According to Facebook, it is National D-Blog Day, so in the spirit of blogging, I write. For those of you who have read other postings, you know that I do not have diabetes or a child with type 1 diabetes. I have many other connections and a WordPress account, so here I go.
I usually only write when something hits me. Or moves me. Writing right now will take some digging, so what has happened lately on the diabetes front lately in my life that I can blog about?
Well, our JDRF Chapter last Saturday completed four Walk Days in two weeks. “Walk” as we call it (short for the Walk to Cure Diabetes), is a year-long job for those who manage it (special event staff). As a former Special Events Coordinator for JDRF, I can tell you that we had maybe an afternoon and a day where we weren’t working somehow on Walk. It was the moment after the Walk when we knew we would be free to actually leave the site until the next Monday. So, I LOVE special events staff, because my last two Walks didn’t have me as a planner, just a helper.
For those of you who know me, you know me to be transparent and honest, and I will say that I have never walked the route. I work the events, so I can’t. Six Walks, and not one lap. Quite frankly, I think it would be boring. Before you retort, I’m talking about the actual walking in a circle (sometimes twice), NOT the event. Walking is not about walking. Sure, you get some exercise and a slight tan, but Walk Day is about seeing all the people there that support a cure and support each other. Also, even though I do 10 miles a day on an elliptical, I am not physically fit with other types of exertion, really. The last event in which I literally walked was for the American Heart Association. It was a great route, but had hills. So, I kept pace with a pug. And we all know pugs have respiratory issues! Yeah, the pug beat me. I knew a couple of his snorts at the finish were meant for me. But whatever, you know, I’ve moved on.
Walk Day for me means having at least one conversation to make all the loading and unloading worth it. Every year, I look forward to seeing my friends and just seeing all the people, but I look forward most to that one conversation. I was at two Walks this year, Glendale and Tucson. In Glendale, I had an in-depth conversation with a mother interested in why we raise money through the Walk – research. She had good questions, and I was motivated by the fact that she equated Walk with not only a public showing of support but as a way to move forward with research! We discussed our progress, and I saw her eyebrows go up. That is an awesome moment. In Tucson, I met a family from a rural part of the state, and they shyly came up to the JDRF table looking for ways to find other families. I provided them information, and we talked about how their lives had changed since diagnosis. This was their first Walk, and they were newly diagnosed. The mother with tears in her eyes said that she had felt so alone in this. For those of you reading this blog, you know there are tons of ways to get connected online and also in your community, and to be the person that handed her this knowledge that contained the hope of people to share this with is a great honor and privilege.
Last year a family grabbed me as people were starting to leave. The father had tears after the event. He took my hand in both of his and said, “God Bless you for what you do.” I told him it wasn’t me, it was him. He was doing this for his daughter. I’m just staff support. Last year also gave me a sweet and sad conversation. For the previous three years, my branch manager and I would work the event until everyone was gone and then recap with our logistics chairs and then just sit there and talk. By that time, we would be numb, thinking about chocolate and aloe vera baths. Last year we leaned against my car and talked about my future, knowing it would be my last Walk working with the Branch. I don’t even remember all that we talked about, but only that it felt really good to talk, and I felt really sad that it wouldn’t be the two of us having this talk in the same after-Walk moment.
In 2006, my first Walk terrified me. Adrenaline flooded my body for 9 hours straight. All I knew was that I had a walkie-talkie and after a few months of office work and meetings, I had to move all our volunteers to where they needed to be. Everyone was so nice to me, but I was just out of college and totally unprepared. I was dizzy, and did not want to repeat it next year. I think it’s kind of funny when I get asked if I want a cure soon as a JDRF staff member who receives a pay check for working events like these. Walk Days are fun, Walk is not. It’s work. For anyone who had a school or work project that took a majority of your time, all your energy, all your talents and never seemed to end…that is kind of what Walk is like. Except this one doesn’t end. Until a cure is found or you quit your job. But the JDRF staff who take it to heart that people are waiting won’t quit until a cure is found. So, we work the Walk. A JDRF staff member who does leave a paid position usually reappears as a volunteer, and guess where we put them – WALK. As a Walker myself, I know how hard it is to raise money (ach, don’t look at my Walker page unless you want to donate, I fundraise over Christmas). Every year, I register, I dedicate my fundraising page to Dad. Dad was diagnosed with type 2 over 20 years ago. He had a major heart attack a couple of years ago, but was saved by the grace of God and an emergency angioplasty. His heart attack was a direct complication of his diabetes. Early in the morning, Dad gave up trying to sleep and told Mom to call the hospital because the crushing pain and shortness of breath was just too bad. Mom called me as I was on my way to a grant workshop and told me to not freak out, but Dad was being airlifted for tests. Not being a complete idiot, I drove to the Heart Hospital just as a chopper was landing. I parked my car and ran up to the tarmac. Dad came out on a gurney and was placed on a golf cart. He was gray in the face and foaming at the mouth. His eyes were rolling around. He was in a great deal of pain, and the morphine was not doing anything. I jumped up on a seat, without an invitation from the paramedics. They rushed him in, and I ran behind, again without invitation. In a hospital room he was met with nurses and a doctor. That’s when my lack of invitation got me in trouble. I was ushered out of the room with my father’s things. His watch, his wallet. I grabbed a paramedic leaving the room by the shoulders. I was taller than she was, so stopping her by force wasn’t difficult. She told me to wait, but I didn’t let go of her shoulders. She looked back at the room and then at me, and told me that they don’t know anything yet, but that he did have a heart attack, and it could mean an emergency procedure or emergency triple bypass, and that is what they were discussing. I let her go, and sat outside his room, clutching his things. I prayed and gave it to God. I trust in Him, but for myself felt completely helpless. Awful feeling to have. I didn’t have a medical degree. I am just a daughter, his kid. For Dad, I can’t put on a lab coat, but I can put on a Walk shirt. I know Dad is more likely to have another heart attack or stroke now. I know that diabetes caused his nerve damage, and threatens his kidneys and sight. I also know that these complications are targeted for research. Reverse and prevent. Reverse and prevent! Through my efforts as a Walker, I can be a small part of ensuring that Dad dances at my wedding, that he isn’t held back by diabetes. Parents of kids with type 1 and other type 3s don’t want that kind of hospital story, they may already have some behind them. The helpless feeling that diabetes cannot be controlled, only managed, takes away the power you yearn for when threatened by chronic illness. A piece of that empowerment can be found through Walk. Whether or not you walk at all.