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Language Barriers.

July 23, 2008

Did you know that you can’t get an insulin pump in Portugal?

I learned this from a nice lady from Luxembourg during the CWD Friends for Life International Reception this afternoon.

It reminded me of something else that I learned last Saturday while attending a BlogHer session on Global Perspectives. The session at BlogHer was a panel of women from different countries who all blogged: a lady from Germany, a lady from England, a lady from Colombia and an American ex-pat living in England. There were also several women in the audience, including one who wrote about being an American in Paris. The discussion was on how their different languages and different perspectives has an impact on their audience. Obviously, the Internet is accessible by many different countries with varying cultures, political perspectives and technological capabilities. It was interesting hearing how having a global audience affects their ability to talk about things that they go through. The woman from England talked about how sometimes she wasn’t sure how much detail she should give for a certain place or event. She didn’t want to assume too much but she also didn’t want to patronize her English audience or her educated, international audience who may not need a lecture.

I thought about all the times that I have discussed things about my life with diabetes – well, my life in general, actually – without really giving much thought as to whether or not the person reading this actually knows what I’m talking about. I talk about people, places and things like everyone under the sun knows what I’m talking about. But then I realize that not everyone in my audience is from America and has the same understanding of our health care system, the products that I have access to or even where I am at a given point in time.

I know there are people reading this who are from Europe, South America and Asia and I’m sure lots of other places that I’m not even aware of. This mother of a young daughter told me that they had to fight to get her on an insulin pump in Luxembourg and then followed that up by telling us that in some countries, like Portugal, you can’t even get an insulin pump. It really made me think about how I view my life with diabetes. While this certainly doesn’t mean that we should fight less for a continous glucose monitor, it reminded me of how lucky I am to live in a rather forward thinking country and the home all of these pharmaceutical companies who really are trying to make my life better. Not perfect, mind you, but better than it was before. And to think that there are even more countries where access to insulin is so limited, it really puts a new perspective on how you view the global diabetes crisis.

Diabetes is a global disease. It doesn’t care where you live or what language you speak or who you voted for. It gives no forethought to who you are. It strikes and that’s it. But despite the fact this disease is global and affects people in much the same way, we still have such difficulty in managing it in a uniform way. There are doctors who still don’t truly understand it and that’s why education in our community through places like TuDiabetes and the Children with Diabetes conferences is so important.

We may not speak the same language and we may not have the same access to technology, but we are still dealing with the same disease. On the surface we have very different lives but I want to do my best to educate people about diabetes and living successfully with this illness no matter where we live.

Emotions are a universal language. Everyone needs to feel cared for, supported and loved. No one, no matter where you are, should feel alone. I may not be able to explain diabetes in a way that everyone can understand but everyone knows what a hug means. So here is my virtual hug to the world. I’m with you. Forever.

  1. July 24, 2008 10:36 AM

    We met at BlogHer but I don’t seem to have any photos of us together, darn it! If you want to see the photoset, it’s at And if you do find a photo of us together, please let me know!

  2. July 24, 2008 5:02 PM

    Very perceptive post on one of the many challenges that individuals, doctors, health care facilities etc. face when it comes to managing diabetes (and other diseases, injuries, etc). I admire your goal of educating people around the world about diabetes, regardless of the language they speak, their culture, access to technology, etc.

  3. ann permalink
    July 26, 2008 12:17 PM

    hi allison — i’m a long time reader of your blog (discovered it when i wanted to learn more about type 1 diabetes since my partner has had it for 20 years). anyways, i was excited to see your name in the new york times article about blogher! nice shout out!

  4. July 26, 2008 9:40 PM

    Elizabeth: I don’t think I have any pictures of us. We’ll just have to arrange a photo op at next year’s BlogHer!

    Jean: Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them.

    Ann: Thanks for commenting! I’m always thrilled to hear from my readers. Much appreciated.

  5. Megan Richardson permalink
    July 27, 2008 5:19 PM

    Hey, I just wanted to say how great I think your blog is. I never read it until today when I saw your site in today’s New York Times article (I wanted to see if they talked about Stephanie Klein, my favorite blogger). Congrats on the mention!

  6. July 28, 2008 2:13 PM

    A blog buddy of mine attended the BlogHer conference and was mentioned in the New York Times article (as you were). And when I read that you blog about Type 1 Diabetes, I thought to follow your blog as well. My husband is Type 1 and we are always interested in discovering how others manage their daily lives as well. So hats off for making the article and for the exposure. I would not be surprised if you get a lot of new readers because of it. Take care!

  7. July 28, 2008 6:38 PM

    Wow, I guess I’ll have to rule out a move to Portugal. My 8-year old son has Type 1, so I’m happy to have found your blog.

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