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Empathy and Diabetes.

An example of Cards for Humanity, T1D edition. #makehealth

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

This is the card one person at the meeting pulled. When their alarm went off, they got up out of their seat and dropped to the floor. Immediately, someone else sprang into action.

I watched from a distance while Michael drew up the glucagon injection and, with fumbling hands, injected it into the simulated “skin,” aka the rubber ball.

Michael’s reaction to having to following this exercise:

And this is what playing Cards FOR Humanity looked like at the meeting I attended this week.

Introducing "Cards FOR Humanity" at this #makehealth event, driving T1D empathy. #proudtobepart

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

For the last few months, I’ve been part of a design team for type 1 diabetes  (put together by the T1D Exchange and C3N – the disclosure is that I have been compensated for my time), and the team I am on decided that part of truly understanding diabetes means walking the walk.  It means understanding the subtleties and nuances of diabetes. 

It’s empathy.

“Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.” – from Psychology Today

To make an attempt at helping people better understand diabetes – helping them empathize – we created a card game of sorts. Based loosely on “Cards Against Humanity,” we took that concept for a spin and created a deck of cards with scenarios and accompanying questions to walk someone through a moment in a life with type 1 diabetes.

#empathyordie #makehealth

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#makehealth #empathyordie

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#makehealth #empathyordie

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The discussions that grew from these cards was inspiring, and these discussions gave rise to new levels of understanding and innovation, simply because people in the room who didn’t have diabetes identified more with the people who did.

There’s no way to properly simulate “a day in the life with diabetes,” but a glimpse can be provided, and from that understanding, innovation will rise.

To download a free PDF of the discussion cards, visit Cards For Humanity.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. CQ #

    This is a really interesting approach to learning and training! I am a trainer, and someone shared this post with me today. (I do not work in diabetes.) I am thinking of ways this could be adapted for other health issues. I downloaded the cards, but cannot find any instructions about how the game works in a training environment, or the rules/guidelines for using the game in a workshop setting. Could you provide some more instructions on that?

    Fantastic idea — thanks for sharing!

    04/2/15; 2:06 pm
    • What we did was introduce the cards as something that would be broken out throughout the meeting, and at random, people were asked to draw a card (or were handed a specifically selected card) and they had to act upon it immediately. There wasn’t a specific structure, but the discussions that came around as a result were really awesome. I don’t know if there is a “wrong” way to use these. They are just a first crack at a bigger discussion about helping foster empathy. Open to ALL ideas!!

      04/2/15; 2:27 pm
  2. I “enjoyed” (?) answering the questions from the cards you posted this week …. Great idea!

    04/2/15; 2:18 pm
  3. I’m a big believer that People With Diabetes are also given an extended bolus of empathy and resilience. It’s great that you’re helping to transfer that to others as well. I’ve been looking at these cards since I saw them on Facebook last night. It’s a marvelous idea. Thanks for sharing.

    04/2/15; 2:58 pm
  4. I do not even have the words to tell you how unbelievably awesome I think this is. I will definitely be downloading these and can’t wait to have an opportunity to use them. (I’m thinking Easter dinner would be a splendid time to spring this on the family!!)

    04/2/15; 5:05 pm
  5. Paul A. #

    These are awesome i will have to print them all out.

    04/2/15; 7:10 pm
  6. Hi,

    I have just downloaded the cards and I definitely intend on spreading the word. I am a regional chairman for the diabetics between 18-30 in Northern Jutland in Denmark. I would very much like to put them to use with our group members :-). They are simply amazing!

    Best regards,


    04/2/15; 7:13 pm
  7. this is great! Some made me laugh out loud, some moved me to tears. The question that came up for me is, who are these people who are willing to do this? I’m not sure even my closest family would want to take the time to do this… I think it scares people to imagine how it would feel in my shoes.

    And, I feel selfish for asking anyone to. Hmm. A great exercise! thank you.

    04/2/15; 8:57 pm
  8. Awesome! 🙂 Thanks.

    04/2/15; 10:01 pm
  9. James Gostischa #

    OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you, Thank you,Thank you,Thank you,Thank you, THANK YOU!!!
    I suffer from not only T1D, but also an extremely unmotivated (to be nice) family. I’m definitely going to get them to do a bunch of these with me because sometimes a good support team is all that you really NEED. Just getting someone to check on me when I know that I’m at risk of unconsciousness has proven impossible many times in the recent past. If you would like extra input on these cards, I would LOVE to help. Some of them are in desperate need of additional wording, imo.
    Thank you so much again for this inspirational and totally needed set of cards! Hugs/Kisses/Lots of genuine love to all who worked on these!

    04/2/15; 11:43 pm
  10. NuGo Nutrition #

    Wow this approach is so creative and really forces you to learn. Great idea.

    04/3/15; 11:47 am
  11. C3N sounds AMAZING.

    It must have been fun (and sad) coming up with the cards.

    04/3/15; 8:48 pm
  12. e-Patient Dave #



    Hell YES you were compensated for your time! This is brilliant!

    I did not know you were doing this, and I’m SO glad you and Seid got together. I’m not in the least surprised to see how superbly this turned out. YAY!

    04/4/15; 4:40 am
  13. I truly enjoying your best quotes images and some good tweets, last all 4 cards a re awesome..

    Sonia Bray

    04/4/15; 9:40 am
  14. Erik #

    Wow these are fantastic. Could definitely add a bunch more scenarios!

    04/5/15; 4:40 pm

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