Particularly, when we would take a ride into Boston from the South Shore. Dad, would sometimes take us with him if he had to check out a job that he was going to be doing for someone the next week, to determine what he would need for materials and man power. I vividly remember during those rides he would say to us: “Look up there, I did that one”, as he would point to the John Hancock Building referring to the fact that he helped build that building. And this would go on as we drove around and about the city…Dad’s mark, or stamp, if you will, was everywhere – he literally helped to build the city of Boston, and he was damn proud of it!
Dad was also very involved in his church, Holy Family Church in Duxbury. If there were three things that Dad was very proud of, that set his legacy in place, sort of his own version of the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Dad would always say Holy Ghost as opposed to Holy Spirit), was his Family, the end result of the work he did, and his Faith.
Dad had a lot of faith, and was very involved in the church, from Parish Council to being an usher at the 10:00am Sunday morning mass, to being a part of the Building Committee when it came time to build a new and bigger church for the community. In fact, it was with the new church that the three arms of his Trinity came together one day in a sort of Perfect Storm for him, and I wish I could find the picture of it to show you. One day when the new church was nearing completion and getting ready to open, Dad, with Tommy helping him (Family), laid the cornerstone (the result of the work he had done) on the new church (a symbol of his Faith).
But one day long ago, it was brought to Dad’s attention, that there were senior citizens in town who wanted to attend church, but did not have a means of getting there. As soon as Dad heard this, he began to show up at the Senior housing complex every Sunday morning before the 10:00 am mass and squeeze as many seniors into his car (sometimes truck – that was a sight to see!) and off to church he would go, and then he would return his “girlfriends” (as he use to refer to them as) home afterwards. At first, it was one senior, then two, before long it was four, sometimes five, seniors he would bring to mass every week.
This selfless act continued for several years. Suddenly, there were days when there were too many “girlfriends” to fit into his car. At which point he began to ask for help, and others from the parish stepped up to help these seniors.
These two nuggets from Dad’s glory days got me to thinking about what one person can do. What can one person accomplish when they are part of a larger group with a common goal. Obviously Dad did not build the City of Boston by himself, he was one of many. He did start the effort to bring his “girlfriends” to mass every week, and built it up so that there was a small team of drivers.
What can one person do?
Well, one person can do many things. And when it comes to Diabetes, if that one person is me or you, there is so much that we can do, such as educate, advocate, and provide support and friendship. Let’s take a look.
With me, for the longest time, when it came to my Diabetes, I just wanted to hide in a shell and not give anyone a chance to ask me questions about my Diabetes. I had some distorted belief that if I did not talk about it, somehow no one would ask about it, or ask those questions like, “Why are you going to the bathroom a lot?”, or “How did you catch your Diabetes?”, or “Why do you do that finger stick thing so much?” or “Are you allowed to eat that?” or “Can you do your Diabetes thing (or stuff) somewhere else?” or “My grandma had Diabetes, and she ate cake all the time, why don’t you?” or “Will you die if you eat this candy?” or “My mom knew someone who died once from ‘beetes’, how long do you have to live?” or, well I could keep going but you get the point…and I’m sure you could probably add to this list as well.
But there was a point, maybe about fifteen years ago, when I was at work…I remember this vividly… the main office of the company that I was working for at the time was a converted house, so I was sitting in the kitchen getting something to eat, and it was about two in the afternoon, when the secretary, Helen, came back to ask me a question. Helen said, “Would you mind talking to a gentleman that comes to the office nearly every day about Diabetes, since you have had it a long time and it seems like you know what you are doing?” For a second, all I was focused on was that backhanded compliment. Then I snapped out of it and said, “Sure.” How could I possibly say no the secretary (nowadays referred to as Office Manager), after all she was the one who was the glue that held the company together – all secretaries/office managers are like that, they are the ones that really keep all companies afloat and running smoothly…forget the presidents, CEO’s and managers, it is most definitely the secretaries.
So, I am thinking Helen is going to bring some salesman who calls on the company to sell office products or something like that. No, what I see come around the corner was a man dressed in brown shorts and brown collared work shirt – it was, Jim, the UPS® guy !!! Of course it was, who else comes to the office nearly every day?!
Jim walks in and I invite him to take a seat, which he replies, “Thank you.” I said to him, “So, Helen tells me you have some questions about Diabetes.” Jim seemed a little nervous, and said, “I don’t want to take much of your time, but yes, I have a few.” “Great”, I said, “Fire away, I’ll answer what I can for you.” And it was at that instant, that, at least when it came to Diabetes (I was still tremendously shy for almost every other part of my life), that it seemed as if I had stepped from the shadows and realized that it was ok to talk about my Diabetes.
Since that day, I understand and appreciate that if someone is asking a question about my Diabetes or Heart Disease or Kidney Disease, that it must mean that they are curious for a reason and that I should, to the best of my ability, share them an answer based on my experience.
It’s not that I am obligated to share my experiences now, it’s that I want to. It’s ok to want to keep your Diabetes experiences to yourself, but for me it has been a freeing feeling. To know that I am able to help someone is a great feeling. People ask questions for reasons we may never know – they could feel like they are showing symptoms of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease, Neuropathy, you name it; or they may have a family member with one or more of these disease and want to know what that family member is going through…it is something we may never know.
