Last year’s World Diabetes Day post honored those we have lost too soon due to insulin access issues, kicking off the tradition of a bittersweet yet necessary memorial. Let’s take a moment to honor those names again, as well as additions to the list, for WDD 2018:
- Alec Raeshawn Smith (26 years old; USA)
- Shane Patrick Boyle (48 years old; USA)
- Kevin Houdeshell (36 years old; USA)
- Antavia Worsham (22 years old; USA)
- Larry San Nicolas (60 years old; Army Veteran from Guam)*
- Others worldwide whose names we do not know
*Stars indicate new names added to this year’s WDD blog
I know that my list this year is not fully extensive. While I have seen some news articles about insulin access deaths over the past 12 months, I admittedly do not know every name, nor many relevant details of each story. It is not my prerogative to add further pain to families who have lost loved ones by hypothesizing here. That said, if you have applicable names which you wish to add to our memorial, please contact me and we can update the list accordingly.
On World Diabetes Day 2018, I consider two main points:
- It remains unconscionable that there is no cure for diabetes. Don’t ever expect me to be quiet about it. 😉 We deserve a better world free from diabetes.
- Mostly, though, I reflect on this headline: Sword-wielding Grandview man killed by police may have needed insulin
I’d argue a more accurate headline would read: DISCONNECTED HEALTHCARE SYSTEM CONTRIBUTES TO YET ANOTHER PREMATURE DEATH OF A KIND PERSON WITH DIABETES
I look at the picture of Mr. Nicolas included in the news link above, and I see a human being. I see a person with diabetes. I see one of us.
I see a healthcare system that failed someone who sacrificed for us- a Veteran. Although there is an ongoing, polarized debate about police training in our country, I do not write this blog to fuel that discourse. I imagine outcomes like Mr. Nicolas’ case are always excruciating, no matter the perspective. As a general rule, I do not speculate on others’ mental health, so that won’t happen in this blog, either. The story speaks for itself, loudly and clearly.
When this article first circulated on Twitter, I noticed some bold commentary- the usual, “That could never be me or my loved one!” rationalization game that we all use to appease our own emotions from time to time.
“I’d never own one sword. Never mind two!”
“My blood sugar doesn’t get that out of whack!”
And the infamous, “Just get your insulin at Walmart, Susan!”
Ahem. Our “privilege goggles” have fogged our points of view again. Let’s get real: This could be any of us given the perfect storm of social determinants of health (SDOH) and circumstance. If not for our respective privileges of race, socioeconomic status, diabetes industry ties, psychosocial history, luck- whatever it may be- we very easily could be or could have been in Mr. Nicolas’ shoes, with swords in our hands, begging for our lives in the only conceivable remaining way.
Reflect on the worst low blood sugar of your life, when you were completely disoriented, slobbering on a jelly donut while the room spun in circles. Or, perhaps, remember when you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), with a blood sugar of approximately 903 mg/dL. Scientifically-speaking, our brains were affected in both of those scenarios. We were not thinking clearly. We were desperate for help, and health, and relief.
Alas, when I look at Mr. Nicolas’ picture in the sword-wielding news article, I don’t see a man who was having a great day and picked up two swords for the heck of threatening others. I see a man who had to wield swords in order to be heard, for a moment in time. Without being able to obtain insulin, he was going to die. The tragedy is that before our society offered proactive help- affordable, accessible healthcare; emotional support resources; compassion rather than judgment- Mr. Nicolas’ life was lost too early.
How very much work we have left to do.
My prayers are with those missing loved ones gone too soon, all for reasons circling back to healthcare access. The numbers and the stories are too many over the years. The grief is overwhelming every time. By renewing attention to Mr. Nicolas’ story today, I do not intend to refresh the anguish of his family and friends. Rather, I want them to know that they have someone in their corner who believes them, and a world full of diabetes advocates who echo their passion to enact meaningful change.
May we continue to think of you and honor your stories, on World Diabetes Day and in all advocacy ventures going forward.