Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MTV True Life - I Have Diabetes

Wow. I just spent the last hour watching a much anticipated episode of MTV True Life. Months ago (maybe even a year ago?), MTV put out a casting call for people living with diabetes. They made it sound....depressing. And very much T2 oriented. After many emails to MTV, they rewrote their casting call and made it more universal. And slightly less depressing.

Of course, none of us actually thought that they might get it right. I'm calling it a draw. Some stuff was a really frank look at life with diabetes. Other things, I feel, were grossly misrepresented.

The show centered around three young people. Kristyn had to move back in with her parents after her health care costs got out of control. From what I could tell, she probably didn't have insurance. Or not good insurance. She was working two full time jobs, getting very little sleep, and paying for a new insulin pump on a credit card because her old one died. I feel for the girl. I've been without insurance. I don't know that my body could handle two full time jobs. I need my sleep too much.

I feel for Kristyn. She seems like a sweet girl. But diabetes is an expensive disease. Like I tweeted during the show, diabetes is expensive with GOOD health insurance. Without it... it's nearly impossible to afford.

Jen was a young girl (19, if I remember correctly), who was pregnant. She said that she'd gone to the emergency room because she felt sick and found out she was pregnant and had T2 diabetes in the same day. Immediately I wondered (and tweeted) if she was really a T2. Some people who are slim do get T2 diabetes. But with someone as young as Jen, and with a pregnancy, shouldn't doctors have checked for T1 anti-bodies? I think so. Instead, this girl spent months on many different pills trying to control her diabetes during her pregnancy.

Her doctor seemed more into scare tactics than anything, telling her if her blood sugar was too high that her baby would die. Jen ended up on insulin before the end of the pregnancy and the baby had to be taken early because he was too large. Diabetes related? Maybe. But from what they showed and made it sound like, it could have just been that the baby was broad shouldered. A friend of mine had to have her son taken by c-section because he was large. There was no diabetes involved in this.

At the end of the show it stated that Jen's diagnosis had been changed from T2 to T1 because she was "no longer producing insulin." Um, sounds to be like the had a T1 (or LADA) patient that struggled through her whole pregnancy more than she ever would have had to have struggled than if they'd just diagnosed her correctly the first time.

Matt was a college student who liked to drink. It made it sound like that he (and all diabetics) weren't supposed to drink at all. It also made it sound like he never took care of himself. I do have to say, I think Matt had the most supportive people around him of all of the "cast". He had friends who worried about him. People who urged him to test while drinking. And a doctor that told him it was okay to drink, but to be careful and have people around him that new what to do if he was acting funny.

His A1c had apparently gone up to 8.something from a previous visit of 7.4. The doctor was honest that they wanted a 7. But I think that both those numbers are okay for a person in college. Sure you'd like better. But when they were talking about it, I expected him to go in and find out his A1c was 12.1 like mine was one time in college.

One thing that really bothered me about the Matt segments was that they only showed him check his blood sugar once and it was over 400. That's something that (obviously) isn't a norm for him, or his A1c would have been way higher. I think this kid might have gotten a slightly bad wrap. While I don't encourage binge drinking, or drinking all the time for ANYONE, I think that you can drink responsibly as a diabetic and do it in such a way that doesn't totally compromise your blood sugar levels.

If Matt spikes when he drinks, should he never drink? I don't think so. I spike when I eat pizza. It doesn't mean I NEVER eat pizza, just that I do it only occasionally and that I'm ready to bolus the heck out of it so that my blood sugar doesn't linger in the high areas.

Either way you go about it, they could have done way worse on this show. I hate that they showed only negative things, because there are so many positives that can happen with diabetes. But I'm glad that they didn't bring in people who were not taking care of themselves at all and/or had one food in the grave.

MTV could have done better....but they could have done worse.

I rate this show a C+.

You can read updates on MTV's website about how all three are doing now.

And I hope that Jen, Kristyn, and Matt find the D-OC. We can help! :)


Mike Hoskins said...

Great post. I've ended up with too little brain-power to write about this tonight, so that will have to happen later. But I pretty much agree with you that it was basically a draw. Do think it turned out better than I personally expected. Very much hope that brave trio finds the DOC!

Lorraine of "This is Caleb..." said...

Thanks for the review, Cara!

Crystal said...

AS far as the pregnant girl, I was thinking gestational But they were found at the same time. Hate hearing about misdiagnosis!

Could have been worse is true. Sounds better than most shows.

Thanks for the review, Cara!!

Rachel said...

I didn't get a chance to watch it but I was very curious, thanks for posting about the show.

You make some great points in reference to both the episode and real life.

Scott S said...

Thanks for your honest review, I suppose a C+ isn't as bad as the F's most TV programming gets on diabetes coverage. Maybe someday (time permitting) I can watch some of it!

Kim said...

My heart hurt so much for Jen, finding out that she'd been misdiagnosed all along. So thankful her baby was okay!

Thanks for the recap, Cara. :)

Scott K. Johnson said...

Thanks for the post Cara. I tuned in late, but caught most of the show. I agree with your thoughts about it.

k2 said...

Great post and I agree! I wanted to jump inside the tv screen and totally protect them!

@loopygreebo said...

I didnt see the show, but this is a good post. It saddens me, however, that diabetes is an expensive condition in the USA. Luckily, here in the UK, my healthcare is free, and it is very, very good. With regards to the diabetes and pregnancy situation, gestational diabetes is extremely common, and the problem is that poor control during the pregnancy can lead to large babies, premature birth and stillbirth. It does happen. Also, if there is not a vastly increased intake of folic acid during the first three months, babies of diabetic mothers are more likely to have conditions like spinabifida.
I am glad though, that MTV are dragging diabetes into the light. Its a misunderstood condition of which most people are completely ignorant, and it still kills people, but living with it doesnt need to be hell.

Anonymous said...

It's TV, they HAVE TO make it bigger and better... or in this case, worse and more depressing. Is's it high time we (audience) realize nothing we see on TV is real, nor it will ever be? I guess the only exception are those National Geographic documentaries about wild life =P

Alexis Nicole said...

I didn't see, I'm hoping to catch this week. Great recap!

Jordan said...

The 400 blood glucose occurred after the drinking? Studies now have found that glucose levels tend to drop after drinking! As a T1, I definitely feel like they should have had him check more and that they should have been careful on how they represent the effects of drinking on many people do not realize that there actually is a tendency to drop!

carmen2u said...

For the non-PWD crowd, I can say I got an education on how hard it is for young folks to balance life with diabetes. The additional eye-opnbers regarding misdiagnosis and the gaps in our healthcare system regarding coverage of chronic diseases was brought to life powerfully. I particularly found Kristin's story to be heartfelt. Her hard work and persistance were tremendous in light of the staggering debt and health issues she was facing. Now, we need an ongoing in-the-trenches series on life with diabetes.

Kristin said...

I've been meaning to watch this, and now I don't have to, thanks to the great review!