was even nicer.  They took my blood pressure (110/74), my temperature (98.8) and a urine sample (ew). THIS is not for urine, people!

I should have known from the moment the sample cup was given to me that it wasn't going to be a fun visit.  The very kind nurse handed me this  --->

That is not a urine sample cup.  That's like a party cup that you use for lemonade on a hot summer day.  Not for pee.  Oh God. 

And then the doctor came in.  For the sake of anonymity, we'll call him Dr. Idiot.

"Hi.  I'm Dr. Idiot." 

"Hi, I'm Kerri."

"Kerri, I see you are here for pain when urinating.  Are you urinating frequently?  You see, you are spilling a significant amount of urine.  I believe we may have found the source of your troubles." 

He closed his file, proud of himself.

"Dr. Idiot?  On my chart there I wrote that I have type 1 diabetes.  I know my blood sugar is elevated right now, which sucks but at least it's not a surprise.  But that's not why I'm here.  I actually suspect that ..."

He cut me off.

"I think we need to address this first problem.  You are aware of your diabetes, you say?  How many times a month do you check your sugar?  You know, with the glucose machine and the finger pricker?"

If I wore bifocals, it's at this point that I would have slid them down my nose and given him a hard, Sam Eagle-type stare. 

"I test about 12 - 15 times a day.  But the real reason ..."

"You mean a month,"  he corrected me.

"No, I mean a day.  I have type 1 diabetes.  I wear a continuous glucose sensor.  And also an insulin pump.  I'm very aware of my condition, and I'm also very aware that it's slipping out of control today because of this other issue, the pain issue.  Can we talk about that?"

He looked at my chart again.  "So you don't use a meter?"

"Sir, I use a meter.  And a machine that reads the glucose levels of my interstitial fluid.  This is in addition to my insulin pump.  I don't mean to be rude but ..."

Now he gave me a hard look.  "Why the interstitial fluid?  Why not the blood directly?  I mean, you could have more precise readings with the blood."  He picked up my Dexcom from the chair next to me and pressed a few buttons to light up the screen.  (Mind you, he did not have permission to touch it, but I'm again not saying anything.)   

"You mean like a pick line?  I don't know.  I'm sorry.  Ask them?"

"Yes, but it would make much more sense and ..."

I just about lost it.

"I'm sorry.  I didn't come here to talk about that.  I want to talk about the issue I'm here for.  Which is not diabetes.  Or your ambitions to know more about CGMs.  Please can we address what I'm here for?"

"The sugar in your urine."  With finality, he says this.

"NO.  The fact that I think I have a UTI or a kidney stone.  Please.  Help.  Me?"

I kid you not - we went 'round and 'round about this for another ten minutes.  He didn't believe me that I was at least sort of familiar with diabetes.  His ignorance included, but wasn't limited to, the following statements:

  • "High sugar causes frequent urination.  Maybe that's why you are peeing often?"  (Not because I was drinking a liter of water per hour to flush my system?  Nooo, couldn't be that.) 
  • "Did you have weight loss surgery?"
  • "Grape juice also causes high blood sugar." 
  • "That thing should really be pulling blood samples.  Pointless otherwise."  (Meaning my Dexcom.)
  • "The urinalysis won't be back until Friday, and in the meantime you should start on a regimen of insulin immediately." 
  • And also:  "I didn't peg you for a pink girl."  (Are.  You.  Serious??)

The end result, after an escalating argument that involved me yelling, "Stop.  Talking about my diabetes and PLEASE focus why I'm here!" was a prescription for Macrobid that I could elect to take if my symptoms didn't alleviate, and the instructions to call back on Friday for official lab results.

"Thank you.  Really.  Can I go now?"

He at least had the decency to look ashamed. 

I've had some wonderful doctors over the last 30 years, and my health is better for it.  But this guy?  Complete disappointment. 

July 22, 2009

Travel Day!

you cannot come

Today I'm off to Indianapolis for the Roche Blogger Summit, to hang out with some (but not ALL) of the diabetes blogosphere's finest and talk about social media with the people at Roche.  More later, but for now, I'm off to the airport!

