Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Secret Life of D's

I carry my diabetes with me throughout the work day, sometimes sharing it with patients and sometimes not. I pick and choose based upon whether or not I feel it will be beneficial.

As a physician still in the final leg of training to be an independent pediatric endocrinologist, everything I do has to be signed off by my superiors. I follow many patients that I consider "my own" and often pick up others that "belong" to my bosses.

Last week there was a particularly busy diabetes clinic, and I picked up a patient that I had not previously seen. I rushed from the patient before him and quickly scanned his medical chart for the pertinent information about his diabetes history. He was 6 years old, on Lantus and Humalog, and still honeymooning from his diagnosis only 6 months prior. It was noted in his chart that he has had a hard time coping with the diagnosis, which struck me as sad yet impressively mature for a child his age.

I swept into the room all smiles in an attempt to start the appointment on a positive note. I said hello to him, then to his mother and father sitting to either side of him. I introduced myself and my role, and assured them that their usual doctor would also be seeing them after me. His parents were polite but clearly exhausted, the stress of the previous 6 months weighing heavy on them. His mother was very attentive, his father just nodded without taking his eyes off of his cell phone. With my focus on the boy again, I asked him how he was doing. Not the diabetes, just him.

"But everything is diabetes," he said with sadness and an understanding that was beyond his years. "I don't really want to do it anymore." My heart ached at the sentiment, and I decided that this was an appropriate time to share my own.

"I understand that feeling. I wish you did not have to do it anymore, either. I feel that way sometimes, too, because I also have diabetes," I carefully explained.

His eyes widened in disbelief. He stayed quiet for a few moments and then shouted in disbelief "You have diabetes like me?!"

He studied me carefully, almost looking to see if there was something on me that he missed. Something that would have declared me as diabetic had he looked closer the first time.

He then pointed to his father and said, "My dad has diabetes, too! My mom is the only one here who doesn't!" His smile widened bigger than his amazed eyes.

Now it was my turn to be surprised. I turned to his father and our eyes met as he looked up from his cell phone. I smiled at him and looked back down at the chart. It was listed there: father with longstanding Type 1 Diabetes, with diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy. I caught myself thinking that I would have never guessed he had Type 1 despite knowing firsthand that diabetes is an invisible disease.

"Guess we're all in the D-Club together, huh?" I said to the boy.

"Haha, yeah! It's like a secret club!" he said with a giggle.

More insightful words from a very insightful little boy.


  1. Great post. Diabetes can be "invisible". Hope the 6yo does well!

  2. I love this post! It's interesting that the silent (heartbroken?) dad attends the appointments. I'd love to peek into his thoughts. Like your young patient, I LOVE that you have diabetes.

  3. Great post, but my god, diabetes is the worst, isn't it.

  4. Aww man. Good job! It really is the mental struggle that goes with the invisible isn't it?

  5. congratulations guys, quality information you have given!!! A1C Chart

  6. I remembered that both my grandfathers were diagnosed with diabetes, and both died due to complications. Because of this, It's highly likely that I might be diagnosed with it in the future, although I guess it depends on my lifestyle choices. It's sad to see that someone so young is already shackled by this illness, but I like how you've handled his anxiety. Anyway, your stories here as a doctor and your optimism has inspired me a lot and opened my eyes to the reality that even our doctors who care for us when we are ill are prone to the same ailments that we are vulnerable to. I admire your ability to relate to your patients in a personal way, and I hope there are a lot more doctors like you. Thank you very much!

    Steve Fischer @ arizonahealthinsuranceexperts.com

    1. A belated thank you for the kind words, Steve!

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