How I learnt about diabetes – a guest blog by Ben Ponting
We have a guest post today from someone who doesn’t have diabetes. A bit of a break from the norm, but Ben contacted us and wanted to share his experiences of diabetes, how he has come to understand the seriousness of the condition, and why it’s so important to raise funds and awareness for us as a charity. By his own admission, there’s still a lot Ben doesn’t know about diabetes, but he has learnt something over recent months – that diabetes is serious and we all need to raise awareness of the condition as a whole. We’re really grateful he’s written this open, honest account of his experiences for us.
“Diabetes? Isn’t that where you can’t eat chocolate and have to inject yourself every once in a while? I remember being fascinated on a school trip when I was younger as the girl with diabetes in my class subjected herself to her injections so casually as a crowd of us gathered around to watch in horror. My only thought back then was about how I’d hate to be diabetic, simply due to my hatred of needles. Other than that it didn’t seem to be serious to me, or to the poor girl who had clearly come to terms with it, and certainly not to our teachers who took great pleasure in eating the ‘medical supplies’ in the form of emergency chocolate bars at the end of day once my friend had gone home.
These had been my views on diabetes throughout my life, not helped by TV shows such as Scrubs showing the condition in such a comedic manner for the most part. This all changed on December the 17th 2010. This was the date of my old workplace’s Christmas Party. An ex-colleague of mine, with Type 1 diabetes, attended the party, enjoyed his time with his friends and then went home to sleep. He never woke up the next day.
Before this tragedy I have to admit, as you’ll see from the above, I was blissfully naïve as to how serious diabetes is, much like the rest of the country, I fear. My first thoughts upon hearing the devastating news was one of confusion. How could diabetes have caused his death!? Had he eaten too much chocolate? Had he injected himself too much? I’m still not 100% sure of what exactly happened, but my ignorance on the subject really upset me as I mourned the death of someone who was one the most likeable and genuine people I had ever met. He was only 22.
Whilst I was powerless to help his family through this time, the one thing that was in my control was to correct my ignorance. I emailed my friend who works for Diabetes UK, who obviously sympathised with me and all of his friends and family, and then let me know a few things about diabetes that I’d never cared to learn, or even think about beforehand. I am not by any stretch an expert on the subject now, and my knowledge still very limited, but just 5 minutes of learning opened my eyes to how serious a condition diabetes is, and how it can impact people’s day to day lives – and sadly, their futures.
It is tragic that it took the death of a friend for me – and probably 90% of those who knew him – to realise just how serious diabetes is.
I guess most people’s first experiences of diabetes are similar to mine. Having a friend at school talk about their daily injections like it was a game, and in some cases how much they wish they could eat whatever they wanted. This early exposure from someone without the maturity or sense to acknowledge and convey how severe the condition can be lead for myself, and probably others, a cavalier attitude towards diabetes. Diabetes can be a killer, but a lack of awareness can sadly be just as fatal.
Since this horrible event, myself and my friend’s colleagues, family and friends have been fundraising in his name. Last year over 40 of us completed the Windsor Half Marathon, and raised over £10,000 for Diabetes UK. Today, over a year afterwards, the efforts to raise funds and awareness are still going as my brother – who was so moved by the events – has decided to raise funds for Diabetes UK by running the Brighton Marathon, and again in my friend’s name.
Nothing we can do will ever be enough to compensate his family and friends for their loss. All we can do is try to raise funds and awareness in the efforts to ensure no mother, father, or friend has to go through what they did.
I am very fortunate that in my life I do not currently know anyone close to me who has diabetes – either Type 1 or Type 2 – but this does not mean I should ignore it’s impact and sometimes devastating effects. “Ignorance is bliss” is one of the oldest sayings I know. This is not the case, and only hurts more when you cannot understand why the life of someone you know is taken unjustly in your eyes.”