Monday, March 2, 2015

The great divide

A friend shared this article about a school in Tennessee that was refusing to allow a boy to bring his Diabetic Alert Dog to school with him on Facebook a few days ago.  The school went as far as to say of the child had was blind or had seizures they would allow it, but not for diabetes.  It sparked a HUGE debate (and I use the term loosely because mostly it became a teenage name calling session.  There was obviously some previous tension between these folks).  My first instinct is to side with the family that owns the dog because, legally, a service dog should be allowed to go anywhere it's owner goes, regardless of what condition that service dog is assisting with.  My biggest problem with then issue is that they are basically ranking diseases by seriousness by the treatment they will allow.  The post sparked a HUGE debate (and I use the term loosely because mostly it became a teenage name calling session.  There was obviously some previous tension between these folks).  I was surprised by how many people thought it was OK that the school was not going to let the dog into the school.  I'm all for everyone having their own opinion and voicing but what bothered me was the split between the group over whether DADs are needed by some people, when and where they are needed, and the judgement on what is the correct form of treatment for one persons diabetes.  And the fact that some people believe that because diabetes is easy for them that the same is true for everyone living with it.  Completely discounting the fact that some people struggle with the disease.  You can see some of the comments below:

"I can't help but find it ridiculous to sue over something like this. How many diabetics do fine without a dog? I'd be willing to bet there are kids at this very school who have diabetes and don't have a dog."

"yes people do fine without dogs but I know my service dog has saved me from countless seizures and complications."

"I get it, I love dogs too and if I had a dog and an excuse to bring it around I might use it too... That being said, if your dog is preventing countless complications I'm curious what they were and exactly how the dog prevented them. I'm also curious how well you take care of yourself if you're having countless near seizures. That or I question your honesty. 

Sure, service dogs might help people with PTSD, seizures, and diabetes, but if that's your argument then why shouldn't everyone be allowed to bring their dog everywhere? My wife would be in a much better mood with a dog around, so it could really help her. 

Bottom line, in sticking with the original post, this kid doesn't need his dog in class and the other kids aren't going to learn as well when distracted by a dog. And the dog has to eat, and drink, and go to the bathroom, and on, and on. 

Maybe we just handle diabetes differently, but it's really not that bad. It's a constant minor annoyance and doesn't mean I need a bunch of special help or concessions made"

"And I am sure people with PTSD or seizures can do fine without a service dog also but service dogs seriously help them as well."

"Why survive when you can live  ..."

"If you remotely take care of yourself, diabetes isn't a big deal. And you wouldn't need a dog. You know what else can let you know your blood sugars are low? A glucose monitor ..."  (Clearly this person has not dealt the hypo unawareness)

"I do not have a pump or a dog or a CGM and I haven't had a seizure. I have also had diabetes since age 11 (12 years). 
I'm sure there are legal grounds to sue, but is it necessary? Would it better the community? Would it inspire people to promote diabetes awareness and research? Or would it make us look like a bunch of ungrateful jerks? Just because someone CAN sue, doesn't mean they should."

"You're not helping. You're spreading this perspective that diabetes limits you and talking about how you have a disability. I reach WAY fewer people than you do since I'm not on the news, but I spread the perspective that diabetes is not a big deal and doesn't hold me back in any way. All the people I've met through fighting and through jiu jitsu would be so confused to see the way you talk about diabetes when they see me in the gym several times each week with nothing more than a bag of skittles just in case."

"Main point ... Some people use diabetes as a crutch, some people take shots and deal with it ... It is what it is" (Not gonna lie, that stings more than a shot of Lantus)

You get the gist.  From there it deteriorated into representing "the rez" and not letting mutts into my casino unless they can bet.  Most of the negativity came from 3 people with mostly just one person (not the original poster even) defending their view.  At one point someone pointed out the gender split, mostly female defending the side of the dog owner and males on the opposite.  I considered chiming in to disregard that split but thought better of it because of where the conversation had headed.

And now my point (yes there is one, it just took a long time to get to it).  This is a small sample size but it seems to me that it represents overall D community very well.  There are so many differing opinions on what this disease entails for a person,  What it is and what it isn't.  Is it just a disease, or is it a disability.  Some people find it easy to live with and don't struggle and some of those people (certainly not all) discount the feelings of those of us who do struggle with comments about how easy it is and if you just take care of yourself then diabetes is no problem.  As I read through the thread and fought the urge to go off I thought about the disparity between viewpoints there and in our overall community.  And it is no wonder to me that our advocacy efforts struggle and do not reach the heights of some others.  If we can't agree on what treatment is acceptable for others within our own community how can we expect anyone else to get on board?  If we have some people putting out there that diabetes is so easy and if you struggle then you're just not taking care of yourself while others struggle just to check their blood sugar once a day, how can we be surprised that the rest of the world doesn't understand while it's a big deal?  You don't see people with cancer arguing over whether someone is in the right or wrong for choosing one treatment over another (or maybe you do, I'm not really plugged into that).  You don't see the cancer community trying to decide what type is worse or perpetuating stereotypes about other kinds of cancer.  We fight among ourselves over things small and large and then we are surprised that sometimes it hard to others to buy into what we're doing.  I don't what the fix for this is, but I definitely feel that it has to change if we are going to get beyond where we are now.

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