Kerri:  No cats in my checked bag, though.  That would be silly.

Bag:  Meow!

July 21, 2009

Coney Island.

I'm not sure what caused what, but over the weekend, Chris and I ended up at Coney Island. 

Was it because we were talking about how we wanted to watch Cloverfield again?  (I loved that movie - brilliantly shot.)  Or was it because Chris had talked to his sister about the movie The Warriors?  Or were we, simply, bored?

We've lived out here for three years (over three years now, as of July 1st), and we've never been down to the mystical, magical land of carnival freak shows.  But either way, on Saturday we ventured down to the southernmost part of Brooklyn to take in the sights.

The view from the pier.

Freakshows aplenty out on this end of town.  We actually paid a dollar to see the "snake girl" - Body of an enormous snake!  Head of a beautiful girl! - but it ended up being a crappy sham with a ratty girl sticking her head out of the middle of a bench with a snakeskin coiled around her head like an inner tube.  Booo!  Scammed by the carnies!!  But we did see the famous Cyclone roller coaster and the Wonder Wheel.

The famous Cyclone roller coaster.  Similar to the one at Rocky Point!

We also went into the New York Aquarium and scared ourselves silly with the big shark tank.  I love aquariums and this one is decent, but the weather was so hot and muggy that it was almost too hot for hanging out in an unairconditioned, outdoor venue.  (The fish-types seemed okay with things, so that's a plus.)

Ahhhhhh!  I mean ... oh shit, just AHHHHHHHH!

And this lead us right back, at least mentally, to Cloverfield. Which we watched last night.  And I liked all over again.  (Quick Question:  Does anyone have a good website that points to all the clues and trivia bits in the Cloverfield movie?  If so, please share!  I love that stuff.)   

The rest of this week is going to be a busy one, between heading off for the Roche Summit and BlogHer. (if you are going to be at BlogHer, come by the PatientBlogger session on Friday at 2:45 pm!)  I didn't think ahead and ask for guest posts this week, but I did hear a purring rumor that Chubbles the Sausage Cat (aka Siah) might be game for another appearance. 

... actually , I hope not.  She's a pain in my behind. 

I'm off to get packing for the week to come! 

July 20, 2009

Government Health Care: We Are All Patients.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a summit regarding government healthcare and the impact on patients and doctors in Washington, DC.  This event was put together by Dr. Val Jones of the Better Health network, and played host to some of the best of the medical blogosphere - including Kevin MD, Dr. Alan Dappen, Dr. Wes, Dr. Rich, Dr. Rob, Kim from Emergiblog, Mother Jones RN, Dr. Jim Herndon, Edwin Leap, Valerie Tinley, and Evan Falchuk.

Kerri, Val Jones, and Evan Falchuk
Me (Kerri), Val Jones, and Evan Falchuk

Some of the lady bloggers in attendance.
Me (Kerri), Mother Jones, Kim from Emergiblog, and Valerie Tinely

It was a lively discussion about government healthcare and how many of the people in the room were against it - including Congressman Ryan, who provided the keynote for this session.  Evan Falchuk, Mother Jones, and I were busy Twittering the session.  (For a full transcript, click here.)  But I'm not a doctor.  Or a nurse.  There are no initials after my name.  I'm a patient. 

However, being a "patient blogger" doesn't make me the only patient in the room.  Every doctor and nurse on that panel has been a patient at one time or another.  It's something we all are.  This makes healthcare something we all need to care about.  Hence, patients first. 

The doctors on the panel were discussing how primary care physicians are a dying breed, with fewer and fewer new PCPs joining the medical workforce every year.  Many doctors were also talking about how government healthcare could provoke a healthcare system of "rationing," where Americans don't receive the healthcare they need but instead the healthcare that is allocated to them.  And how a government healthcare system could cost the American public a bundle for inadequate care.

Then there were comments about the current healthcare system, how it's running the economy into the ground and people are underinsured.  I can attest to being a member of the working class, with insurance, yet spending plenty out of pocket for my medical needs.  What good is coverage when it doesn't cover? 

