Earlier this week advice columnist Judith Martin, whose Miss Manners column is carried by more than 200 newspapers worldwide, responded to a reader’s question regarding whether or not those with diabetes should check their blood sugar in public settings. Her response was a column entitled “Do Diabetic Testing in Private” and included the following paragraph:
Absent an emergency, medical applications (like bodily functions and grooming) are properly done out of sight — meaning in private or in a restroom — unless they can be done so surreptitiously as to be unrecognizable as such.
As a father of a child with type 1 diabetes, I felt I needed to respond to her and, after writing, decided my message should be shared publicly with all of you.
Dear Miss Manners,
I read your recent response to the gentleman inquiring about testing his blood in public. While you are certainly entitled to your opinions, your response shows ignorance and lack of education about type one diabetes (T1D), as well as a lack of compassion for those living with T1D and their caretakers. As a father of a three and a half year old with T1D, I must say that I was completely appalled by your response.
My daughter, Isabella, was diagnosed with T1D in August 2012, just two weeks before her second birthday. She spent four long days in the hospital after her diagnosis while the doctors pumped her tiny body full of insulin. During that time the doctors and nurses educated us about type one diabetes, an autoimmune disease that we knew nothing about until that moment. We learned that had we not caught some of the symptoms early on, our daughter may have slipped into a coma or worse in a matter or days. We learned that our daughter’s life would never be the same. We also learned that we would have to check her blood glucose levels at least 8-10 times per day, count every carb that she consumes and give her insulin injections at least four times per day.
This became Isabella’s new “normal” life. What we know, and you likely do not, is that failure to closely monitor her glucose, properly count carbs or administer precise amounts of insulin could ultimately lead to our daughter’s death. Therefore, I view every single moment of every single day (awake and asleep) as an emergency. Our daughter’s life literally depends on frequent blood checks and insulin. We have always checked Isabella’s blood in public and administered insulin injections in public, as well. We have always taught Isabella that T1D is a part of her life and she should never be ashamed or embarrassed about it, nor ever let it define her. And, even at three and a half years old, she has embraced her diabetes, checks her own blood sugar and loves talking about her diabetes with anyone that will listen. We would never suggest that she stop doing any of those things because there is a chance that it might make others uncomfortable.
Isabella now wears an insulin pump that is physically attached to her body at all times. We are often asked about the device, which gives us an opportunity to educate others and raise awareness at the same time. I would never even think about covering it up simply so that no one else can see it (so they don’t become uncomfortable about my daughter’s diabetes, I suppose, according to your logic).
The reality is that Isabella is different than other kids, including her triplet brother and sister….however, we would never make her feel different and ashamed by hurrying her off to the restroom every time we have to check her blood sugar when we’re out in public. We believe it is extremely important that she is completely comfortable talking about her diabetes and the effects it has on her life, physically and emotionally, now at only three and a half years old and as she gets older.
We want Isabella to share her story with the world. As her parents, that’s exactly what we have been doing for the past year and a half and will continue to do so until a cure is found for our daughter and millions of others living with this terrible disease. I can assure you that observing a simple finger prick is nowhere near as uncomfortable as what my daughter and millions of others go through every day of their lives.
Your column only motivates us even more and reminds us that we still have a lot of work to do to educate others and raise awareness.