Over at the Great Orange Satan, I came across a post by a father of a type I diabetic (type I diabetes is an auto-immune disorder wherein a person can not produce insulin, and needs regular injections). To anyone who is familiar with type I diabetes, it’s terrifying: maintaining blood glucose ‘control’ (i.e., keeping blood glucose within the ‘normal’ range) is an integral part of your daily life. There is the possibility of having too much blood glucose (too little insulin), which, over the long term, is very bad for your health (the effects mimic those typically associated with type II diabetes)–in the short term, a sharp spike in blood glucose can lead to nausea, and, occasionally, hospitalization to stabilize the patient’s condition.
Having too little blood glucose (too much insulin) is even more life threatening, and can rapidly lead to starving the brain of oxygen (and this can happen over a very short time frame–a few hours). Worse, as the the symptoms get more severe, the diabetic will cease to think clearly and be unable to deal with the problem.
The point is that the ability to inject insulin and monitor its effects is critical. Which brings me to this open letter to President Obama (italics mine):
You’ve asked for my support. What am I supporting? I am not supporting the “Baucus Bill.” I will not support you blindly. I will not back off. I will confront those who seek to belittle and demean the value of a public option. You, Mr. President, have given me nothing to fight for.
The fight for me is personal. I have a thirteen year old daughter. When she was nine we learned she was a type 1 diabetic. Five years of pin pricks, of needle stabs and of counting carbs. At times not being able to share cake and ice cream at the birthday parties of friends. Five years of monthly disagreements with our insurance company over the numbers of needles, test strips. Last month I went to pick up her supplies and saw a note attached to a bag. “The insurance company will only allow four needles a day.”
Managing diabetes is about preventing future complications and a greater expense. My daughter’s Doctor had prescribed six needles per day. Each needle represents a meal, a snack or a correction. In effect the insurance company was saying to her you may eat four times a day.[*] Or, eat three and correct once. Well her Doctor believes in more and smaller meals. Tell me Mr. President who stands between her and her Doctor? Who has a concern for preventive care and maintenance? Why do I have to have this conversation month after month? Why does my policy increase nearly ten percent a year and some times more?
I know several type I diabetics, and all of them, to a greater or lesser extent, have had to fend off insurance companies who want to alter their regimens. Keep in mind, we are talking about the administration of a key hormone, one where screwing up said administration has severe consequences. What’s more infuriating is this response from a reader who offers some advice (italics mine):
When needles are so cheap…. I hate to say this, but you should check out a mail order pet veterinary supply house because they sell packaged sterile needles (for their vaccines or other animal needs) that are the exact same thing as are used on humans, only for dogs, cats, horses, etc.
I can’t believe I just had to type that.
There seems to be a lot of that going around.
*Because the pancreas of type I diabetics can not adjust their blood glucose levels at all, they often will eat small snacks to raise blood glucose levels (e.g., after physical exercise).