Kim made the comment that she called Blue Cross to "talk to someone," and asked, "What would make you outright deny an insurance policy?"  Blue Cross responded, "Insulin-dependent diabetes."  This comment came hot on the heels of a discussion about "good health habits" earning a lower insurance premium.  But as an insulin-dependent diabetic, would I be penalized regardless?  Even though I eat well, exercise regularly, and have a healthy BMI, could my need for insulin or my A1C level end up putting me in a different cost tier?

And I'm sitting there, a type 1 diabetic patient and a health blogger, completely unsure of what to think. 

I can't claim to be up on every last minute detail of the proposed healthcare system.  I mean, Congressman Ryan even admitted that no one has read the bill fully (which was an admission that blew my mind).  But I do know that I've been denied for a private health insurance policy for years (and life insurance as well), and that even with insurance, I've had to fight for coverage for test strips, insulin pumps, CGMs, etc.  I see my endocrinologist at least three times a year and my primary care physician at least every 180 days, in addition to any well-woman visits, dental appointments, and emergency situations.  I sometimes think that a system of universal coverage would be such a blessing for people with chronic illness because we'd have insurance, but now I fear that we still wouldn't have the coverage we need.

"Is healthcare a right or a privilege?"  One of the panelists asked during the session.  The response on Twitter was diverse and educated, but I'm still not sure.

I'm confused.  I've read a lot of lies, a lot of half-truths, and some of what may be the truth, but it's still tangled up in agendas.  I'm hoping that you guys can help set the record straight for me, or at least stop it from spinning for few minutes.  What is the truth about the proposed healthcare system?  How will it affect those of us with chronic illness? 

And what can I do, if anything, to change the outcome?

July 17, 2009

CWD: D is for Disney.

Once the CWD Friends for Life conference was over, Chris and I took a few days of vacation to hit up The Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Words are one thing, but pictures are more fun.  :)

Kerri and Chris alongside what appears to be a big mouse hand flipping the bird.

We hit up the Disney Hollywood Studios, where a kind guest took our photo.  But instead of getting us in front of the Mickey Mouse hat, she only managed to work in the hand.  Now it looks like we're posing in front of a giant glove that's happily flipping the bird.  Go figure.   

I love me some Army Men.

This sign was in the Pixar area, which also had a barrel of monkeys gone loose. 

Ice cream is awesome.  Especially Disney ice cream.

And, of course, the traditional Mickey Mouse ice cream ears.  Quality treat, and perfect for bringing blood sugars back into range after traipsing around the parks all day.   

Thunder F'ing Mountain.  Yo.

This would be the ONLY roller coaster I like - Thunder Mountain.  This ride kicks so much ass that we went on it twice.  I like roller coasters that don't have huge drops in them but are still fast, and this one just does it for me. 

Plenty of other pictures on Flickr (warning:  there are so many shots of the Cinderalla castle that I'm actually embarrassed), if you're interested in checking out other people's vacation photos.  :) 

The fire-eating dancer at the Taverna Opa.

Oh, and one last sidenote:  This is a scene from the Taverna Opa, where Chris and I had dinner with friends on Friday night.  Of course, this fire-eating dancer lady was doing her thing.  And she was picking out men from the crowd to make them mimick her dance moves.  I'm not saying that Chris was pulled from his seat and encouraged to shake his hips for strangers.  I'm not saying the crowd went nuts.  I'm not saying I didn't laugh myself off my chair.  I'm also not saying that my husband has moves.  

That is all I'm not saying. 

July 16, 2009

CWD: Inspired by Jay Hewitt - Again!

Jay Hewitt and me, Kerri.  :)

Jay Hewitt is one of those diabetes role models that makes sense to me.  He's smart, tuned in, and realistic about his health, and he doesn't pretend to be perfect.  (You guys know how I feel about the notion of diabetes perfection - doesn't exist.)  Jay and I spent some time chatting on Friday afternoon and we talked about the concept of survival with diabetes.

"I try and live my life as a non-diabetic.  I'm not going to live in denial [about diabetes].  I live in determination."  Jay told me about being diagnosed at the age of 24 while in law school (he's lived with type 1 diabetes for 18 years) and he's convinced that the stress of law school and life at the time is what triggered his diabetes diagnosis.

