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Putting the “World” in World Diabetes Day.

November 4, 2007

First, some background:

I’ve known the co-founder of the Unite for Diabetes campaign, Clare Rosenfeld, since we were ridiculously precocious eight-year-olds attending Gales Creek Camp in Forest Grove, Oregon. Even back then, Clare was the most up-front, “this is my life and let me tell you about it” regarding diabetes as she is today. Because I have been friends with her for so long, I joined her in whatever crazy scheme she came up with to help others with diabetes.

In 2000, Clare founded the International Diabetes Youth Ambassadors, which was a program of Children With Diabetes to bring together children with diabetes from around the world to educate and find a cure. It was a great idea, and it did some good in its infancy, though I’m not sure if the members do anything currently. Listing our profiles, participating in online chats and exchanging emails about advocacy was pretty much our main activities, so I ended up “meeting” a lot of people with diabetes from other countries.

Early on in the program, one girl that I met through IDYA was Anja, a girl from Denmark who has gone on to become one of the most well-spoken and well-traveled diabetes advocates that I know. She is an International Diabetes Ambassador for IDF and she also sits on the Novo Nordisk Youth Panel as well as a few other organizations.

And this week, she is in the United States in preparation for next week’s World Diabetes Day.

We have exchanged dozens upon dozens of emails in the past seven years, but of course, being that she lives in Denmark, we never actually met. We’re friends on Facebook and regularly post silly comments on The Wall (Facebookers will know what I’m talking about).

Today, I finally met this young lady when I took the train into the city, along with her friend, Caitlin McEnery (haha, I almost typed McEnergy, which actually would be a much more appropriate surname!), one of JDRF’s leading advocates. We met up at the Corner Shop Cafe (thanks Kerri!) and spent a few hours browsing the shops in Soho.

As always, it was a terrific afternoon of blood sugar testing, comparisons of Symlin experiences and complaints about doctors who insist they know more than we do about our own bodies and what is best for us. We also chatted about the differences in between life in the United States and Denmark, and they shared stories from the International Diabetes Federation conference in South Africa last December. I feel like we get so caught up in America and the U.S. health system and the trial and tribulations that we have to deal with on a regular basis, but when you become a part of an organization that has such a far-reaching influence, it’s amazing to realize what people have to deal with on a regular basis – fighting to get access to even a glucose meter or one bottle of insulin that actually works or a doctor who even knows what diabetes is. Despite all the hardships we have dealing with our medical system and professionals – and believe me, I know how imperfect it is – I still feel blessed to know that I have access to the resources that I need because I live in a developed country.

It was great to finally meet two ladies who I have wanted to meet for such a long time. I can’t wait to meet more of the advocates when they start arriving next weekend, and I especially can’t wait for the big day! You can be sure that I’ll have a full report.

  1. November 5, 2007 1:27 AM

    thats cool you guys met, you are the queen of meeting people….EVEN IF THEY DONT WANT TO LOL

  2. Allison permalink*
    November 5, 2007 9:14 AM

    Well, it’s not like I *try* to meet diabetic people randomly! It’s not my fault if they didn’t want to meet me, it’s not like I have saw a little neon sign above their head that said “Diabetic!” As for the people I do make plans to meet, they always want to meet me. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to meet me? 😉

  3. November 5, 2007 10:24 AM

    You tell ’em girl. You’re the most meetable (new verb for you) girl around. On a serious note. I wonder if the health insurance system in Demark provides more choices and less concern (loss of insurance or too expensive)?

  4. November 6, 2007 11:24 AM

    Cool, you seem to have a fantastic ability to get to meet the “right” people, i.e., those that can and will make a difference 🙂

    As for RichW’s last question about health insurance in Denmark, I can tell you (Allison may already know this through conversations with Anja) that Danish citizens are entitled to health service – the universal kind that doesn’t require you to have specific insurances of your own. You can supplement the universal health insurance with a personal one, which will – despite the costs of the insurance – help you save money on medicine, dental treatments, glasses and other services related to your health. The economic burden of diabetes is probably also less for a Danish diabetic than for an American one. Type 1 diabetics have free (i.e. we don’t have to pay) access to test materials, needles, and whatever else needed to manage the disease (I think that a single municipality has put a loft on the number of test strips, but as far as I know this loft is not absolute if your doctor says otherwise). We have to pay for the insulin – and other medication that we might need – but we have a universal medical subvention, which operates for 12 month at the time, and then start all over again. In the beginning of this time period you will pay full price for your medication, but once your expenses reaches a certain sum, the subvention takes effect and increases with your expenses, from 50% to 85%. People with very large medical bills (above $660 or so, even after the subvention) might even get some of their medication for free (concessions for chronically ill people). For me the medical subvention – without any additional concessions – means that I pay something like 3,800 Dkr (approximately $ 630) of the approximately 12,000 Dkr ($ 2,000) for my medication (insulin, asthma- and allergy medication, thyroid hormone replacement + any additional prescriptions in case of other illness) throughout a year. When I started pumping last year, it didn’t cost me anything but the part of the prescription for insulin that the subvention didn’t cover. The pump, as well as all the supplies are covered by the hospital.

    I don’t know if our health insurance system is better than your, but I know that I would rather not switch 😉

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