I’m starting to feel that I chose my career because of I’m in awe of superheroes.
So, tell me, Reader…when did you last talk to a superhero? I mean, the real deal? And I mean superhero. Those with powers beyond human. Well, I work with superheroes every day.
As an employee of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), I have the unique opportunity to work for people who spend every minute working to save lives. And they have powers.
As an outreach manager, it’s my job to support these heroes in their super endeavors. So, I come to work, I learn something, I share what I’ve learned, I speak to groups, I speak to individuals, I host meetings, I go to meetings, I plan events, I execute events, I create materials, I get on the phone, I write countless emails, I go home and read, read, read. I read on managing type 1 diabetes, on clinical studies, on historical research data, on this and on that. What I read tends to repeat itself in different publications, but I still won’t remember everything I read. I read and try to keep everything locked and loaded for the next phone call or email from a superhero, but I can’t. And other things are starting to fall out of my head. I forgot my phone number the other day. See, I’m just human.
A parent of a child with type 1 diabetes is a superhero, and I have accumulated some hard evidence to prove this. First of all, they save lives. And not like a doctor or soldier saves lives. Every day they wake up and must save their child’s life. They must keep their child breathing every day. I can’t imagine how exhausting this is. And they don’t get vacations. They don’t even get sleep!! Diabetes (the villain) never sleeps! So parents can’t either. They don’t even get to rest at night. They gotta keep working.
And like superheroes, they get plot twists. Except, some fictional superheroes have the luxury of having a stupid arch-enemy, one who spills the plot and their whole evil scheme because they think they’ve won. Diabetes is a smart enemy. Parents are always guessing what diabetes will do next. And the formulas they have learned to battle diabetes with might not give them success all the time! Diabetes can hit them with its weapons of high and low blood sugars at any time no matter what they do! But they keep on working, adjusting their tactics. No matter what.
And these formulas! That is why they have superpowers. I have read all about carb ratios, and insulin sensitivity, and bolus doses and basal rates. I have read about all the factors that can attribute to high and low blood sugars. I read about effects and phenomenons. But to remember ALL the ratios, ALL the factors, ALL the rates, ALL the carb counts…AND…ALL AT ONCE?!?!? ALL THE TIME?!?!? Ya gotta have superpowers. I’m not just saying it because math and I don’t get along, I’m saying it because you seriously, have got to have superhuman capabilities.
So how can I work for superheroes who have superpowers? If I can provide them any weapons to use against the enemy, I’ll do it. The greatest weapon available is knowledge and each other, and both go hand in hand. Every family diagnosed needs a medical team to give them tools, to guide their moves and to teach them how to develop their powers. Then, superheroes need other superheroes to share trade secrets and to motivate each other. If I can bring superheroes together, or I can give them information they didn’t have before, I have done my job. But, parents shouldn’t have to have this burden of having to fight every day forever, and as a child is diagnosed in our JDRF Chapter every day, another parent must take that burden on. So, I will work to vanquish the enemy for good and throw weapons to our superheroes in the meantime.
Also, as cool as being a superhero may seem, they got their powers for awful reasons. An enemy attacked, and they had to either work at developing their own powers or lose what is most precious. So, these parents have had to learn things they would never wish for other parents. Like how to hold your young, newly diagnosed child tightly and in just the right way so they can’t squirm out of your embrace while you steady the needle and try to block out the pleas of “Don’t do it, please don’t do it, it hurts, it hurts.” Or looking at your teenager with weariness of heart in their eyes whisper under their breath, “You don’t get it ” all the while you pray they never, ever have experience your kind of fatigue. Your fear.
Just like Superman gets his strength back from the sun, so do parents get their strength from good days, from the successes. When their kid gets to play with their friends and enjoy a sport. When they ace that test! When they see their seven-year old show another kid how they test their blood sugar. “See, and then I put a drop of blood on here, and it tells me how much sugar I have! Cool, huh?” When they give themselves a shot or change a site by themselves. No tears. When parents witness how mature their child has become, how strong, they often tell me, “I don’t know how they do it! I know I couldn’t do it.” But I’ve figured it out, yes, me, the layman. These kids, wise beyond their years, are strong because like all kids, we emulate our parents. Parents DO do it. They live with diabetes every day and the strength they have as superheroes is copied by their kids. So superhero parents – they get it from YOU.
So, yep, I get to work for superheroes. It’s a pretty awesome job. Just yesterday I was on the phone with a superhero mom telling me how awesome her daughter is, and how strong she has become. I know I’ll never get it, I mean really get it. Unless sometime in the future a doctor comes out to the waiting room and tells me my child has type 1 diabetes, or tells me that I now have type 1 diabetes, I won’t truly understand this brand of superheroism. But, I’ll go home tonight, I’ll pick up one of two books I have on type 1 diabetes, one published in 1994 and one this last year and read up. Maybe I can find something of interest to superheroes.