"Me, too!  I had a virus on my birthday that my doctors are convinced triggered my diabetes."  I said.  I told him that many of us with type 1 can remember some kind of catalyst event before the "you have diabetes" moment.  (Stress seems to play a significant role in our collective medical histories.)

We talked about the impact of being public about our diabetes management has on our drive to be healthy.  I admitted a few of my own fears to Jay.

"I'm healthy now, with no visible diabetes complications, but I worry about what will happen, and how people will perceive me, if things change in the future.  How does that motivate you?"

"It makes me work even harder.  I take that 'I'll show you' mentality when it comes to diabetes management.  Knowing that people are watching helps me to push," he offered candidly.  "It's not about guilt [when it comes to complications], but revenge." 

We talked about the impact of being diagnosed as a child and as an adult, how most of the parents at CWD were caring for their child's diabetes directly while his own parents had more of a distance between themselves and the disease.  Since Jay is a motivational speaker and speaks to groups both dealing to diabetes and otherwise, I asked him what message he wants to impress upon his audiences. 

"What is the takeaway you want for parents?" 

"I want parents to have the confidence that that their child can be anything they want to be, and the comfort that they can sleep at night."

And for the kids?

"I want them to see anything they want to be and think, 'I can be that.'"

As I sat across from Jay, straddling that line between being a "kid" and that desire to be a parent myself, I saw a guy who lives an incredible life, despite and even with diabetes.  He's healthy, determined to succeed, happily married, and the proud parent of a little girl.

And I thought to myself, "I can be that."

(Unnecessary sidenote:  Last year, I wrote about Jay Hewitt's speech at CWD, and in my blog post, I mentioned that he was handsome. 

Of course, someone that knew Jay found my post and forwarded it to him. 

And, of course, he read it.

And, of course again, I was mortified and went to edit the article but the damage was already done, so I was forced to leave it as is and suffer the embarrassment.

So this year, when he came to find me and he said, "Hi!  Nice to see you again.  I loved your post from last year," I turned all kinds of colors and tried to pretend I had grown up a smidge since then.)

July 15, 2009

CWD: "You Can Not Like It and Still Do It."

Joe"Friends for Life ... this conference is delicious.  It's like the Woodstock of diabetes," he said, pacing around the room and smiling warmly.

Meet Joe Solowiejczyk. 

According to his bio on the CWD website, "He [Solowiejczyk] currently works for LifeScan, as Manager of Diabetes Counseling & Training and is a faculty member of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute. Joe is healthcare professional who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 47 years, Mr. Solowiejczyk has been able to translate his personal experience into patient care."

To my untrained eye, Joe is the "guy who gets it."  He's a diabetes nurse educator, and a person with diabetes himself.  If he was a member of my personal medical team, he'd be the one I take most seriously because when I say, "It sucks," he could respond, truthfully, with "I know."

Joe hosted a session at Children With Diabetes called "It's Not Just a Numbers Game."  This grabbed my attention because I write constantly about how an A1C is only one part of diabetes management.  There's all this emotional and mental stuff that comes into play.  

"Ask me if I like it," Joe said to the group of us.  He paused for a second.  "I hate it."  

I was sitting at a table with a bunch of CWD parents (including Bennet and Michelle) and I heard them all chuckle, but I just nodded in agreement.  Empowerment is being able to say that diabetes is hard and that it sucks sometimes, but still forging ahead and working towards better health.  I was glad to hear Joe telling this group of parents (and adults diabetics) that diabetes doesn't have to be something we like.  We can hate it, openly, and still remain positive.

"I schedule my diabetes depression days," he said.  "I plan them and then I tell everyone I know to call me every hour and tell me how courageous I am."  He laughed.  "After about an hour, I'm sick of it and I just want to move on with my day."

