a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Krystal Boyea - 382 Million

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Krystal Boyea

382 Million - That is how many million people in the world the International Diabetes Federation estimated to have diabetes in 2013 and this is estimated to rise to 592 million in less than 25 years.

5.1 Million.

That’s the number of people who died from diabetes just last year alone.

Diabetes in all its forms, whether type 1, type 2 or gestational, imposes unacceptably high human, social and economic costs on countries at all income levels.

It is undoubtedly one of the most challenging health problems of the 21st century!

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on January 18th 1998 at the age of 10. This day changed my life as I knew it. This was the day that I was no longer a child. This was the day I became an adult.

As a person living with type 1 diabetes, needles in the form of insulin injections and finger pokes to test my blood sugar are my survival. These two aspects of my life, regardless of the stinging sensations and occasional black and blues, from poking and prodding myself some 30,000 times just to survive, I have to admit were the easiest adjustments for me.

For a many years after my diagnosis, I felt like diabetes haunted me. No one ever informed me of the physiological and emotional issues that came along with a condition like mine.

What did/does it feel like to be me? Well:

  • Growing up, people all around me pointed fingers and judged, as they never understood Type 1 diabetes- “You mean…you have a type of diabetes that is not caused from eating sugar? Or being fat? Ye right!”
  • I often felt different
  • I often asked “why me”? Why did diabetes pick me? Did I do something in my childhood that God was angry at?
  • I struggled, and still struggle to stay on top of life, while managing a disease that is like having a full time job.
  • No one understood me or my symptoms
  • Children in my school teased me and waved candy bars in my face
  • I felt like and still feel like a burden to my family. Am I too much of an expense?
  • Diabetes and its unpredictability, makes me look like a slacker sometimes. Causing me to miss deadlines, step out of meetings or ask for extensions.
  • Why when my insulin pump is visible why do people choose to stare at that over me?
  • Every day I feel like I am haunted by the overwhelming amount of information out there that has me targeted for that individual that WILL get an amputation in X amount of years. That WILL die at an early age! And that IS a burden to society.
  • Living in a region that boasts of some of the highest rates of amputations, death after amputation, and other diabetes related complications is honestly not easy. I am constantly reminded of the possibility of a future without sight, the ability to walk, with kidney failure and a host of other problems. Will I live to see my grandchildren?
  • Its hurts when people laugh, judge and criticize, and treat me like a number in their statistic instead of a person.

So yes I had, and still have a hard time both dealing with the symptoms of the disease and the ridicule from people, and it affects both my professional life and my social life.

There are approximately 500,000 children in the world with type 1 diabetes. Within the North American and Caribbean Region the IDF estimates that approximately 100,000 children have type 1 diabetes with the majority living in Canada and the United States. The numbers within the Caribbean region are not quite known but are assumed to be low.

YES, these numbers are way smaller than then 382 million worldwide. However, we share the same emotional burdens.

In 2011, my life changed. I began to see diabetes as a gift, one that wasn’t going away and one that I needed to use to help others like me; other people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in Barbados and by extension the Caribbean region as a whole. Since then, diabetes and NCDs have not only become my passion…I have turned them into my career.

In my case, I could not prevent my diabetes. I had no choice. My pancreas just gave up on me. But if I did have a choice…I would choose to work every day to ensure that myself, the people around me, and within my country don’t have to live a life like mine.

Despite the array of tools at our disposal to tackle diabetes – effective drug therapies, advanced technology, ever-improving education and preventive strategies – the battle to protect young people from diabetes and its disabling, life-threatening complications is being lost.

We are all making an effort to do what needs to be done, however, we are nowhere near finished!