Where I see myself…

Recently on one of my social media accounts, I stumbled upon an article about a program in Cleveland, Ohio targeted at the low-income black communities who are suffering from very high infant mortality rates. First of all, to be honest when I hear the term “infant mortality” I think about third world countries without clean running water and inconsistent healthcare, but on second thought that actually sounds a lot like this country (google “Flint water-crisis” and United States healthcare issue) so should I be surprised?

The answer, I think should be: yes. This should be our answer than that means we have become comfortable with injustice and that is very scary. So yes, I am surprised that there are places in this country where newborn babies are dying at alarming rates due to gaps in the healthcare system. Now, if you visit my about page you will see that I am an aspiring nurse practitioner. Oftentimes when I tell my friends of family that I want to be a nurse practitioner the next question is usually: why don’t you just become a doctor? The short answer is, “Because I don’t want to be a doctor.” The long answer is related to what a nurse practitioner does, how they fit into the healthcare community and how much they could help fill in the (many) gaps in healthcare.

Ohio has the highest instances of infant mortality in this country. Most of these infant deaths happen in the African American community. It is more than apparent that the reason behind African Americans being over represented is because of the the high levels of poverty. The program that I mentioned earlier, would send nurses to low-income new mothers for a year. The nurse would visit for a year monitoring the progress of the infant and the mother as well as providing support to these mostly young, single new moms. The people involved in funding this program and implementing it deserve to be applauded. This sound like it will do wonders for not only the future of the community but for the young women raising the future.

This news really inspired me. Sometimes it feels really overwhelming to think about all the things I will need to do just to get into nursing school (GRE, pre-reqs, applications) and then the difficulty of nursing school itself, but when I read things like this I feel such a sense of positivity, determination and hope because it represents what I want to do with my career. This program represents exactly what I hope to one day be a part of. I cannot change the world but I know one day I will be able to make things at least a little bit better for someone and that is what keeps me going.

 

Today at Costco…

It wasn’t exactly today, it was on Saturday but I like my title. I think it sounds cool.

Anyway, I am off topic and you are probably wondering what happened at Costco on Saturday. If you have visited my About page you know that I am from New York-New York City to be exact. Whatever busy city images that pop up in your head in association with the Big Apple are correct. NYC is a crazy place. Especially on a Saturday evening, especially at Costco on a Saturday evening.

So there I was at Costco on a Saturday evening, dodging running kids, jumping out of the way of aggressive shopping cart drivers and enjoying the excessive decadence of groceries being sold in bulk. It was my usual Saturday evening.

Now, whenever I go to Costco on a Saturday, I am sure to encounter droves of children and their overwhelmed parents. It is the weekend ritual of grocery shopping with mom and dad, accompanied with the nosiness and excitement of being at basically a warehouse grocery store. Kids at Costco are my favorite things to observe (along with the sample stations), especially the babies and toddlers. I love watching them follow the noisy patrons with their big curious eyes and kick their legs as they ride facing their parents in the shopping carts. They are excited and have no idea how mundane the act of food shopping truly is.

This night at Costco, I saw a baby that looked a little different than the ones I was used to seeing at Costco or anywhere else. He was a regular baby, for the most part. He was smiling and drooling. His big black eyes locked with mine instantly. When I smiled at him he smiled even wider and giggled. His mother even joined the action smiling at me smiling at her adorable little boy. This adorable little boy was perfect even the unique birthmark that I immediately noticed on his face was perfect. It did not make his smile any less bright or his tiny little giggle any less delightful. The birthmark did none of those things, it did however make me think.

At first it made me think about an article I had read a few days earlier. The article was about an equally adorable girl from Australia who had a GoFundMe started in her honor by her parents to help pay for surgery to remove her birthmark (check it out). This little girl named Ruby (one of my favorite names) had the same birthmark as the little boy from Costco. The birthmark called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus and it is basically a mole (it can be large or small) that some infants are born with.

It is definitely a something that people are not used to. These children have large patches of hair on their faces, a sight that people are definitely not used to seeing. If it was not for the article that I had read beforehand, I would have been completely perplexed as to what was wrong with the little boy at Costco. But because of the article I was not perplexed I was thoughtful. It was going to take thousands of dollars and seven surgeries for Ruby’s birthmark to be removed. The process includes implanting a saline balloon in order to harvest skin for grafts when the birthmark is removed. Ruby will be undergoing surgeries for years to come.

