Need to Know by Helen May


Helen MayI often work from home. And, when I do, I am usually on my computer or telephone. If I am not writing reports or designing a solution to a customers problem or responding to a request for information, I am communicating with colleagues and customers. Sometimes, I use email, sometimes I am presenting on a conference call, sometimes I am chatting on instant messenger. I never use a video. My computer may have a camera but it is permanently disabled.

This means that whoever I am talking to has no idea what I look like (I could be, but I’m not, dressed in my pyjamas), they have no idea where I am (I could be in the garden, but not when it’s cold and raining) and they have no idea what else I am doing (I could be, and occasionally I am, hanging out the washing). Until recently, I did not think there was any reason for them to know my medical condition: I could have a sore throat, I could have a broken leg, I could have be in a wheel chair. It makes no difference to how I work.

As I have mentioned previously, I do not hide my diabetes but I do not make a big song and dance about it: it is as much who am I am as my red hair and when I am on a phone call, the person on the other end does not know my hair colour. They may notice my auburn locks when I meet them face-to-face but, unless we have a meal together, they will not know I have diabetes. There is no need for them to know.

The other day, a customer contacted me on Instant Messenger. Judging by his method of communication, he expected a quick answer. Unfortunately, I did not understand the question. I recognised the words and, as I work on a a software tool which does statistical analysis, I was not surprised to see “average” and “bell-curve” and “24 hour analysis”. But, no matter how many times I read the question, it meant nothing to me. I was considering responding with “what are you talking about?” but decided that was not ideal for the client-relationship. I stared at the words for longer hoping for some inspiration. As I noticed they were starting to go out of focus and the computer appeared to shake, I received that inspiration: it made no sense because I was having a hypo.

Now, I could treat the hypo and get back to work. But I still had a customer, waiting for an instant response. They knew I was here as I had responded to the greeting so I could not ignore them. So what was I going to do until my blood sugars rose to a sensible level? I needed a short “stalling phrase” but in my hypo-fuzz, nothing was coming to me. I could picture the customer on the other end poised to receive my answer and all they could see was “…”. Eventually, I went for the simple, “Sorry, I’ll be back in five minutes”. I was not happy with the lack of explanation but he didn’t need to know I had diabetes. Perhaps, I should have made up “someone at the door”. Next time I hope to be better prepared.

As for the question, once I was thinking straight again, I realised it still made no sense. But hypo-less, I could work out what he was trying to ask.

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