Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (3)

Kerri Morrone-Sparling On dLife, Her Blog, And World Diabetes Day

Photo of Kerri Morrone-Sparling

Kerri Morrone-Sparling

Kerri Morrone-Sparling is a whirlwind of energy. Not only is she the founder of one of the first diabetes blogs on the Internet: SixUntilMe, but she has devoted her career to helping others with diabetes. She works full time at dLife.com, a delightful and practical diabetes website and community. Kerri recently offered me some Halloween survival tips for people with diabetes, and today I had the chance to interview her about her life, her work, and the meaning of World Diabetes Day.

**Listen to the Podcast**

I’ve summarized some of our talking points below for those who don’t wish to listen to the dulcet tones of two very friendly ladies dishing about diabetes.

Dr. Val: Tell me a little bit about your blog.

Kerri: My blog is called SixUntilMe and I started it in May of 2005. I was looking for other people like me who were living with diabetes and since I couldn’t find a community like that I decided to start one myself. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one – there were 2 or 3 other diabetes bloggers out there at the time, and now there are more than 250 of us.

Dr. Val: What does “six until me” mean?

Kerri: My diabetes started when I was six years old – I had a viral illness on my birthday which probably triggered an autoimmune response, causing the disease. My blog is about my diabetes – which started when I was six and is ongoing until now. So I called it “sixuntilme.”

Dr. Val: How are you involved in diabetes advocacy?

Kerri: I work for a diabetes media company, (dLife in Westport, Connecticut) so my entire day is built around reaching out to people with diabetes, trying to make a difference in their life, and connecting them with up-to-date health information. Since I grew up without knowing any other kids who had diabetes, this job is like the holy land. I mean, this whole company was built to help people like me.

Dr. Val: What are some of the worst diabetes myths and what do you have to say about them?

Kerri: First of all, most people don’t know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and to make matters worse, they believe that people “give themselves diabetes” by eating too much sugar. So they make it seem like it’s all our fault. Secondly, people often believe that insulin is the cure for diabetes. They don’t realize that a glucose meter, an insulin pump, or a continuous glucose monitor are just technology, not a cure. Sometimes people think there’s no need to donate to diabetes research anymore because these technologies are available. And finally, Halle Berry has promoted a myth that has done a lot of harm to the diabetes community. She claimed that she was able to wean herself off her insulin, and that other type 1 diabetics could do the same if they tried hard enough. Of course, that’s blatantly false.

Dr. Val: What’s your favorite new technology for diabetes management?

Kerri: My continuous glucose monitor (CGM). It doesn’t replace finger stick checks, but it helps you to see the trends in your blood sugar. For example, when you’re about to go to bed and you see that your glucose is 90, the CGM will give you some idea if that’s 90 on its way up, or 90 falling towards hypoglycemia, or 90 holding steady – you can go to bed and not worry about a thing. It’s like swinging on a trapeze only now I have a net.

Dr. Val: How does the machine work?

Kerri: It’s a small device that has a needle in it, and you stick it to a fleshier part of your body. There’s a small wire (introduced through the needle) that continuously samples the sugar level in your interstitial fluid. It’s easy to remove and should be rotated every 3-7 days.

Dr. Val: Is it painful?

Kerri: No, I don’t think so. I use the Dexcom Seven CGM. Occasionally I feel a little prick when I insert it but then I don’t even notice that I’m wearing it. Here’s a photo of me wearing it:

Dr. Val: Tell me about World Diabetes Day.

Kerri: It’s a global awareness campaign that was started in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation. The United Nations recognized the event for the first time in 2007. It’s a day that directs the world’s attention to diabetes and the epidemic its become and the effort it takes to manage it. On World Diabetes Day bloggers want to spread the word that diabetes is not an invisible disease. It affects lives every day, and it deserves the world’s attention.

Dr. Val: What’s the most important thing for Americans to know about diabetes?

Kerri: They need to know that diabetes is not cured by insulin, and it’s not going away without their help. It’s a very difficult disease to manage. No matter how well you control your sugar levels, the effects of the disease take their toll eventually, and the effects can be devastating. We must not ease up on our research efforts, especially when the numbers of people living with diabetes are growing exponentially.

References
www.diabeticfeed.com
http://the-bad-blog.blogspot.com/
http://www.diabetesdaily.com/johnson/

Kerri writes a column at dLife called Generation D (www.dlife.com/generation_d) and maintains a pretty extensive Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sixuntilme/.  And lastly, if you’d like to follow Kerri on Twitter, you can find her at www.twitter.com/sixuntilme.


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


3 Responses to “Kerri Morrone-Sparling On dLife, Her Blog, And World Diabetes Day”

  1. Bryan says:

    Deserved attention to an important day and an important problem

  2. Strong One says:

    I’m a fan of Kerri myself. Great blog article.

  3. MaxJerz says:

    Kerri’s done an awesome job raising awareness not only for the Diabetes community, but for all of us living with chronic illness.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

***

Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

Read more »

See all book reviews »