These surgeries are not required to save her life, because the mark does noes affect her health. This surgeries will not relieve discomfort because the mark is not uncomfortable. These seven surgeries and the thousands of dollars being invested in them are all to afford Ruby a life without bullying and gawking. It is purely cosmetic and I do not blame her parents one bit. It will certainly be worth it. Ruby is beautiful with or without the mark but there is no doubt in my mind that having the mark would make her the butt of cruel jokes at school and the target of uncomfortable stares and questions in her personal/social life.

Looking at the little boy in Costco, I wondered if his parents were preparing him for the same surgeries. I wondered if they could afford those surgeries. I wondered if they had a different philosophy about the birthmark and maybe were more focused on raising their son to be proud of being different. Either way the next several years will be difficult for Ruby and the little boy at Costco, whether it is recovering from surgeries or learning how to be different.

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What do you think?

Type 1 Diabetes: The Debate

On October 26th of this year the New York Times published the article “Many Schools Failing on Type 1 Diabetes Care,” written by Catherine Saint Louis.  [ Take a look]  The article focuses on the issue of discrimination against families with children that suffer from Type 1 diabetes. These children are often rejected from or unrightfully transferred from schools claiming that they cannot (or will not) be held responsible for providing the required care to the children who suffer from the disease. After reading this article I was surprised that I had not heard of this issue earlier, especially considering my background in education. Learning about such blatant discrimination especially surrounding school aged children elicited feelings of disbelief and shock that there is not more attention directed at this problem. There were many questions implicitly raised in the piece and several questions that I still have that I will discuss a little bit in this post. But before we do that, let’s take a closer look at Type 1 diabetes.

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Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks insulin producing cells in the pancreas rendering the organ ineffective. Insulin acts as sort of a gatekeeper for glucose (sugar) in the human body, it allows glucose into our cells but if our blood sugar drops so does the secretion of insulin to prevent the delivery of glucose to our cells.  Without proper function of their pancreas, those with the disease must monitor their blood sugar and/or receive insulin shots; they also need to carefully consider the type of foods that they include in their diet. Based on my own personal experience with a student with Type 1 diabetes, the results of their hourly blood tests or the effect of an insulin shot dictates the possible ingredients of their next meal. Type 1 diabetes is much rarer than Type 2. According the Diabetes.org, out of the millions that suffer from diabetes only 5% have Type 1, most people with Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed as children, hence the disease’s former name, Juvenile Diabetes.

According to the article, the number of children diagnosed with the disease has grown by 21% in “recent years.” One would assume that this growth in prevalence would result in an equal growth in the awareness and resources for the families of these children. In fact, the contrary has occurred. Along with this growth in the number of children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the number of complaints from parents to authorities on schools refusing to provide care or even admission has grown. I will admit that taking a step back and examining the viewpoints of stakeholders more specifically the parents/guardians of the children in these situations and the schools reveals that both sides have seemingly viable reasons for their actions. On the parents’ side the viability is obvious, indisputable even— they want to send their children to school fully expecting the institution to view their child holistically, considering their educational, emotional and physical needs, even if their physical needs are a bit (maybe even a lot) more tedious than other students. They certainly are not asking too much, and have every right to demand this from schools. It is very disappointing that their expectations are not being met.

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However, playing devil’s advocate, I can understand why a school may not necessarily want to be responsible for a student with Type 1 diabetes. As I established earlier, the disease requires close monitoring to ensure healthy sugar and insulin levels. Teachers, school aides or possibly the school nurse would have to monitor the student before and after any meals or snacks, before and after any strenuous activities and as a safety measure if the child appears unstable or seems to be in distress. From the school’s stance it seems like a liability to have a student with such serious needs in their care for several hours a day. What if something goes wrong? What if a student shares a sugary snack, unbeknownst to teachers and something goes awry? What if the student goes a little overboard at recess or act gym? On the other hand, is it fair to exclude a child from a gym activity or to avoid having classroom celebrations that include candy and soft drinks (to the chagrin of their classmates) in order to meet the needs of a student with Type 1 diabetes? These are all questions that seem to inform the reason behind schools discriminating against these children and their families.

However, the word discrimination tells us all we need to know about this issue. I am glad the New York Times shed light on this problem. Thousands of parents were definitely empowered to learn that their child has the right be enrolled and considered holistically at any school their parent chooses for them.

Sources: The New York Times, http://www.diabetes.org/, http://www.mayoclinic.org/