"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


meanwhile, back at the ranch

Well, things are heating up on this side of the Atlantic with Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The conservatives (who were pretty obviously geared up to bash any and every nominee regardless of personal heritage and/or judicial temperament) and the liberals (who were pretty obviously ready to defend the same) are at each other's throats already, and the distinguished members of the United States Senate seem to mostly be keeping their mouths shut.

One story you may or may not have seen in the past couple of days has to do with Sotomayor's Compelling Personal Story. Not only is she a Latina woman who grew up in public housing in the Bronx and lost her father at age nine, etc., but Judge Sotomayor also lives with Type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed at age eight.

Which is awesome, if you, like me, happen to also live with Type 1 diabetes.

You have to understand that kids, especially young ones, who have Type 1 are constantly told they can't do things. We "can't play certain sports," or "can't go on crazy trips around the world." It might offset the delicate balance between insulin, carbohydrates, exercise, and stress that we spend our days calculating. I've written before about how wonderful my parents were to not put those limits on me, but for a lot of kids with Type 1, it happens.

There have already been rumblings on some of the blogs and even in legitimate news sources as to whether Sotomayor's diabetes means that she is a risky pick for the bench. As a number of leading endocrinologists have told the press, it should be a "non-issue" that is completely irrelevant in determining whether she is fit to hold the federal bench.

That doesn't mean that there isn't a truckload of misinformation going around out there. The people who care a lot about diabetes are urging those of us who live with Type 1 to make this a teachable moment for America. So here's my attempt to contribute to that moment. There is no reason to worry at all about Sotomayor's status as a Type 1 diabetic. As a Type 1 blogger at Diabetes Mine points out, "Being a judge is a desk job ... all she needs is can of regular Coke handy, just in case. And btw, Sotomayor’s been performing the judge job for over 15 years already."

Exhibit A: Time's pitiful explanation of Type 1 which conflates statistics on complications in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics and gets the explanation of the mysterious workings of insulin pumps completely wrong (there's nothing permanent about it).

Why is this a problem? Because the disease takes different forms and is treated differently. Although they are both diabetes, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease with trigger causes that we don't fully understand. Type 1 strikes seemingly randomly; patients are at all levels of health and may or may not have a family history of the disease. Since almost all Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, Type 1's tend to be very attuned to how our bodies work. Since using insulin is the only way to treat type 1, we have to learn how to manage the disease at an early age. (I walk around all day calculating carbohydrates and thinking about exercise times. It's second nature.)

By contrast, we know how Type 2 works. People who are diagnosed with Type 2 are generally not taking very good care of their bodies to begin with. Since many are diagnosed in middle and older age (although there's a frightening spike in the number of children being diagnosed with Type 2), it can be more difficult to learn treatment regimes and to adjust eating and exercise habits appropriately.

That distinction is why you have to separate out the statistics on the secondary complications of diabetes in Type 1's and Type 2's. Someone who was ill enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 is going to be more likely to have a heart attack for fairly obvious reasons. It's like comparing apples to kumquats, and it's downright irresponsible of Time to not be more careful.

Exhibit B: Jeffrey Toobin's moronic comments that reflect a complete lack of understanding of the fact that diabetes is a manageable disease. Need I say more?

Setting aside the unsurprising fact that Toobin clearly doesn't know a darn thing about the treatment and management of Type 1 diabetes, this is a pretty amazing event. You have no idea what the presence of a prominent woman in a prestigious career does for little girls living with this disease. (And much as I love Mary Tyler Moore, I'm so glad that for once, those girls have a role model outside of the entertainment industry.) For once, the President of the United States will join the chorus of voices saying that the inconvenience of Type 1 diabetes doesn't have to limit any kid from doing anything.

If the Republicans really want to risk the wrath of America's diabetics by stirring up opposition to Sotomayor's nomination on health grounds, bring it on. I think they'll be surprised to see the strange bedfellows such an attempt would make. Bring it.


Blogger austinokie said...

My first response when I learned of her Type 1 (since childhood) diabetes was, "well, there's ANOTHER brilliant woman who refuses to be defeated by this possible barrier"....Thanks for writing this.....thanks for being that "other brilliant" woman!

Thursday, May 28, 2009 11:13:00 AM

Blogger Charlie Mac said...

TIA, I believe you need not worry about us Republicans attacking Sotomayor because of a health issue she has dealt with for years. She has a number of larger and much more important problem issues to focus on.
Justice holding balance scales is supposed to be blind. So race and gender should never come into play for a judge, especially with an "appointed for life" position.
Yet, apparently, this is the primary reason she has risen in the ranks.
The way to end racism is to stop basing decisions on race.

Friday, May 29, 2009 2:55:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

charlie mac, read David Brooks excellent article today in the New York Times about the way judges make decisions...

Friday, May 29, 2009 6:37:00 PM

Blogger Charlie Mac said...

I read the article. What it says about our judicial system scared the hell out of me.

What the laws say means nothing or at least very little? It is up to the judge and his or her experiences, thoughts, belifs?
Yep!, D. Brooks' article nailed the problem.

Lets take a very simple example of
what the article says is the real way the judicial system works in real life:

For instance I am a judge sitting a case of a speeding ticket. Someone of my race, gender, religious group, etc, has been caught going 55mph in a 35mph zone. They are appealing the ticket or fine.

The law says the speed limit is 35mph, but in my personal experience nothing bad has happened when I drive 55 on that stretch of road. So I rule the ticket is invalid.

Does this happen? Yes. Because it happens we should just accept it as a fact of life or should we try to stop the injustice?

I am not ashamed to say that I think we should try to stop the injustice or to include my name on my thoughts.
Mac McFatter

Saturday, May 30, 2009 6:28:00 AM

Blogger Carole Turner said...

OMG! I had no idea you had type one!! My daughter was diagnosed at age two, she is gonna be 13 in July. Evangeline and I both were watching the news when they covered the nomination of Sortomayor, we were so excited when they said she had diabetes LIKE Evangeline! I said "see you can be a supreme court judge if you want to be when you grow up" She said "I want to open a free lunch diner for homeless people" I said, "you can do that too :-)"

I can't wait to tell her that my favorite Africa blogger also has type 1...just like her.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 6:53:00 PM

Blogger Carole Turner said...

oh and yes, the comments made by the media were so pathetic! E and I both were talking back to the TV. I hope her presence in the public eye will help raise awareness. I like that she is Latino too. Viva Sortomayor!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 6:55:00 PM

Blogger Charlie Mac said...

By all means we should select Supreme Court Justices (and as a matter of fact all judges) on the basis of race, gender, religion and now we add to the list their afflictions.
Has America really come to this?
Mac McFatter

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 9:33:00 PM


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