October 26, 2006

Keep Hidden?

When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 4, my wife and I had to take a crash course on learning how to take care of a diabetic child. There was a lot to learn! How carbohydrates affect the body, which carbohydrates are good and which are bad, how insulin affects the body, the different types of insulin, what can cause a person's blood sugar to fluctuate (in addition to food, there's stress, fever, growth spurts, exercise, and a host of other known and unknown factors), what to do when blood sugar is too high or too low, and -- the most intimidating thing of all -- how to administer insulin shots.

We decided right away to make Type 1 Diabetes seem as normal as possible. Yes, it felt strange giving our son his shots in public restaurants and other places (and we received a few stares along the way), but we didn't want him to think that his diabetes was something he had to hide, something he had to be ashamed of. People take other forms of prescription medication before meals with no thought; why should this be any different?

We told others about diabetes. As Ethan grew older, he learned to share with his friends and classmates about diabetes. They were interested, and sometimes are even able to help him. Their ability to help will grow -- and become more important -- as Ethan gets older, spending more time away from the watchful eyes of Mom and Dad.

Recently, an actor -- Michael J. Fox -- was featured in a TV ad in which his disability/illness was clearly visible. Usually, when he appears in TV shows, most signs of his Parkinson's Disease are edited out. But not in the TV ad. In response, Rush Limbaugh accused Michael J. Fox of over-acting to make the visible effects of Parkinson's more visible, and said that he was "exploiting" his Parkinson's.

Does this mean that Fox should hide himself from public view as the effects of his Parkinson's become more and more apparent? Does it mean that my son should hide his diabetes? Should he be required to check his blood sugar and administer his own insulin shots in private, because it makes some people uncomfortable? If his blood sugar goes low, and his behavior becomes erratic, or if he should ever pass out because it has gone too low (something that, thankfully, has never happened), should he be denied a life in public?

Mr. Limbaugh's daily diatribes are lacking in intelligence and compassion, and are designed only to rile people up. Unfortunately, people listen to him, which is the only reason why I'm riled up. I will never understand why so many listen to -- and take seriously -- what he says.

More on Type 1 Diabetes: www.jdrf.org

More about Michael J. Fox & Parkinson's: www.michaeljfox.org

1 comment:

Anita said...

Kudos to Michael J. for 'putting it out there' and waking up the eyes of non-educated people! I see him in much the same role as Christopher Reeve put himself after his accident. Damaged or ill bodies are not ugly or sinful or frightening ... if adults stopped and took the same about of interest and asked as good of questions as kids when they meet someone 'different' we would sure be better for it!
Thanks for the thoughtful blog today, Danny!