I read a lot about diabetes. A LOT. And it gets discussed a lot in our house. It consumes our lives. Good, bad, or indifferent, it does. It’s the first thing we deal with when we wake up, and the last thing we deal with when we go to bed. And at midnight. And 3 am. And breakfast. And an hour after breakfast. And…well you get the idea.

But see, here’s the thing. I feel that diabetes doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I feel that the general public just isn’t clued in to how serious this disease is. I touched on this in an earlier post, and I will take some of the blame for that. We see pictures of adorable kids doing amazing things. They aren’t in hospital beds, hooked up to equipment. We all know cancer is bad, that cancer kills. We know that heart disease is bad, that you can die from a heart attack. As a matter of fact, They are the top 2 leading causes of death in the US. Along with strokes, Alzheimer’s, an all encompassing group called “accidents”, and diabetes. Yep. Diabetes. 7th leading cause of death in the US. 69,071 people in the US in 2011 died from diabetes. Got those straight from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And I got this little tidbit from that site too:

“Deaths among people with diabetes, United States, 2007

  • Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death based on U.S. death certificates in 2007. This ranking is based on the 71,382 death certificates in 2007 in which diabetes was the underlying cause of death. Diabetes was a contributing cause of death in an additional 160,022 death certificates for a total of 231,404 certificates in 2007 in which diabetes appeared as any-listed cause of death.
  • Diabetes is likely to be underreported as a cause of death. Studies have found that about 35% to 40% of decedents with diabetes had it listed anywhere on the death certificate and about 10% to 15% had it listed as the underlying cause of death.
  • Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age but without diabetes.”

Now how’s that for an eye opener. Diabetes was a direct link in 71,382 deaths, but at least a contributing factor in 231,404 deaths in 2007. That would put it at #3 in the leading cause of death category. See what I mean about no respect? Diabetes is the Rodney Dangerfield of the disease community.

Aside from death, what other horrible things can happen because of diabetes? (This list also comes from this page at the CDC)

Complications of diabetes in the United States

Heart disease and stroke

  • In 2004, heart disease was noted on 68% of diabetes-related death certificates among people aged 65 years or older.
  • In 2004, stroke was noted on 16% of diabetes-related death certificates among people aged 65 years or older.
  • Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes.
  • The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes.

Hypertension

  • In 2005–2008, of adults aged 20 years or older with self-reported diabetes, 67% had blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or used prescription medications for hypertension.

Blindness and eye problems

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74 years.
  • In 2005–2008, 4.2 million (28.5%) people with diabetes aged 40 years or older had diabetic retinopathy, and of these, 655,000 (4.4% of those with diabetes) had advanced diabetic retinopathy that could lead to severe vision loss.

Kidney disease

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44% of all new cases of kidney failure in 2008.
  • In 2008, 48,374 people with diabetes began treatment for end-stage kidney disease.
  • In 2008, a total of 202,290 people with end-stage kidney disease due to diabetes were living on chronic dialysis or with a kidney transplant.

Nervous system disease

  • About 60% to 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage. The results of such damage include impaired sensation or pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome, erectile dysfunction, or other nerve problems.
  • Almost 30% of people with diabetes aged 40 years or older have impaired sensation in the feet (i.e., at least one area that lacks feeling).
  • Severe forms of diabetic nerve disease are a major contributing cause of lower-extremity amputations.

Amputations

  • More than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes
  • In 2006, about 65,700 nontraumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in people with diabetes.

Dental disease

  • Periodontal (gum) disease is more common in people with diabetes. Among young adults, those with diabetes have about twice the risk of those without diabetes.
  • Adults aged 45 years or older with poorly controlled diabetes (A1c > 9%) were 2.9 times more likely to have severe periodontitis than those without diabetes. The likelihood was even greater (4.6 times) among smokers with poorly controlled diabetes.
  • About one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease consisting of loss of attachment (5 millimeters or more) of the gums to the teeth.

Complications of pregnancy

  • Poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy among women with type 1 diabetes can cause major birth defects in 5% to 10% of pregnancies and spontaneous abortions in 15% to 20% of pregnancies. On the other hand, for a woman with pre-existing diabetes, optimizing blood glucose levels before and during early pregnancy can reduce the risk of birth defects in their infants.
  • Poorly controlled diabetes during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy can result in excessively large babies, posing a risk to both mother and child.

