What can I do to make a difference

Today is Day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week and already it’s been amazing to read and share with our thriving #DOC. I feel completely inspired and in awe of the writing talent out there and if you are reading this, you guys are my diabetes heroes! Even though I was diagnosed 9 years ago I still feel like the new kid on the block when it comes to managing this disease. After yesterday’s topic,  I feel armed with a whole new arsenal of tools to manage my diabetes. Thank you!

Here’s today’s prompt…

 So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?

I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. I was born in Holland, grew up in the U.S and moved to Australia when I was 18. I can still remember the day I received my medicare card and my shock at how anything related to doctors and medical tests was free. While my siblings and parents complained about the costs of doctors and insurance in the States and worried about my health care, I told them not to worry. Australia isn’t called the lucky country for nothing.

That was when I was 18… things are definitely more costly now, but as my friend, Frank from Type 1 writes  just shared on his blog,

” If I have to have diabetes, then there’s no place I’d rather have it than in Australia.”

Living in Australia with Diabetes has been affordable and it’s one of the reasons I feel grateful to call it my home. But I do live and travel often to other countries and have come to realize that Insulin, test strips, needles and diabetes devices aren’t always on tap and don’t come gift-wrapped.

Recently I’ve been living in South Africa. It’s a land of contradictions with a huge disparity between the people who have and the people who have not. I’m basically a tourist here so not really part of the medical system but recently the harsh reality of what it’s like for the people here hit home.

A friend came for a visit and with her was Abongile.  Somehow it came up in conversation that I had type 1 diabetes. Abongile just happened to be a dietician in a clinic in Johannesburg for about 30 kids with type 1 diabetes. I was showing her my freestyle libre flash glucose monitor and how it worked. She was astonished. The kids she cares for and their parents can’t even afford the insulin they need to survive. Not only that, because there is no awareness of type 1 in the school system, the kids can’t take the risk of being on more than two shots a day. Apparently, hypos are a no go because the teachers don’t have the skills to respond appropriately. So all the kids in the clinic are on mixed insulin and do something called ‘carb blocking.’ They are allowed a certain number of carbs per day, based on the types of foods they eat. A packet of sweets is one block, a bag of potato chips another.

Healthy Life 5 | The Photo Forest

As a nutritionist, Abongile works hard to educate parents about the types of foods that are good to help the kids manage their levels. But some parents can’t even afford healthy fruits and vegetables. When I asked her if there was any money from the government to help the kids she laughed and shook her head. The one thing they have been able to achieve is to give each child a glucometer.

After speaking with Abongile I was completely floored and felt ashamed. How could I even consider complaining about the fact that the freestyle libre was $90 out of pocket, or that my favourite brand of test strips was on back order, or that I have to pay very little for a years supply of Insulin when these kids don’t even get to take the Insulin they need.

It immediately made me want to help. Before Abongile left I made sure I had her contact details I told her about an organization called Type 1 International which helps people get access to Insulin and medical supplies. I wrote a letter to one of the founders about the clinic and my meeting with Abongile. It felt good to put them in contact with each other and that somehow I could make a difference.

Abongile wrote back to me a few days later…

“Thank you very much for your quick connection with the T1 international on my hospital’s behalf. I am very grateful for your keeping to your word as well :). I will keep you updated with any/all positive developments for the clinic from the T1 foundation. “

Something I learned from my exchange with Abongile was that whatever we can do to help others have access to Insulin and diabetes-related supplies we must do. Whether it’s helping someone with less access, lobbying our governments, writing about it or networking to spread awareness.

Even the smallest action helps.

abongile

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

18 thoughts on “What can I do to make a difference

  1. Such a great post and reminder of how difficult it can be to get coverage – or even supplies in some places. I spoke at a conference once and met some diabetologists from Sudan. Their stories were incredible. Growing up diabetic, she was fortunate as her father was a diplomat and could bring her strips from Germany. Others, due to the expense could only afford to check themselves with a glucose monitor once a week! Once a week!! T1 International is just amazing. Thank you for reminding us why we need them.

  2. So wonderful that you were not only receptive to another’s experiences, but that you implemented a concrete action to do something about it. Inspiring stuff

  3. Wow! That’s so wrong! It makes me so sad for those 30 kids and so grateful that my son is in Australia. It’s a sorry inequitable world. Well done to you for being proactive! X

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I know we read about third-world countries and people not able to afford insulin but to hear a personal story like yours really hits home.

  5. Thank you so much for the shout out, Rachel! That method of carb counting and insulin sounds very old fashioned, which means we must be lucky. Do you find it hard being in South Africa, if you need supplies or a healthcare professional?

    • So far it’s been okay! There is a great GP in SA and the chemist has been sweet and discounting me my Lantus…I’m married to a South African now so once I have residency I can get insurance and then I guess I’ll know more about how it all works. For now, I take everything with me from Australia.

  6. Incredible. Thanks for sharing. It is hard to fathom. It does seem overwhelming to think about ways to help but sometimes making connections can make all the difference. Well done.

  7. T1International is such a great organization and I’m so happy you put them in touch with Abongile. I hope it brings some good to this heartbreaking story. it sounds like the children are still managing their diabetes in a similar way to how I did when I was diagnosed in 1979.

  8. It is shocking to witness the disparity between quality and access to care around the world… I really hope that T1 International is able to help. Thank you for sharing <3

  9. wonderful wonderful story – we must sit down one day in real life and talk, your experiences of life in different countries is fascinating and so valuable. Would love to keep updated about Abongile!

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