Hello, everyone! My name is John McGrail, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 2, and I believe that if you’re not learning, you’re not living. Today I’m talking about the importance of building a support system based on common experience and understanding.

Happy Hump day to all! I hope your week is shaping up to great things and you’re looking forward to whatever the end of the year holds in store—holiday celebrations, setting goals for the coming year, finishing a project before the end of the year—whatever it is, here’s an internet radio toast to your success! Today I’m talking about my lifelong opportunity to live with diabetes so let’s get into a few fun facts about this very common condition and the “fun” in these facts is, in fact, debatable!

India has the highest population of people with type 2 diabetes, more than any other country in the world.

The country with the highest percentage of people with type 2 diabetes is a tiny island in the South Pacific called Nauru. It is the world’s third smallest country after the Vatican City and Monaco.

The earliest known written record that likely referred to diabetes was in 1500 B.C in the Egyptian Ebers papyrus. It referred to the symptoms of frequent urination.

Diabetes symptoms such as thirst, weight loss, and excess urination were recognized for more than 1200 years before the disease got a name.

The Greek physician Aretaeus was credited with coming up with the name “diabetes” in the first century A.D. and thought a snakebite caused diabetes.

Diabetes is a Greek word that means, “to pass through.” It was observed that urine quickly passed through patients with diabetes. The word mellitus is from Latin and means “sweet like honey.”

In 1922, the pancreas was discovered to have a role in diabetes. Researchers studying digestion removed the pancreas from domestic dogs in a lab. An assistant noticed a large number of ants attracted to the dog’s urine. The urine was tested and was found to have an extremely high level of sugar.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes were officially differentiated in 1936. However, the difference had been noted in the 1700’s when a physician noted some people suffered from a more chronic condition than others who died in less than five weeks after onset of symptoms. All of these come to us from www.verywell.com.

Well, whatever you’re living with I’m pretty sure is teaching you something. I’d love for you to share what you’re learning as a part of the Friday Forum. The Friday Forum is your opportunity to share with me and the rest of the Stuff I Learned Yesterday community. Your Stuff can be anything up to fifteen minutes and can be in your voice or written. You can add your Stuff to the Friday Forum in several ways—by calling 3048372278 and leaving a voicemail, by going to www.goldenspiralmedia.com/feedback and uploading an audio file, or by using the provided speakpipe widget; or, you can type out an email and send it in that way. By my count there’s only three opportunities left to get your Friday Forum onto the podcast.

Now, here’s what I learned yesterday:

December 5, 1973. Mom and Dad took their two-year-old son, me, to the hospital. Apparently I had become really, really ill after a few weeks of never finding enough water to drink, always going to the bathroom, and had gotten sick to my stomach and could not stop to the point of dehydration. Diabetes in a two-year-old was not a prevalent thing so testing my blood sugar was an afterthought. A normal blood sugar range is 70-120. Mine came back as “high,” which meant it was unreadable above 800. With the diagnosis determined a treatment was underway. Insulin would have to be given by injection for the rest of my life as my pancreas had stopped producing the hormone naturally. Blood sugar levels would have to be monitored and diet and exercise would not look quote unquote “normal,” also for the rest of my life.

Again, in 1973 diabetes did not have nearly the level of understanding that it does in our culture today. My mom especially was devastated but after a couple of weeks and seeing other kids around me in the pediatric ICU, some in much worse conditions than me, she quickly learned perspective and realized that diabetes was a condition that could be lived and managed fairly well. Giving four shots a day to a toddler was traumatic for sure. Trying to go to the bathroom in a cup multiple times a day was also not fun—while trying to potty train at the same time—but all in all we made a life of it and we did it fairly well. We had an amazing pediatrician who advised my parents to not try to live in a state of hyper vigilance. If I was going to a friend’s birthday party then eat what you want, we’ll take a little more insulin after it’s over.

One of the other things that made life bearable as a diabetic kid was knowing that I was not the only one. Although I think I was the only one in my elementary school of a couple of hundred kids, which sounds crazy now that I look back on it, but every summer we would have Diabetes Day Camp. Our local chapter of the American Diabetes Association sponsored it. The ADA as I’ll refer to it was a real lifeline in terms of getting families together that were all dealing with the same circumstances, even if the condition looked a little different from child to child.

So at these Day Camps we would do all kinds of fun stuff—crafts, roller skating, swimming, a little health stuff, and each year would have it’s own theme. I remember the Olympic one which coincided with the Summer Olympics back sometime in the mid to late 70’s. Hoo boy! Anyways, the camps were great because I was with all kinds of kids who knew what it was like to live this kind of life every day.

As a teenager I continued my time with the ADA in a different way. I found out about a program called the National Youth Leadership Congress. Each state around the country would send two representatives to Washington, DC for a conference on youth and diabetes issues, a ton of fun together, and lobbying as a group to our congressmen to educate and push legislation that would benefit us. It was a fantastic experience that I got to attend for two years as a participant. In my second year there I was elected by the group there to be part of the youth leadership team so got to attend meetings that would lead up to the main event to plan the program and shape what those Congress’s would look like. The leadership team was broken up by four regions of the country so in my last year in the leadership team I got to mentor the leader from my region. To this day we still have a beautiful friendship that far transcends our condition. It was simply the foundation of what brought us together. Through this time I was even chosen to represent the United States along with a friend from our team to attend a similar conference on a worldwide scale. We spent two amazing weeks in Oslo, Norway where I met youth from all over the world that never would have come together without our common struggle.

Those experiences directly influenced my ability to one day become a CEO of a multi-million dollar financial institution. It has shaped my character as someone empathetic to circumstances that at times just suck eggs. My condition helped shape me as always conscious about myself at all times, and at the same time always wanting to put the needs of others first. Had I not had those amazing experiences I could have easily seen my own circumstances as limiting and set boundaries around myself that would have never been necessary.

Here’s what I learned:

This episode is mainly born out of what Scott shared with us on Thanksgiving Day. Our perspective on our own situation can be skewed if we think we’re the only one dealing with a particular condition, struggle, or pain. Let me tell you what you already know—you are never alone, nor should you be. Now, with the Stuff I Learned Yesterday community I know I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re interested in this podcast then you’re already about sharing common experiences and learning from each other. What I want to challenge you is to use your own sphere of influence and see how you can start putting people together that need each other. Perhaps they don’t even know it yet. Just today I stopped by one of my pastor’s office and he asked for my advice about someone going through an adoption kind of situation and how to best approach it. If I weren’t already open about my extraordinary experiences in my own story he would not have been able to bounce his thoughts and ideas off of me. He and I talked about that one day I might be a resource to this situation—because of the common experience. We are not meant to live alone. Even the most introverted of us needs the common experience of those around them to lend objectivity, empathy, and when necessary sympathy. I am so thankful for all of you who listen to this podcast and keep that kind of community available.

I’m John McGrail, and this has been Stuff I Learned Yesterday.

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