Nowadays, and nearly every day, you can’t turn on the TV or radio, or open the newspaper or get an email in your inbox, that doesn’t have something with Heart Disease or Cancer. The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association does a fantastic job of getting in our faces about signs, symptoms, personal stories, etc. In fact, I have called a particular business more than several times and if I am ever put on hold, there is a reminder in the recorded message for women to schedule their annual mammograms…its brilliant, because you are a captive audience. But I dare you to look, let’s say over the next week or so, and notice how often you hear or see commercials or adds for something related to cancer or heart disease – this would include calls for support, like walk-a-thons, runs, etc.
Diabetes, in my estimation, does an ok job educating the general public about the disease and the diseases the spring from it, like heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage (particularly in the feet), but it can always do better. And for it to do a better job of educating, we may need to take it upon ourselves to make others aware.
I feel that one way Diabetes can be moved more to the forefront is if we all do something to advocate for the disease. I know there is a small segment of the Diabetic population that regularly advocates for Diabetes research and funding.
There may be a general feeling among most of the Diabetic population that says, ‘yes, I am going to do my part, I am going to write letters, I am going do this, or do that…” What happens? Life happens. The kids start screaming, or you need to get dinner ready, or you have to drive Bobby or Susie to soccer practice; or there is a big project at work that is taking up a huge chunk of your time, and you are barely getting any sleep, let alone spending time with your family.
I get all of that. I even include myself in that category of those that say they are going to do something, but never end up getting around to it. We have to do better, myself included. I don’t want to ever have to depend on insulin again, unless it is being made by my own body. Before I went on the pump, I estimated that to that point, I had given myself something in the neighborhood of 20,000 insulin injections over the years – and I know there are others out there that have been living with the disease for much longer that could double, triple or even quadruple my number.
There is something wrong with that…That is not right. We need to stand up and fight for ourselves, and fight for all of the Michael’s, Linda’s, Christine’s Reyna’s, Mary’s, Jim’s, Cora’s, Dina’s, or _________ (insert your name and names of others you know). We need to fight so that we get to see a cure in our lifetime. Just think of the ripple effect a cure for Diabetes would have throughout the world – FEWER people with a risk of heart disease, FEWER people requiring dialysis or kidney transplant (or both), FEWER people losing their eyesight, and FEWER people losing toes or limbs due to severe nerve damage.
Support and Friendship
When I first started this blog, I was talking about my upcoming kidney transplant, there were two people who shared with me their experiences of what they had been through or were going through – Cora from Canada and Dina in Kuwait. I got other words of encouragement along the way as well, but it was Cora and Dina who seemed to help put me at ease a little (as much as possible), and that is something that I appreciate so much more than I have ever been able to tell them.
Several months ago, I was contacted by a wonderful, but scared, woman from Kansas, whose name is Reyna. Reyna has had Diabetes for a short time, but has already had to deal with nasty complications that many of us have gone through (or hope to put off for as long as possible). Reyna was scared, and I got that, I understood…and since that day back in July, we have been working together to help her regain control of her Diabetes, which she is doing a great job of and that I am very proud of her for.
And that, in a nutshell, has what this blog has become, people helping people, whether they are next door, several states away, or half way around the world. As I am sure most of you are aware, you can’t deal with Diabetes/Heart Disease/Kidney Disease/Blindness/Nerve Damage alone – we have to help each other…and when you do you never know what support you can provide and what incredible friendships you can forge!!!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Dad was one part of his family…but he could not make it work without Mom. Dad worked many facets of the construction business…but he was most proud of the end result of a job. He was one man who wore many hats (or construction helmets) over his career, but he could not do it without everyone else who worked those jobs as well. Dad was one part of a building committee and parish council of his church and impromptu transportation coordinator for his “girlfriends”…but he couldn’t have accomplished what he did without other members of the church.
I started out with the basis of what one person can do, and Dad did a lot that a son, a family and a community could be very proud of. And like Dad, we have our own sort of Trinity, and like they use to say on the old TV show (and the more recent movies) ‘Mission Impossible’…”If you choose to accept it !”
What To Do…
· Educate – Talk about your Diabetes, and the fact that you have needed, or could need, a kidney transplant because of it, or have needed bypass heart surgery because of it, or you have lost vision in your eyes because of it, or you have lost feeling in your feet because of it (and subsequently could need or have needed amputation because of it). Let others in on your experience…soon they may turn those dumb questions into smart, well thought out and compassionate questions. You could also let them know about this blog. In fact, I dare you to forward it to everyone in your address books (and all of those contacts to do the same) and they can all follow us on the Facebook page by “Liking” Life On The T List, or following it on blogger.com from this link: http://michaelburketransplant.blogspot.com
· Advocate – Again, this is an area I personally have to work on myself. We can contact our local Diabetes chapters and ask what we can do to help them with their efforts. We can also get on the phone or e-mail and contact our local, state and federal representatives and senators and tell them they need to step up to the plate for funding for Diabetes research for a cure. To get you started, here is a link to the Federal Congress: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt .
· Support And Provide Friendship – This is as simple as it sounds. There is someone out there just like you that is feeling the same things you are feeling, experiencing the same or similar things you are thinking…when they enter your life, help each other out !
By ourselves, we can be quite powerful…but when we play our own version of the old telephone game – you tell one person, they tell someone, they tell someone, and so on and so on, we become an extraordinary powerhouse and we can accomplish extraordinary things !!!
That, my friends, is what one person can do…we are all capable of it !!!
If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.