“I have diabetes.”
Shadowing at a pediatric endocrinology office, I was told this statement by a four-year-old patient. As weeks passed, I could not stop thinking about it. What does that phrase mean to this adorable pediatric patient? How does it affect his self-image or self-esteem? How do his parents explain going to the doctor or giving him shots?
Honestly, I do not know if I fathom the gravity of diabetes as a first-year medical student. I did not understand, or even know, the pathophysiology of the disease until this year. A doctor could say, “Well, there are autoantibodies attacking the insulin-secreting beta cells in your pancreas, making your body unable to properly process and store glucose.” However, I doubt most adults would be able to comprehend this statement — let alone a four-year-old child. As I thought more about how I would explain it, I ended up with a nursery rhyme, something I would picture as a children’s story with beautiful illustrations.
I have a boo-boo in my body, it won’t go away
You can’t see it, I can’t feel it if I don’t delay
After I eat sugar my body does not know what to do
So I get a little prick of medicine and my body says, “phew!”
I can still grow big, smart, and strong
I just have to sing this song.
If I take my medicine with no pouts,
I will be safe and healthy with no doubts.
To me, this topic provides much food for thought. We are in school constantly learning a new language of medical jargon. After graduating, we will not only have to be fluent in this language, but also capable translators for our patients. What good is my knowledge if I cannot express it to those I am taking care of? While I am currently unsure where in the field of medicine my career will transpire, I believe it is necessary to develop now the skills of communicating clearly to all my patients — regardless of age or other factors. Ultimately, I want nothing more than making sure all my studying of human biochemistry and pathophysiology will be of the utmost benefit to others in my future.