I like Joe.  I like listening to him talk and I respect him for managing diabetes for over 47 years.  I respect him for saying, "It took years for me to be able to say, 'I'm having a hard time with diabetes,' without it being a chip on my integrity."  This statement resonated for me because I think people want to read blogs about diabetes and find a lot of upbeat moments and happiness.  But the truth of life is that there is an emotional gamut to be run and we have the right to run it, diabetes or no diabetes.

"You can not like it and still do it.  Hating it [diabetes] and doing it are not mutually exclusive states." 

He talked about the daily duties of a person with diabetes, from waking up in the morning and testing to all of the bits and pieces of precision management that are required along the way.  The possibility of a cure was mentioned.  And while many diabetics say "I'll eat the contents of an entire Crumb's Bakery," or "I'll drink orange juice FOR FUN," Joe smiled gently.   

"If there's a cure?  What will I do?  I'll sit on a park bench for three weeks and stare at the sky and do nothing."   

Counting clouds for a cure.

It'll be 23 years for me this September.

I'd love to sit on a park bench and count clouds for a while.

July 14, 2009

CWD: Friends For Life.

Friends for Life has to be the most aptly named conference I've ever attended.  I had the chance to meet, and reunite with, many people from the diabetes online community who have helped to change the course of my diabetes health. CWD's Friends for Life conference has more information on tap than I can cover in one post, but that's for later this week. 

For now, I want to focus on the faces of diabetes.

A little blogger meet-up action at CWD.
From left to right:  Elizabeth, CuteBaby, David, Kerri, Sara, and Mandy 
 
We had a sort-of impromptu blogger meet-up after Chris and I arrived in Orlando, but we totally forgot to take any pictures.  (I know - bad blogger!!)  But we did manage to snap that shot before the banquet on Thursday night. 
 
The magical, mystical Bennet!
Bennet (behaving) and Kerri (sort of behaving)

I was also able to meet Bennet from YDMV and his fantastic family.  This is the only picture that came out normal of the two of us.  The other one was very goofy and there is no way I could share it with everyone ... whoops.  (And speaking of parents at CWD, I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Campbell for the first time.  She's awesome - hi, Michelle!!)

Me and Andy Bell.
Kerri and Andy Bell.

I also was able to FINALLY meet Andy Bell from the JDRF.  He's as energetic and sweet as I had anticipated, and the kids just flocked to his warm and friendly style.  The JDRF is lucky to have Andy as an advocate!

Kerri and Sara.
Kerri and Sara

And, of course, the awesome Ms. Sara Knicks herself.  Sara and I met for the first time at CWD last year and she's now blogging over at Diabetes Daily.  (She also rocks a glow necklace like nobody's business.)

These people inspire the hell out of me.  Whether we're diagnosed with diabetes in our childhood or in our later years, "children with diabetes" grow up to be determined, capable, and reasonably badass.  We live with this disease and it may affect some of our decisions and take its physical toll, but it doesn't keep us from being ourselves, being happy, and being strong. 

All thsoe pictures?  Living proof.  

(More on the CWD conference to come, including plenty of this:

Rockin' Disney World!! )

July 13, 2009

A Test-In!

(I had one more quick post to write.  THEN I'm going back on vacation!) 

We're too active for a sit-in, and we aren't exactly the types (literally) who can do a hunger strike.  But a test-in?  That's something we, as people with diabetes, can and should get behind!

In just a day or two, TuDiabetes and EsTuDiabetes will reach the combined member total of 14,000.  Manny Hernandez and team over at these sites have organized a "test-in," where everyone with diabetes can test together at 4 pm EST on July 14th. 

If you're part of the diabetes community and you want to participate in this awareness event, here's what you can do:

  1. Test your blood sugar at 4 pm EST on July 14th.
  2. Post your reading in the thread at TuDiabetes, share your reading on Twitter using the #14KPWD hashtag, or update your Facebook status with your result and link back here
  3. Grin, knowing that the simple act of testing your blood sugar both benefits your health and increases awareness for this disease that we all live with every day.
Everyone test at 4 pm EST on July 14, 2009!

“We hope to see most readings posted at 4 pm ET on July 14. If you are a few minutes late, however, or are able to post your blood sugar reading earlier or later that day, it’s OK,” said Manny. “What really matters is that you test your blood sugar regularly. If you don’t have diabetes, just tell someone who does to test and share on July 14.”

