It’s D-Blog Week this week, an online “rally” of sorts in which D-bloggers near and far write their personal responses to prompts created by the unflappable Karen from Bittersweet Diabetic. Today is Letter Writing Day:
“In February the Wego Blog Carnival asked participants to write letters to their condition. You can write a letter to diabetes if you’d like, but we can also take it one step further. How about writing a letter to a fictional (or not so fictional) endocrinologist telling the doctor what you love (or not) about them. How about a letter to a pretend (or again, not so pretend) meter or pump company telling them of the device of your dreams?” (and so on…)
Simple. I decided to write a letter to my first diabetes doctor, Dr. James Hansen, who was a pediatric endocrinologist at Emanuel Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
Dear Dr. Hansen,
It has been almost eight years since you passed away.
A lot has happened in eight years, yet at the same time, I feel like not a whole lot has changed. There’s still no cure for diabetes. We’re still trying to figure out how to make decent technology for patients. We’re still trying to figure out how to use stem cells to cure diseases. We’re still trying to figure out what causes diabetes. We’re still trying to figure out how to get everyone on the same page. Some things never change.
I was 17 years old when you passed away. I was just about to graduate from high school, and I had been on the insulin pump for almost three years. Now I’m almost 26, I’m getting married in two months, and there’s this new little gadget I’m clamoring to get on called a continuous glucose monitoring system.
I have a feeling that if you could see a CGM, you would be stoked. You wanted me on an insulin pump even before I did! You were always into gadgetry and tech and data. You would have been a perfect judge for the DiabetesMine Design Challenge. You were always raising the bar with your expectations, yet you were also realistic. You were calm about diabetes, reasonable.
I remember the night I was admitted into the hospital. I clearly remember laying in the hospital bed, after vomiting all over myself and the nurse. I didn’t feel so hot. My mom was on my left, and my dad was on my right, and you were standing at the foot of the bed, explaining to us what the hell had just happened. I’m afraid I don’t remember a word you said.
I remember a lot of what you did, though. I remember you drawing me a diagram of how insulin works on a piece of paper at one of my appointments. I wasn’t fully managing my diabetes on my own yet, yet you always talked to me as if I were the most important person in the room. And I suppose I was. I remember your light touch when you check my thyroid glands and how you humored me when I laughed at seeing the “freeway” of blood vessels in my eyes. I thought that was the coolest. I remember how you never raised your voice, and how even when we had to wait over an hour for our appointment, my mom and I never really cared. We knew it was because you gave your patients the exact amount of time they needed, and you wouldn’t rush us just because you were running late.
I remember how you always asked me if I had any questions at the end of our appointments. I always felt a little sheepish when I didn’t. I guess you had the expectations that I should be an engaged patient, even if I was only 12 years old. I like to think I’m getting better at it. You would be all over this e-patient stuff, and I’m pretty sure you would have more Twitter followers than me.
I remember how devastated I was when you were diagnosed with colon cancer. I remember how the staff and every patient I came in contact with would share updates about how you were doing. We wanted you back so badly.
I remember when you did come back, for a short time. I had already moved on to a different doctor, a female doctor, who was also great. She was a girl so she got all that “girly stuff” that I probably would have been too embarrassed to talk to you about.
I remember interviewing you for my very first diabetes website, CureNow. I think I interviewed you about Lantus. Do you remember that? It seems funny now that Lantus would have been such a big freaking deal, but it was. Sayonara NPH! I dragged in this enormous tape recorder from my high school so I could record our interview. So old school. I’m still writing about diabetes, actually, although we’re slightly more hi-tech these days. I’m kind of gunning for an iPad. Man, you would love the iPad.
I remember when I found out that you had died. My mother told me, after someone had told her. There are no words to describe how crushed we were. ‘One of the good ones,’ my mom said. You were one of the good ones, and now you were gone. I went to your memorial. It was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I don’t think I have ever been so sad.
You’ve set the bar high for doctors, though I’ll admit that I’ve been pretty lucky in scoring some awesome physicians. But nobody quite compares to you. Nobody has made me feel as empowered as you did. Nobody has made me feel that I was going to be just fine quite like you. You made me feel like I could do this. And now I am doing this. I’m doing this because you showed me how.
I don’t know what the afterlife is like, or whether there’s a heaven, though I hope there is and that you’re there. And if so, on the off-chance that you happen to run into Dr. Banting, give him a high-five for me, will ya?
Your Loyal Patient,