While my parents were trying to make a living in the States, I spent my childhood years with my wonderful grandparents in an Indian village, a rural place that only showed up on Google Maps three years ago. Both of them were in their 60’s at the time, and they were always making sacrifices for their 6-year-old granddaughter. My grandfather even sacrificed his health several times. He has type two diabetes, and he fainted many times on his daily walks to drop off my school lunch.
In India we did not even have access to glucose meters. It was way too expensive to buy such a simple health instrument. So, there was no way of knowing when my grandfather’s glucose readings were slipping dangerously low. There was not a family physician in my town. The nearest one was 60 miles away in a neighboring city. In these emergencies, my grandmother literally added sweetness to the chaos by feeding him sugar directly. Unfortunately, that was the only education we had about treating hypoglycemia.
That was ten years ago. Sadly, not much has changed in parts of India. These are not guilt-trip tales, but real life. I hear similar stories about lack of access to medicine on CNN, but these news outlets do not give personal perspectives to the sacrifices people have to go through for a simple human right, access to healthcare.
There’s a great divide between India and USA in terms of access to healthcare. I should know, since it was traveling a short five mile distance in USA that saved my little sister’s life. It took us ten minutes to get to a physician, where my family’s world was flipped upside down when she was diagnosed with type one diabetes.
There are healthcare problems in America as well. At the time of her diagnosis we did not have health insurance. Fear surrounded us when opening the emergency room bill. Paying from out of pocket, one vial of insulin was nearly two hundred dollars. That was not counting the cost of test strips, needles, glucagon and other supplies. Diabetes is an expensive disease to manage. I am concerned about how other people in the USA, India and around the world pay for diabetic supplies.
I want to see a world where every type one diabetic can easily afford and be provided with insulin and other necessities. Diabetes will keep orbiting around my life since it is my responsibility to take care of my little sister. I believe I have an equally important responsibility to share my story and to speak out so that no one has to face the same problems my family lived through when lacking full access to healthcare.