This is so cool.  I wonder if I listen very closely if I'll hear all the lancets shunking at once.  :)

On Vacation.

Just popping in quickly to say that I'm still on vacation today.  Back with some real blog posts tomorrow! 

At CWD - back in a few!

July 10, 2009

Friends For Life: In Gatorland.

I'm here in Orlando for the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life conference, meeting plenty of families affected by diabetes, learning a ton at the different educational sessions, and catching up with some of my favorite d-bloggers.  Like Sara.  And David and Elizabeth (and their adorable daughter).  And Mandy, bless her heart.  And Bennet.  And my favorite speedracer, Charlie Kimball.

So many inspiring people.  And so many cool sights.  

Not to mention (but I just did) that Chris and I saw an alligator hanging out mere feet from where people were dining.  Yes, we were taken aback, even though we should have known better, since the whole state of Florida seems to be infested with alligators.  (According to Sara, anyway, who told us that any body of water smaller than a Cadillac would most likely house them gators.)  We're from RI, guys.  We know plenty about woodland creatures and furry friends, but alligators?  That's a whole different experience entirely.  Squirrels forage for nuts.  Alligators seem to forage for children.

This is the only picture I've had a chance to upload so far.  More coming soon!

It's the 10th year for Friends for Life, and I'm proud to be a part of this experience.  But there's no time to recap yet.  I'll have plenty to share next week once we're home, but for now, I'm off until Tuesday and I'm going to Disney World!!!  

July 09, 2009

No Peace: Revisited.

Even when I'm waking up in the morning and trying to test my blood sugar so I can stumble out of bed and begin my day, this cat gives me no peace.  

Never a moment's peace with this animal.

Siah, you need a hobby.  One that doesn't involve me.

July 08, 2009

Diabetes ... is a Game?

The idea of creating a game about diabetes both intrigues me and creeps me out a little bit.  Diabetes is a game? I guess after an evening of "WHY 200?  WHY?!!" I'm not feeling so light and fluffy about diabetes.  But I see the potential for kids to learn about diabetes and its management through the use of games, so I'm all so for whatever gets good information out there.  And over the last few days, I've come across two particularly interesting games, thanks to reader alerts, aimed at kids who either have diabetes or have friends with diabetes.

The first game is on the Nobel Prize educational games site and it's cleverly called The Diabetic Dog game.  (Wee bit short on imagination once they got to the naming part, I suppose.)  I will admit - I played this game for at least 15 minutes and I appreciated the cuteness of the doggy. 

The Diabetic Dog Game

As a "caretaker," I was instructed to keep my diabetic doggy (named, in my profile, "DoggyPants") happy (by petting him), well-fed (by purchasing food for him), getting him to exercise (by walking him), and keeping his blood sugar in check by giving him insulin injections.  Keeping an eye on the bar at the bottom left of my screen let me know what DoggyPants's blood sugar was, and I could feed and dose him accordingly.

(Sidenote:  Having that bar gauge with his blood sugar in it sure helped me figure out what I was doing, and I wondered if the developers of this Diabetic Dog Game realized how they're helping further the case for continuous glucose monitors.) 

Overall, I liked how this game showed the importance of insulin, food choices, and exercise as the cornerstones for good diabetes management, and it didn't tout insulin as "a cure."  Basically, all you do is chase this little puppy around and feed him or dose him or walk him.  Constant cycle of redundancy, only the results aren't predictable.  Kind of like real life.  :)  

The other game I have been receiving reader alerts on is the Didget from Bayer.  I haven't seen this game in person, but according to the word on the street (read: their website), "The Didget blood glucose meter from Bayer is the only meter that plugs into a Nintendo DS or Nintendo DS Lite gaming system to reward children for consistent testing."  

The DIDGET.  IN ALL CAPS!

So it's an actual meter that snaps into the Nintendo system.  (It appears to be, or be completely identical to, the former "GlucoBoy" from a bit ago.)  Honestly, that is pretty darn cool, and I wish that kind of "fun" was available when I was testing my blood sugar as a kid.  Hell, I'd like to have that kind of positive reinforcement NOW, thank you very much.  

