Defeating the stigma of diabetes that affects children in India (2/2)
Mistakes, disappointments and bitter experiences have something good in common: you can learn and get something positive out of them. Today’s story is about the latter ones: of how you can get a positive outcome from a difficult situation.
The several visits we did to children with diabetes in hospitals of Hyderabad (India) were, at first, promising a pleasant day. Having a good time with the kids, maybe play a bit, give a fun speech to inspire them and put a smile on their faces.
After a tortuous drive through that endless city (we’ll talk other day about the traffic, the noise and the pollution) we arrived at the first hospital, where the world seemed to suddenly collapse.
This is what awaited us: mud, trash, a broken ground, an unknown disinfectant white powder in the corners. People on the floor packed together, broken legs, rotten wheelchairs throughout a long emergency’s hallway – as long as the walk through it was. Lifeless gazes, that smell, that sort of silence. Absolutely shocking.
Second floor. Plastic surgery to the left, endocrinology to the right. Their deplorable state of preservation contrasted the warming welcome of the staff of the hospital. They were the best example of how to overcome the situation and get the job done.
I confess it was tough. I got there with the idea of making those children smile and enjoy, but I went blank and hesitated whether I could keep going. I was lucky to have a few minutes to think, and I remembered why we were there: to inspire, to educate, to let those children know how valuable they are and how many possibilities they have ahead.
As I mentioned in the first post, society in India and many other countries has stigmatized diabetes to the point where people living with it gets excluded and maltreated.
Can you imagine how hard is for children to be diagnosed with a chronic disease? Add on top of that having difficulties to access treatments, and the worse part: being blamed of their diagnosis (seriously?) and being told they are useless now. It’s terrible.
All the kids in each venue were sitting silently, shy, not knowing what to expect from that talk. They looked hopeless. This together with the first hospital impression forced me to improvise and change the relaxed tone I had in mind for my speeches. I needed to get serious, forceful, straightforward: they needed the most efficient inspiration.
And at the end of every talk we saw the results we wanted to see: smiles, questions, conversations, tears, emotions, joy, children telling their dreams…it was worth. And yes, tears were also mine!
I’ll remember them forever, like the little girl who asked me: “sir, can I dance if I have diabetes? She loved it, but she wasn’t allowed to do it. I replied: “of course you can! Dance every day, just take care of your diabetes.” She smiled and run away, already dancing! How simple is to make a child happy?
I can also remember the young adult who told us how he put up with taunts and limitations during his uprising, but he ended up fulfilling his dream of being a software developer. Now he feels empowered to help the younger ones to pursue their dreams.
And just like that with the hundreds of children who came to the events. They dreamed of becoming scientists, doctors, lawyers, gymnasts, cricket players…so much talent! And we’re sure they will go a long way. They don’t deserve to think they are a nuisance for society. They are the future, the change: the ones who will defeat the stigma.
The situation over there was and remains tough. But I’m happy that all of us together made children, adolescents, parents, doctors… become strong and empowered: now they dream big and they will drive the change of diabetes in their society and the world.
From our end, we’ll continue to fight injustices, and work every day to create a better world for people with diabetes.
Shout out to the amazing job that the Changing Diabetes in Children program is doing in many countries and for the opportunity they gave me, as well as to all those who fight every day and are Changing Diabetes. Together, we are unstoppable!