The Wilderness Guide, the Diabetes Educator and Guerrilla Warfare – part two

You don’t see it coming.

That’s the nature of the ambush.

I’m driving to work and listening to local morning radio chatter. Waiting for the lights to change I switch stations. This white middle aged guy is on. It’s his show. He’s talking to this other white middle aged guy about how diabetes can be cured by not eating refined carbohydrates.

Old Mate Broadcaster, has made public his personal over-weight diabetes struggle and, his guest this morning, Mr Privilege, shares his self proclaimed expert cookie cutter solution: “… Mate, you cured your diabetes in 6 hours by cutting out refined carbs!” He declares. This is so absurd to me that in my head I hear circus music, maniacal laughing, an ambulance siren in the distance…

I look at my phone, my every fibre wanting to call the radio station, while Ignorance and Privilege broadcast their ideas to a population living with diabetes who already feel shamed and guilty for their breakfast choices. You’ve all heard it, you might have even thought it, hopefully you didn’t say it: should you be eating that?

“Should you be eating that? Is that diabetic friendly?”

The lights change and I turn right into an already congested stream of traffic. My hands are shaking and my chest has tightened as I remember the casualties. I’ve Been at the bedside of the mum of four, let’s call her Sara, in ICU. She tried to cure her diabetes with a fad diet after an internet trained nutritionist told her to stop eating refined carbs. It only took three days for her body to move from ‘nutritional ketosis’ into life threatening ketoacidosis.

I’ve been in the Emergency Department with the 28 year old who was curing his diabetes with colonic irrigation. This guy, lets call him Steve, was advised that he could stabilise his diabetes by cutting out refined carbs, reducing his insulin and flushing his bowel with green tea three times a day. He died. But not before a painful three years of alternative therapy had reduced him to a 35 kilo bag of bones.

Steve is dead now. Sara nearly was.

So, as a Diabetes Educator, I’m not guiding anymore. Brodie has left the building! Now I’m mad as hell. In the morning traffic I’m feeling impotent and silenced.

I’m listening to bad information and advice on drive time radio. On the health care front line bad information and advice is the First Horseman of the Diabetes Apocalypse. It causes real human damage! It leaves in its wake devastation.

So, what does the clippity-cloppity of this Apocalyptic Horse sound like? It sounds like a cookie cutter solution to your health issue. It’s presented as a one size fits all explanation. It sounds mild but the rider of this horse could be delivering you a poison arrow.

But what can I do? I don’t live with diabetes. I’m no-one’s nominated spokes person. In my day job I’m a trained clinical specialist and I lead a diabetes service, but in my roles I’m gagged from engaging in public debate. (I’m NOT in my day job right now).

In my private world I blog, do the occasional lighthearted podcast and give my time to work with and build the capacity and confidence of those who should have a voice, the very people that the poison arrow falls upon, those living with diabetes.

Old Mate and Mr Privilege hold the airways

This work requires irregular methods of engagement precisely because the established powers of Old Mate and Mr Privilege hold the airways. The hit-and-run tactics of guerrilla warfare may seem a strange analogy to use in healthcare but, to those in the know, when it comes to driving change in the healthcare voice, it feels like battlefield controlled by conventional forces where only guerrilla tactics offer a hope of success.

It’s uncomfortable to do battle with the powerful and privileged but I’d argue it’s the answer. What tactics do you use to take back your voice?

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