I knew No One With Diabetes
My very first day as a student nurse was spent on a surgical ward. On that day I was given the opportunity & privilege to nurse six patients. Every one of them had diabetes………….and all of them were there because they had lower limb amputations due to complications of their diabetes.
I had never heard or paid much attention to diabetes prior to that. I knew no one with diabetes growing up, I didn’t understand it, I didn’t even know what it was if I am honest. I asked the staff nurse mentoring me to tell me more about it. She gave me a clinical book to read, sent me to the nurses desk when we were finished our rounds and I began to learn and understand more about diabetes and its effects on the body. As I pored over the words,a sentence hit me hard and resonated with me and still stays with me to this very day…..’All complications of diabetes are avoidable and preventable’.
Over the coming weeks I got to know these six patients very well. I might not be able to remember their names, but nearly 18 years later, I can still see their faces. I saw how diabetes had ravaged and devastated their bodies and became a game changer in their lives, and that of their families. I was frightened of diabetes and as I progressed through my nursing training I began to see more and more of the complications of diabetes. It was enough to make anyone run for the hills. I wondered how something ‘avoidable’ and ‘preventable’ could just be allowed to take hold, how could this happen? How could anyone let diabetes do this to them?
I saw the same faces coming back into hospital time and time again with their diabetes. I got to know them very well, and how it was so wrong of me to just isolate diabetes on its own and blame that for all the problems. By getting to know the same faces, listening to their story, it was almost as if they became members of your own family. I loved that sense of familiarity and trust that emerged and the relationships that were built on that. It is very rare in nursing that you can develop that with patients and their families and I knew this was the field I wanted to work in. I knew this is where I could make a difference.
The Missing Link
The more I learnt, the more I realized diabetes was multi-layered, complex and required a holistic approach. How are people meant to manage diabetes, without being given the tools to do just that? And I began to see the missing link in the system.
The more I began to understand, the more intrigued and fascinated I became about diabetes. And I realized that no one intentionally lets diabetes run a muck in their lives or wants to cause complications on themselves. I also realized that there is no amount of medications, insulin and therapies that are going to prevent diabetes complications in isolation.
It became glaring obvious to me that education, knowledge and empowerment was key, and that was my own personal game changer. I knew that I would be of no purpose as a nurse just looking after diabetes complications. I wanted to be involved in that very sentence I read first day as a student nurse….I wanted to help in preventing and avoiding these complications.
And hence the journey began for me to enter into the field of diabetes self-management education(DSME) and subsequently founding Diabetes Insight. The further I went along this journey, the more passionate I have become about the role of DSME. I have dedicated my life to it. Eighteen years after reading that book, I absolutely love what I do, I love working in the field of diabetes education and with people with diabetes. I have to say I love diabetes, it has changed my life.
Diabetes has introduced me to the most wonderful people, many now who are my friends. I have worked with some of the top people in the field of endocrinology and studied in one of the worlds most renowned universities for diabetes education. I have done and achieved things I have never thought possible, all because of diabetes.
Every day, in some way I get to help and support people with diabetes, no matter what stage of their diabetes journey they are at. I believe in the role of diabetes education, but I passionately believe in the role of patient empowerment, coaching and health literacy within diabetes education. I have studied all these approaches in-dept and integrated them into what is now Diabetes Insight. That is what I believe makes Diabetes Insights approach to diabetes education unique in its own right, and fortunately for those who have utilized the services that we provide, can testify to this.
No One ‘Loves’ Having Diabetes
So why I don’t think or presume for one minute that anyone who has diabetes truly loves having it. I am blessed and privileged to say that I love my job and I love what I do. But I know this is easy for me to say this when I don’t have it. But what good would I be in helping people with diabetes, if I didn’t love what I do?
I have seen the sometimes devastating and tragic impact having diabetes can have. I have lost some wonderful, beautiful clients to diabetes throughout the years. Thankfully with advances in diabetes care and management, this is becoming less and less, and I would like to think that somewhere diabetes education and a service like Diabetes Insight might be having an impact in reducing this. I might not like what having uncontrolled diabetes does to people, my clients, my friends, but I hope that my passion and love for knowing the benefits and influence of having support, knowledge and self-power over diabetes might help lessen the every day challenges of living with it somewhat.
My hope for the future, is that the vital and unique role of DSME and a service such as Diabetes Insight in the management of diabetes will be recognized, appreciated and valued more and more. And for those living with diabetes my wish is that they will enjoy a world free from the fear of diabetes complications and possibly someday, free from diabetes altogether.