LifeAfterDx--Diabetes Uncensored

A internet journal from one of the first T1 Diabetics to use continuous glucose monitoring. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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Location: New Mexico, United States

Hi! I’m William “Lee” Dubois (called either Wil or Lee, depending what part of the internet you’re on). I’m a diabetes columnist and the author of four books about diabetes that have collectively won 16 national and international book awards. (Hey, if you can’t brag about yourself on your own blog, where can you??) I have the great good fortune to pen the edgy Dear Abby-style advice column every Saturday at Diabetes Mine; write the Diabetes Simplified column for dLife; and am one of the ShareCare diabetes experts. My work also appears in Diabetic Living and Diabetes Self-Management magazines. In addition to writing, I’ve spent the last half-dozen years running the diabetes education program for a rural non-profit clinic in the mountains of New Mexico. Don’t worry, I’ll get some rest after the cure. LifeAfterDx is my personal home base, where I get to say what and how I feel about diabetes and… you know… life, free from the red pens of editors (all of whom I adore, of course!).

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Us and Them

The endos are all staying at the Sheraton Downtown. I, however, am twenty-two blocks away. At the Motel 6. On the south side of the motel is the railroad track. Every night freight trains rumble through, setting off all the car alarms in the neighborhood. On the east side of the motel is the threshold of runway 08 of the Phoenix Sky Harbor international airport. The deep-throated roar of airplanes is not quite constant, but close to it. That’s OK. I like airplanes. Just to the north of my motel is an abandoned building that used to belong to a physic. She’s now out of business.

Funny. You’d think she would’ve seen it coming.

But this gulf in geography turned out to be the least of the differences between me and the endos. You see, silly me, I always thought that physicians were supposed to love their patients and hate the diseases that plague them, not the other way around. But as I learned this week the endos, as a group, love diabetes and hate us.

That’s the number one take-home message I got covering the 22nd annual scientific and clinical congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in Phoenix for Diabetes Mine.

What I saw at the convention, time and time again, was a deep fascination with anything that had to do with any scientific aspect of the disease, accompanied by a very short attention span for anything that had to do with patients.

Some of it you have to expect. Of course they get swept up in the excitement of the mysterious underpinnings of the disease process. One researcher was showing us images of microscope slides taken from the pancreas of a 12-year-old boy who died of DKA. The scientist was thrilled because the pancreas had been removed and frozen right after the boy died, giving a snapshot of raging onset diabetes at its dark nadir. The clinicians were equally enthusiastic.

I was appalled.

No one, not one of them, expressed the slightest thought about—or awareness of—the human tragedy behind this pathology sample. A shattered family. A young life cut short. No word of thanks was spoken to the parents who donated the organ in the face of this great tragedy, no doubt in the hope that their nightmare wouldn’t be repeated for other parents.

From surgeons, I would expect no better. Surgeons are cold fish, almost always. But from endos, who see their patients again and again for years and years, I expected better.

But cold, distant, uncaring docs—or ones swept up in the intellectual excitement of the latest genetic research—I could probably have tolerated. What really disappointed me was the way they talked about us. Frankly, they acted like diabetes educators. They made snide jokes about their patients, complained bitterly about us, blamed us for all their failures, showed no sympathy or understanding for what it’s like to live with this disease, and spent a lot of time basically just dissin’ people with diabetes. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a whole week with such a big group of anti-diabetic whiners in my life.

Towards the end of the conference, I was offered a free ticket to the “gala ball” and dinner. I passed. Company like that I can do without. I drove back across town and spent my evening alone in my dingy little motel room.

With the rumbling of trains and the roaring of planes for company.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised by that attitude at all. Recently, while waiting in the ER with my mother, I overheard much the same line by a couple of ER docs & some nurses, laughing about the subject and passing ill-informed comments. I still debate with myself (as a T1) if I should have said something to the lot of them. I sure hope I never present as DKA in that ER.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...

Boy Wil, you really are a cynical son-of-a-... Were we at the same conference?

For what it's worth, I'll be the first to admit I'm tainted by my optimism and perhaps don't see things the way I should see them, but I didn't take that much animosity away from the meeting.

At least between the two of us there is a good balance, right?

With love,

Scott "Cumbaya" Johnson

11:31 AM  
Blogger Scott E said...

Just playing devils' advocate for a minute here... I think that, at times, doctors need to distance themselves emotionally from their work. It allows them to be more analytical, and at the same time reduces the risk of burnout from repeated depressing stories.

11:59 AM  

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