"This unique meter helps encourage consistent testing with reward points that children can use to buy items within the game and unlock new game levels. And, since the DIDGET meter is based on Bayer’s trusted CONTOUR™ system, you know you’re getting a meter that’s reliable." They are also building a community for kids to "hang out in" virtually, comparing notes.  Of course, since it's Bayer, they need to slide in their personal product endorsement, but they have the right idea.  Test often, get rewarded for keeping tabs on your numbers, and maybe Nick Jonas will show up at your house and give you a hug.

That last part?  A lie.  But Bayer is working its way into the hearts of kids with diabetes, and as a former kid with diabetes myself, I would have appreciated that kind of innovation as part of my childhood with this disease.  From what I can tell so far, this meter is being marketed towards diabetics in the UK, but hopefully there will be a United States counterpart.  With mg/dl readings.  Because doing conversions when low?  Not so easy.

So there you have it. We've come a long way from that game with the elephants or the other one about the Escape from Diab, and hopefully more efforts will be made to engage kids - and adults! - with diabetes.  Positive reinforcement is hard to come by in this whole diabetes mess, so every little bit helps.

July 07, 2009

diaTribe Giveaway: Dexcom!

I wanted to let you guys know about this Dexcom opportunity, courtesy of the team at diaTribe.  Here are the details, in editor Kelly Close's own words:

"For this month, DexCom has given diaTribe a $500 credit for any DexCom merchandise, which we will give to one lucky reader! Visit www.diatribe.us/dexcomgiveaway to enter the drawing. Like all of our giveaways, this is open to non-readers as well--help us spread the word about CGM."

I'm all for anything that helps get more CGMs in the hands of people with diabetes, and I'm also a fan of the mission of diaTribe.  So now you know.  And knowing is ... you know.  Half the battle.  (I was also unaware that there was a G.I. Joe character called "Barbecue.")

Disclosures aplenty on this one:  I'm a columnist for diaTribe and I'm involved in a sponsorship agreement with Dexcom.  I have type 1 diabetes and I also know how to crochet.  Any and all questions can be directed to me.  Or Siah, but you'll have a better chance of getting a response from me.

The Name Game.

Before I married Chris, my name was mangled by teachers, employers, and the general public.  "Morrone" (pronounced "mah-rown") became a garbled mess of "Monroe," "Maroon," and my personal favorite, "Moron."

Flashback to eighth grade, which was part of our high school.  It was the second week of school and I was trying to fit in and not be noticed, all at the same time.  My mom was coming to pick me up for a dentist appointment, and I was waiting in my English class for the teacher to excuse me.

And over the loud-speaker came the follow announcement:

"Kerri ... Moron?  Your mom is here." 

(Oh the humanity!!) 

But I'm no longer a Morrone.  I'm a Sparling now.

Which apparently comes with its own set of troubled spellings.  Ironically enough, this was on my hotel slip when Dr. Val and I visited the Canyon Ranch Institute in Arizona:

Spelling.  As in, ur doin it rong.

I laughed, took a picture with my phone, and sent it to Chris.  "This is a new one," I texted, and he replied "Indeed - I've never seen that one before!"

My new last name has garnered such interpretations as "Sparkling," "Spaulding," "Spanding," and "Sparly."  But when I was in Philadelphia last week, I had one that surprised even me:

Sparlir?  How exactly did we get to that one?

I suppose it is better than if I hyphenated:  Moron-Sparkling. 

July 06, 2009

Little Rhody.

It's been raining for weeks and we've been working like crazy people for weeks and stress is relentless ... but once Chris and I ended up in Block Island, it finally felt like summer.  And we finally relaxed.

Shoreline of Block Island

Block Island is only about twelve miles from the RI mainland, but it feels like it's miles away and also like a proper vacation.  The coastline is beautiful!  We spent the afternoon on the beach, soaking up (too much) of the sun and hanging with our friends.

Flowers on the island.

