Sunday, August 27, 2006

Telling people about diabetes

Last week, at the end of the final practice before the first game of the season, our coach called 4 of us together for a few words. He had just set the team for the match, and wanted to stress to us that given the fact that we were 4 forwards, we couldn’t expect to all be on the field at the same time, nor that we would only be given forward positions. Some of us might need to fill in a wing position for part of the game. Fair enough. The majority of the higher educations do not start until September 1, and thus quite a few of our team mates, especially defensive players, have not returned from holidays and/or working holidays yet, so of course we will have to take on alternative positions until all are back on the field again.

Our coach wanted to hear any objections we may have towards this before the match. There wasn’t many so we adjourned the meeting. As an aside, I just wanted to tell our coach that I would be playing with the pump for the first time, and therefore I would likely be a bit more focused on monitoring during the game (usually I only test before going out, not bothering to do it during the match), because I was at a loss about how to dose the insulin. One of my team mates overhead that, and asked me if I shouldn’t tell them a little about what to do “if you should collapse one day”. This girl has been my team mate in the club I played for before I transferred to my current club, so the reason she asked, I guess, is that she has known me for the last 5 years, some of which I have had great problems managing the D. Our coach quickly added that I had given both him and his assistant a piece of paper about that when I started, and that he carried it in his folder at practice and games. While I did that for obvious reasons, I haven’t really said much about it to my team mates. They know that I am diabetic and I don’t hide my remedies, but I usually don’t have any significant BG issues on the field.

Still, I couldn’t just dismiss the wish of my team mate, because maybe more of them had a need for just leaning a little more about diabetes, despite the fact that I myself haven’t considered it a big deal. My reasons for not having done something like what she felt missing is that when I meet new people, I evaluate the expected amount of time I will spend in their company before enrolling them in a long course about diabetes. For the soccer teams that I have attended, I have always told my team mates and let them know that of course I would be willing to answer any of their questions, and besides that I have made a hand-out for the coach, containing a few more details. To me this seems to be the wisest thing to do as the coach and/or assistant will always attend practice and games, whereas you will never see all of your team mates at once for these. E.g. my current team counts something like 25 different players, yet only 14 are allowed at each match, and for practice we will be anywhere from 7 to 20 players.

Another reason for being a bit hesitant about sharing more information about signs and treatments of low and/or high BG levels to my team mates is that in my experience you can tell people a lot, but it is not until the experience for instance a hypoglycaemic episode that they will really know what it looks like and how it may be treated. This experience primarily comes from my high school years.

The first year of high school we had a 4 days team-up-trip, and on the second year a week long study tour, both of which seemed obvious reasons to inform not only the participating teachers but also my class mates about what to do if something should happen. Nothing did happen during the first 2.5 high school years, or at the trips, and I felt confident that should I ever run into a bad low that required other people to help me, my class mates would be able to do so. That turned out not to be true. I experienced a bad low in the middle of my final high school year. It didn’t really give me any warning signs, I was just a bit tired, but did think too much about that as it was the second lesson of the morning and we were watching a movie. However, my teacher had noticed that I seemed incredibly tired, and I remember him asking if I was alright when we were dismissed. I think that I told him “yes”, but I really can’t remember any of what happened neither in the break nor at the next lesson, where finally one of my closest class mates, Morten, suspected that I might be approaching an insulin shock. My responses when accosted by my class mates or our Danish teacher was just too off compared to normal so Morten took action. At that time it had been approximately 60 minutes since I started showing the first signs, apparently not being aware of them myself. They tried to feed my juice and glucose tabs, but I was so low that they didn’t really saw any improvement and just awaited the arrival of an ambulance to bring me to the hospital. I have a blurry memory of the trip to the hospital, and remember that if my eyes could kill, Morten would have been dead, when he looked at me saying: “Now we are going to Disneyland”, as we arrived at the ER, so their initial treatment did have some effect ;-) I don’t blame any of my class mates or teachers, not at all. I just think that this episode is an excellent example on the above stating that if people do not experience you having problems, then they are not likely to react when you really need them to. Because they are in doubt or maybe just do not remember what they have been told.

At practice the other day I asked those attending whether they too felt a need for me to tell them a bit more about diabetes. The answer was: “Yeah, maybe, but maybe mostly whether any hypoglycaemic issues are recurrent, i.e., likely to happen in relation to soccer, so that we know how much attention to pay towards it. And you should probably do it a day, when most of us are here”. This answer kind of says it all, I think: 1) People do want to know, but most of all they would like to be reassured that any issues are not likely to require their involvement; and 2) They want to be sure that they are not the only ones having heard it, so that if one should forget something another will remember it.

I think that I should take a few minutes at practice, when appropriate, to say a few words to the crowd. At least to soothe the minds of the few worrying souls. But then again: You never know if it should actually come in handy at some point, or if it does, whether they will then remember it.

What do you guys do in this regard?

1 comment:

Scott K. Johnson said...

Hmm - each situation and scenario is a bit different, so I typically handle it on a "case by case" basis.