A voice for living well with Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes Association of Atlanta

What if the people living and treating diabetes could meet in one place for one day?

The thought had never crossed my mind until I received a mailer for something called “Diabetes University.”

It was the late 1980s or early 1990s when the Diabetes Association of Atlanta (*) introduced “Diabetes University.”   The agenda looked promising with diabetes medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, patients and their families.  The cost of the event was reasonable and included a box lunch.

I was interested in the event as I felt alone with diabetes.  Things like evaluating medical professionals, understanding new technologies, treatment regiments, exercise and nutrition.   The thought of being in a place where I could be with others  living and treating diabetes was intriguing.

It started early on a cold Saturday morning in downtown Atlanta.  I went by myself, found the building, then the registration desk and received my Diabetes University packet.  Walking into the large meeting space I observed a great deal of mindshare in the room.  It made me realize how fortunate I was to be living with diabetes in Atlanta.  Atlanta is blessed with a number of high quality medical professionals.  Emory University is a respected medical school and many graduates choose to stay due to the population and well, yeah, Atlanta is a nice place to live.

The conference started with a welcome to all and then smaller breakout sessions.  Leading them were the medical professionals treating the Big D … attending them were those of us living it.   What a fabulous environment to learn!   The medical professionals knowledge, questions from those living and loving those with diabetes provided a wealth of knowledge.  Having lived in Atlanta for several years, I had experience with a handful of the participating endocrinology groups.  It made for good environment of education, assessing new medical professionals,  and realizing I had a few gaps in my treatment.

I was particularly awakened by a nutrition session led by Marti Chitwood.  She had driven from South Carolina to be part of the day and her presentation focused on the makeup of the foods we consume.  Not only how much, but the nutritional qualities of the calories and carbohydrates.  I realized how much I didn’t know about what I was putting inside my body and how it influenced my blood glucose levels.

I called her the next week and asked if she worked with patients remotely.  She agreed and over the next week I logged the foods I ate and sent it to her.  She recommended changes and explained why.  Even more important, she emphasized the importance of knowing the nutritional makeup of my energy supply.

Today, there are similar events sponsored various organizations, including JDRF, TCOYD and others.  They are a terrific place for people living with and treating diabetes to interact.

But this was the late 1980s and I appreciate the foresight of The Diabetes Association of Atlanta for creating a learning event and the realization that I wasn’t fighting the Big D Alone!

(*)  The Diabetes Association of Atlanta was founded by Mrs. Ernest (Louise) Williams in 1952 as an volunteer support group for the parents of children with diabetes.  Here’s a link to more about its’ history and impact:  https://diabetesatlanta.org/our-history/