For the purposes of ego inflation, I like to think I am special. Most people are in some way. But is it a good thing to be seen as special just because of my broken pancreas?
Having experienced the thrill, excitement and reassurance of attending events for kids with diabetes, both as a pancreatically challenged child and now as a slightly over emotional adult I have a blinkered view of these events. I love them. But has my overwhelming enthusiasm blinded me to the risks of these events?
Neville raved about the East of England Paediatric Diabetes Games the other week. He’s a very sensible dog and I agreed with every word he wrote. But over on Facebook, one of our readers didn’t. We like it when people do that, it does us good to be knocked off our internet based soapbox every now and again.
She made an interesting point. By holding special games for diabetic kids, are we sending a message to the world that they’re different? That they can’t compete on an equal footing with the pancreatically privileged? Are we doing these kids a disservice by making them out to be special? Poor Jimmy needs 4 injections a day to stay alive and if we don’t count his breakfast carbs correctly he’ll keel over halfway through the 800m or may even attack you with his javelin. Best for all concerned that we let the diabetics play together. And don’t ever pick one for your school sports team, they’re a liability. I mean, look at Sir Steve Redgrave and Gary Mabbutt, what did they ever achieve?
None of this had ever crossed my mind. To me these events are a massive learning and confidence building opportunity, wrapped up in a thick layer of fun. For kids and parents wary of walking the insulin/exercise tightrope it’s a chance to experiment in a safe environment, to swap tips and to be inspired by what others in your situation can do.
But the press always cover these events by talking in a slightly patronising manner about how brave these children are. Normally with an over-dressed reporter standing in the rain looking frankly amazed that such sick children can even make it out of bed in a morning, never mind run round a track. Doesn’t that undo all the campaigning we do protesting that diabetics can do anything because we will master that delinquent pancreas rather than be controlled and defined by it?
This is where we get into the territory of how hard it is to please a diabetic . We want you to know that diabetes is serious, we need you to dip into your pockets and fill the bottomless research and support coffers. But we also need you to know that we can do pretty much anything we set our minds to. And we really need diabetic kids to think that so that they’ll grow up confident and ready to take over the world.
So, you’ll be surprised to hear that I still come out massively in favour of “special” events. I can see the risk of making it look like diabetics can’t compete on a level playing field, which I hadn’t even considered before. But I think it’s a risk worth taking. Because the benefits of these events are so significant for the people involved.
What do you think?