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Making Discoveries About Type 1 Diabetes From Long-Term Survivors

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to live with type 1 diabetes 80 years ago. Insulin was a brand new and relatively untested drug, the only way to check blood sugar levels was by testing boiled urine, syringes had to be sterilized, and needles sharpened by hand. Couple those challenges with the common complications of diabetes—heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, and more—and life expectancy for someone with type 1 diabetes wasn’t that long.

Spencer M. Wallace, Jr., was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1931, at age 7. He’s now an active 87-year-old who plays golf several times a week. He isn’t alone as a long-term survivor. Since 1970, almost 3,500 men and women who have lived with the disease for a half century have been recognized by the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston with bronze 50-year medals. Forty-five of them Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Diabetes: When Being “No Worse” Means Progress

“Everything looks good.  No progress is good, actually.  Means your eyes haven’t deteriorated any further in the last five months.”  Dr S, my eye doctor at the Joslin Clinic, ran her fingers across the keyboard, typing notes into my online file.

“So it’s the same as back in November?  When I moved from mild to moderate retinopathy?”

“Right.  Still non-proliferative, but the same.  Not worse, by any stretch.  We’re working with a few spots, a very small bit of leakage, but nothing I’d recommend treatment for, other than watching it closely.”

I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.  The fluorescent bulbs in the room were bright and ricocheting off the white walls, making me feel like I was in an avalanche of light. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

How Will Healthcare Reform Affect Diabetes Care? Kerri Doesn’t Know What To Think

Two weeks ago, I was in Washington, DC with the Better Health team, listening to people talk about voting down government health care.

Last week, I was in Chicago at BlogHer, part of a lunch meeting with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison, listening to women at BlogHer talk about passing the government health care bill.

And I have now just entered the land of confusion.

Valerie Jarrett spoke with a room full of bloggers about health care, but she also listened.  She listened while women told their personal stories and she seemed to understand that health care situations aren’t as simple to solve as we’d like them to be. Women candidly told their stories and a few tears even slipped out.  But she listened intently.  And she said she wanted to give a voice to those who might not speak up for themselves.

“Often the people who need it the most don’t speak up because they don’t feel like they have a voice. Give the grass roots a voice, empower them, work together informing people within their communities. You can work to help them get their voice, get info that they don’t have.”

Valerie Jarrett

This lady is important.  Her cell phone rang several times during our lunch (it could have been THE PRESIDENT, for crying out loud) and she had her assistant take the call so she could focus on us.  She handed out her card and scheduled phone calls between some bloggers and her staff to help with the specific health issues that these bloggers were dealing with.  Sure, for them it was a matter of being in the right time at the right place, but she really listened.  I’ve never sat in a room before with a member of high political influence who paid attention to the people more than the information on her cell phone or in her planner.  (Maybe that means I’ve been in the room with the wrong politicians?)

It was a remarkable experience, and the room was electric with hope.

And now I’m even more confused about this health care issue.  I want insurance coverage, I want good coverage, but I don’t want to be excluded due to my pre-existing condition.  I can’t find a happy mental medium with this, but I know there has to be a way for people like me to find health coverage despite diabetes.

With that thought, I’m off to the Joslin Clinic in Boston, with my pregnant best friend in tow, to immerse myself in the best that health care has to offer.  And I hope that whatever decision made by our government leaves me with access to the people I need to help manage my care.

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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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…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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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…

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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…

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