 Camera always at the ready, I - again - snapped too many pictures of flowers.  (Instead of people.  Not sure why that keeps happening.  Maybe because flowers sit still for five minutes?)  But thankfully, the flora is reasonable photogenic.

Cliff Walk in Newport
 
An evening in Newport with my husband made for some very pretty photos from the famous Newport Cliff Walk and dinner at Sardella's.  Our visit home was too damn short, but worth it!  Rhode Island has it's share of weird areas and quirky bits, but there are enough hidden treasures to amaze even a local like me. 
 
Already looking forward to next time.  :)

July 05, 2009

Tin O' Joy.

I love surprises, and I'm a bit smitten with pear jelly beans.

So when this arrived last week,

Thank you, Windy!!

... filled with pear-flavored jelly beans, I was very happy indeed.

Thank you, Windy!  This was a wonderful anniversary surprise.  :)

July 02, 2009

One Lump or Two?

Like I wrote a few weeks ago, "Even though I do not like the disease, there are some diabetes-related simple pleasures that make me smile." 

But on the flip side of that, there are some diabetes-related things that make me grimace.  (Not Grimace, but grimace.)  And when I'm feeling down about the hard parts of managing this disease, I often turn to humor to lift me back up.  (For me, a little gallows humor goes a long way in keeping me from really falling into a depressive state.  It seems like a counterproductive idea, but it really helps me.)

This is where Haidee Soule Merritt's book comes in:  One Lump or Two?  Her book more than resonated for a 20+ year diabetes veteran like myself.  It's taken me a long time to build up this much amusement at a disease that's trying its hardest to take me out, but now I'm in the thick of the smirking-despite-the-chaos.  

As I read through her book, I laughed.  I laughed and nodded my head in agreement, thinking, "Oh hell yes, I hate those geyser fingerpricks."

How many times has this happened to you??
Who hasn't this happened to?  (Image credit:  Haidee Soule Merritt)
 
I snicked despite trying to be classy when I saw the one about low blood sugars after sex.  (Trust me, not fun.  And also, awkward as hell.)  

Low blood sugar after sex.  Oy.
Been there.  Done that. (Image credit:  Haidee Soule Merritt)

Diabetes isn't easy.  Neither is laughing at it.  But laughter, finding something that alleviates some of the anxiety and fear that comes with a chronic illness, can make such a huge difference in health.

If you want to order your own copy of Haidee's book, visit her website (and enjoy the duck sounds on the buttons, because they quacked me up).  As you thumb through your copy of One Lump or Two?, you'll find yourself smirking with understanding, too.    

July 01, 2009

Between Dinner and a Movie.

Saturday nights when we were very small were the best. 

We made blanket forts and used every damn cushion in the couch.  Laying pillows on the floor, we'd jump from down-filled island to island, pretending that the carpet was infested with alligators and only by balancing on the pillows would we be safe.

The babysitter always promised to make healthy dinner, but usually we ate popcorn, chicken fingers, and drank diet soda by the bottle, filling the glasses to the very brim and frantically slurping the carbonated foam awayI loved this doll.  I even pretended she had diabetes.  Which is a bit odd. before it could spill over.

My favorite babysitters were the ones who played with us, not just sat there and talked with their boyfriends on the phone.  Carolyn was my favorite one of all and I named my Cabbage Patch doll after her that year.  She was pretty and smart and the characters she pretended to be were so clever.  She was the perfect example, to me at seven years old, of what a 'hero' really was.

My parents had a standing Saturday night "date night," and they would go out to dinner either alone or with some friends, then maybe to a movie.  Usually they left when it was still light out, while we were still outside playing in the yard or just coming in to have a snack.  My brother and sister and I played and fought and made messes and told stories and generally destroyed the house, like little kids do.

Only now, when my memory is jogged, do I remember the headlights pulling back in the driveway, between when dinner ended and the movie began. 

Dad would wait in the car while Mom ran in quickly to test me and give me my bedtime insulin injection.  Then she'd say goodnight to all of us and run back out to the car to continue "date night."

Only now do I remember those moments and wish I'd named "Carolyn" after my mother, instead.

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