In the most honest of ways I am going to let you know that my heart breaks for those living with diabetes in countries that have little to no access to insulin or their supplies. This wasn't something I learned form an infomercial asking me to send money, this was something I learned face to face with people who are living this nightmare. I remember last year at the YLD conference in Vancouver, I was in a room with people who were from some of the poorer countries and listening to their stories were absolutely heartbreaking. These people were struggling, beyond anything that I could comprehend. Beyond the frustration of not getting the correct test strips, beyond the anger of the rising dispensing fee, beyond anything that me, as a Canadian can comprehend.
I always tell this story of a roommate that I had when I was at the conference in Melbourne, Australia and for those that have not heard me talk about or read about it, I will tell it again. When I arrived to Australia I had a big suitcase full of dresses, shorts, make-up, hair products, you name it, I had it stuffed into my suitcase for my 2.5 week stay in Australia. Of course I also had diabetes supplies busting out of the seams of both my luggage and carry-on bag. An extra pump, syringes, vials of insulin, canisters of testing strips, extra batteries, back up meters.... it was like a pharmacy threw up in my bags.
My roommate, from the African region, was telling me with excitement about her new meter. Which, I gladly admit, I get excited about new diabetes meters as well. But, when I asked her what she was using before she let me know something that has forever changed my mind set.
"I never had a meter before this. We had to walk to the clinic to get our blood sugar checked."
This is why I can't complain. This is why I lose focus in listening to people complain that are from countries that can make it work, somehow, some way. I am not saying that a person in a first world country does not have problems, that are real, that are vital. I get that there is a HUGE issue with the cost of insulin in countries that should be able to maintain a fair cost of insulin. But what if you couldn't get insulin at all. What if you couldn't find insulin? What if you had to walk your family every single day to the clinic just to know what her blood sugar was?
I am sure people will disagree with me, that the struggle is real world-wide. I know that's true.... I mean, I literally asked my mom to put test strips in my stocking because I do not have benefits and that cost is out of pocket for me. But, with the same breath, I am so thankful to know that if I needed to buy insulin, I can go to Wal-Mart, or Shoppers Drug Mart down the street. That if I needed test strips, I could do the same, or even call a friend who would gladly be able to share their supply. It just isn't that way in other countries around the world and it breaks my heart.
I am grateful. I am thankful and I will never, ever forget the life lessons I have learned from international diabetes conferences.