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Saturday, December 08, 2007

New Series - Diabetes and the Corporate Life

In August 2001, just four months after joining Thomas Nelson, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic. Outside of a few people in the company I tried for the longest time to keep that fact quiet. After all, personal health information isn't anyone else's business, there's a great lack of understanding about this condition and nobody wants to be the guy who can't chin the bar. I was fortunate to have an endocrinologist and dietitian at Vanderbilt, and a great Assistant with diabetes in her family who could help me manage through the day. Why not keep it quiet outside my staff and just those people who need to know?

I know of others in the company who have my same condition. From time to time people struggling with diabetes who heard about my situation have come to see me after being diagnosed. Unfortunately, there is scientific disagreement between health care organizations and professionals as to what is acceptable blood sugar and how tightly to control it. I've heard stories of people whose diabetes is being managed by GP's and Nurse Practitioners who haven't kept up with the latest science, and even one EMT who was a friend of the family. One of the big problems with diabetes care in the workplace is that some diabetics get really bad, outdated advice that makes managing their condition harder than it should be.

Recently two events happened that lead me to believe that information on managing this condition in the workplace was needed. First, we distributed ice cream to everyone in our Nashville facilities one afternoon "just because" and my staff noted the number of people who turned it down stating they were diabetic. Also, I attended three recent required management events of 3-5 days where the available food choices and time demands of the agenda resulted in high blood sugar and complications in managing my condition. During the most recent event, we worked with the event planners in advance and they made a well-intended and admirable effort that still feel short because of mistakes made by the venue's food service team.
One afternoon in the office, as Dawn was telling me about the ice cream distribution, I felt instant and profound conviction about my lack of leadership on this issue. If my problems occurred in spite of the quality of my care and my administrative support, what do other diabetics experience at work?

So for the next two or three postings let's discuss what complications happen when diabetes and the work life collide, and how people with this condition and their supervisors and co-workers can help in making the corporate life a little more livable for those struggling with an uncooperative pancrease.

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