After finding it hard to get in contact with people who have diabetes by word of mouth (blaming this on COVID), I decided to use the seemingly most used platform today to see how I might be able to find people willing to talk about their experiences with diabetes. The first person who was able to share their experience with me was Ashlyn. I messaged her asking if she might be able to answer a few questions for a design related project and she was kindly willing to help. here are the questions (in bold) and her answers (in italic).
Your name, your occupation and for how long you’ve been a diabetic?
My name is Ashlyn, I am a physical Therapist Assistant, and I have been a diabetic for 5 years.
When were you told you had diabetes and what was that experience like?
My diagnosis experience was almost relieving because I had been sick for so long. It was a whirlwind of information though, so it was very overwhelming.
What assistance / information / technology were you given for your diabetes?
I was put through a week of diabetes education and immediately given a continuous glucose monitor at my diagnosis. I was started on a pump 6 months later.
When you were told you had diabetes, did you know what it was? Did you know anyone else with diabetes?
I knew what diabetes was because I was going into the medical field. I knew people with diabetes but didn’t have any close friends with it.
Did you tell people you had it? Do you tell people now that you have it or is it something you keep hidden?
I was quiet for the first month but then became very open about it. I use it as a platform now and tell everyone I can.
What are the main struggles of living with diabetes? And what part does technology play in this?
My main struggle is stigma and educating those around me. Many people think technology is a cure and don’t realise how much work diabetes still requires. Diabetes is tough to live with but the lack of understanding makes it harder.
If you could design your own diabetes technology, what would it look like?
My ideal diabetes technology would be an all in one CGM and pump that is tubeless and automated.
I think what was most interesting about these answers is where she said ‘many people think technology is a cure’. I think this speaks a lot of truth because not only does it still require a lot of involvement in counting carbs, injections and monitoring levels, with or without an insulin pen or a pump, but i think the technology also works as a material signifier of a ‘cure’. For example, we look at an amputee and see someone who is broken, but when we see an amputee with a prosthetic, we see them as ‘fixed’. However, not only do people not always want to be ‘fixed’, no number of sophisticated technology can ‘fix someone’, physically or emotionally. This is why I believe, there is still much work to be done in terms of a re-education of diabetes and what it means to be diabetic and how technology needs to be rethought and understood properly.