One of my favorite things about being engaged to a healthcare provider is getting to hear front-line medical stories from Jacob and his other Physician Assistant friends. (As a side note, he has a lot of Physician Assistant friends. When we hang out with this crew, I always feel extremely safe because I’m surrounded by medical providers). I love hearing about wacky patient stories, heartwarming patient stories, and especially, diabetes patient stories. It’s always fascinating to me to get the provider’s side of the interaction.
A few days ago, a PA friend of Jacob’s came to visit and related a troubling story. A woman was admitted to his hospital for a severe foot infection. She was middle-aged with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes and severely overweight. Because of the severity of the infection, she unfortunately lost a foot that day. She was counseled about her diabetes, and told that the amputation was a direct result of the disease being uncontrolled. This story is already tragic enough right there.
And then this happens: Our friend came to check on her while making rounds and found out that she had been in an argument with a nurse because she tried to order cake from from the dining service and had been denied because it wasn’t part of her hospital meal plan. She’d thrown a fit for being denied the sweet treat.
Let me now segue in to the part of this post where I explain why I’m telling this story. This is not a blame post. This is not about making fun of someone ordering “bad food” and being a “bad diabetic.” This post is about wondering where on earth a disconnect so large can come from. The immediate question is how in the world could a person who has just had a foot removed due to diabetes try to order the worst food possible for her disease?
Is it because she truly does not understand the relationship between carbs and blood sugar?
Is it because she does not truly believe that her foot was amputated directly because of diabetes?
Is it because she lacked the mental capacity to make the connection?
Is it because she was so depressed about losing her foot that she wanted a comfort food to cheer her up?
Is it because just about everyone in her family has suffered a diabetic complication and she sees this is part of getting older?
Is it because everyone in her rural town is overweight, and many of them also have diabetes?
Is it because she just doesn’t care anymore and figures it’s all downhill from here and she should just give up?
Is it because she’s been eating so poorly from the fast food restaurants that dominate her rural town for so long that she doesn’t even know what healthy food is anymore?
Is it because she never received any diabetes education upon diagnosis and never understood how to improve her diet for her health?
It may be that one of these or several of these questions is the reason this particular woman had such a large disconnect. But the fact is that ALL of these questions are the reasons why America is slowly killing itself with with diabetes. Until everyone truly understands that having diabetes isn’t just “a touch of the sugar,” or something only your grandma had, we will continue paying the price in complications, hospital time, missed work, and missed years. Yes, it starts with education, but those who need the education the most are the least likely to receive it. And until that changes, the disconnect will continue.