I am discouraged by the pervasiveness of misinformation about diabetes. I had not read a Danielle Steel novel since I snuck one from my mother as a teen. But a recent romance writing course had me looking for samples and who else to choose but a woman whose books have sold over 800 million copies around the world? Instead of the romance I was expecting, about 60 pages into the book Danielle Steel broke my heart with her error-filled writing about type 1 diabetes.
In Danielle Steel’s, A Perfect Life one page was filled with countless errors about the main character’s daughter’s type 1 diabetes. The child had been blinded by her type 1 diabetes (‘cause that’s common!), but was now doing fine because her insulin pump took care of her diabetes (another myth). There was no mention about how difficult it was for a blind child to work an insulin pump. Other errors on the page confusing hypo and hyperglycemia treatment had me shaking my head wondering who had done the research. I read the passage to my son Alexander. He laughed out loud at how inaccurate it was.
Sadly, many people have already read her book and assumed the medical aspects are accurate. I could have simply returned the book to the library but instead I took the time to write a respectful email to Ms. Steel suggesting that her research had not been as thorough as readers expect. I pointed out the errors that perpetuate the ignorance around diabetes. I mentioned that this misinformation makes life more difficult for people like my son who interact with people who have learned this misinformation. I received a cordial email thanking me for the correct information. I hope that small effort means that if she ever writes about diabetes again she will speak to an expert –someone who lives with type 1 diabetes.
As I write in my book Parenting Joyfully When Your Child Has Diabetes, if you choose to respond to such misconceptions, speak (or write) calmly with the goal of educating the world one person at a time. Try to omit medical jargon, otherwise the person listening will be overwhelmed. Together, as parents, we can raise awareness and understanding of type 1 diabetes one encounter at a time.
What productive, educational conversations have you had about type 1 diabetes?