Other complications

  • Uncontrolled diabetes often leads to biochemical imbalances that can cause acute life-threatening events, such as diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar (nonketotic) coma.
  • People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses. Once they acquire these illnesses, they often have worse prognoses. For example, they are more likely to die with pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.
  • People with diabetes aged 60 years or older are 2–3 times more likely to report an inability to walk one-quarter of a mile, climb stairs, or do housework compared with people without diabetes in the same age group.
  • People with diabetes are twice as likely to have depression, which can complicate diabetes management, than people without diabetes. In addition, depression is associated with a 60% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

I know what you’re thinking. If those people just ate a little healthier, and ran a couple of laps, that number would drop dramatically. Lean a little closer to your screen. Closer. Closer. Now let me smack you through this screen. Yes, these stats combine both type 1 and type 2. But regardless of that fact, 50,097 people died of the flu in 2011. During flu season, how many news stories do you hear? Every where I go, I’m barraged with flu shot vaccines, stories about runs on the vaccine, I get graphs that show me flu breakouts, it’s like Storm Watch 2013! I can get a vaccine shot at the grocery store. My work brings in a nurse every year so I don’t need to take time off, and they pay for it. Why? Because the flu is serious. We respect the flu. My work knows that if I get the flu, they could lose me for a few days. They are willing to cover the costs of the vaccine, the nurse, and the 30-45 minutes of downtime.

Two days ago, a 27 year old mother died in her sleep from low blood sugar. Last night, another 13 year old child also died in her sleep. As a parent, spouse, or God forbid, a child, could you imagine the horror of finding your spouse, your child, or your mom or dad dead in their bed? And yet it happens. More often than it should.

What do I know? I know that hoping and wishing aren’t going to change things.

Those of us in Type 1 families know all of this. Fear all of this. Live with all of this. But we are a small group. With limited resources. We need more people outside this insular world to realize the seriousness. To throw 5k’s and marathons. To get Baseball teams to wear blue circles and get NFL teams to put stickers on their helmets. We need corporate sponsors and cereal boxes.

So what can I do? Well, for starters, I need to get real. Diabetes is a bitch. My wife and I are exhausted. Raw. Run down. This disease affects so much more than our daughter’s health. Due to lack of sleep, and all that ensues from that, my wife and I are more prone to illness, migraines, accidents, and caffeine addiction (come on, smile!) I’m pretty sure the inventor of Red Bull is a type 1 parent. But we do what we need to do. The Walking Dead? Please. Let’s see them try to put that little tiny straw into that little tiny juice box hole at 1:36 am while you are dealing with a low. Think a zombie could figure out the combo bolus and carb count of fettuccine alfredo at Buca de Bepo? Please…

So I will continue to educate and advocate. We will be the loudest advocates for my daughter, fighting for everything she needs. Because no one else will. They don’t see the need. As an example, have you ever tried to take a state test while your BS is over 300? Ever try to just focus or concentrate at that level? It isn’t easy or fun for her. Most of our State testing starts by 9am. My daughter is still processing breakfast at 9am, and most often has a high BS. So we had to fight to get her an exemption on her 504 plan if her BS is over 250. (Also another fight just for the 504)

I can let you know exactly what happens. In a real families life. Trial, tribulations, triumphs. You get them all. And I can show you other families doing the same thing. And together, we can try to change the world. But we need your help to share what you learn. To educate. To advocate. To help right wrongs.

I will continue to let my daughter know that she can do ANYTHING she wants to. Skydive, scuba dive, become a Dr, a President, a vet, a pro football quarterback, or even win an Indy car race. I will continue to be her biggest supporter, her number 1 fan, and to provide a shoulder to lean on, a hug, and a kiss on the forehead when she isn’t feeling well. I will continue to bear the brunt of this disease. For awhile. And from some, but not all of it. She is a child, and I want her childhood to be filled with happy memories and fun. But she is also learning what it takes to care for this disease, to live with this disease, the risks of this disease.

When I hear things in the media that are false or a misrepresentation, I will speak out. Like I did here. And I will continue to provide email addresses and phone #’s when I can find them. I will continue to let you know what it’s really like in a type 1 household. Not because I hate it. But because I love my daughter. And I want her to be cured. And maybe by doing this, someone out there will make it their life’s ambition to cure type 1. I know you’re out there. I’m looking for you. And when I find you, I want to give you a hug and say “Thank you”.

Team Blackdogsrule

 

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3 Comments

  1. This is awesome ♥ Thanks for the inspiration to be a better advocate. ps. Black dogs really do rule. I have 2 of them that look identical to yours 🙂 I had to do a double take when I saw the photo at the top of your page!

    Caitlin
    http://www.caitlinsilovsky.com

  2. In tears! I hear you loud and clear and I am with you and your family in this fight! God bless Black Dogs Rule!!

  3. Hello! My dog’s trainer linked to your post about the trials of getting a service dog, and I was so intrigued that I dug deeper into this blog. Thank you for writing this. My mother and I have mixed blood pressure and hypoglycemia issues, and I actually said that at least people with diabetes get some press. I will happily lean forward so I can be smacked through the computer screen.
    Thank you for making me think about people with diabetes. I went to middle school with a girl who was Type 1, and she got so much flak for having special food everywhere she went. I never gave her crap, but I realize now that I wasn’t as good a friend to her as I thought, because I never really considered how much it would suck to have to test your sugar in between classes while the rest of us are only worried about getting our books and getting across the school in the three minutes before the next class begins, or having the school nurse walk you through the lunch line every day because your family wants that security that you will eat the right thing.
    She was the sweetest girl I went to school with, and her name is Adrienne. I feel like I understand her a little better now. Thank you for that, too.

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