For The Love of Automation

At 8.10am yesterday morning, I made a call to a clinic where I had an appointment booked.

“Hello, you’ve reached [clinic name]. Our offices are staffed on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8am to 3.30pm, on Tuesday from 8am to 2pm, and closed on Fridays. Please try calling again during business hours.”

When I was told during business hours that I should try calling back during business hours, I hung up the phone in frustration. I knew that once my work day headed into full swing, I’d likely forget to call again before 3.30pm.

When I eventually did call again at 1.01pm, I was greeted with the same message. Only this time, I listened long enough to catch an additional option on the end where I could leave a message. I left my name, the purpose of my call, and a telephone number that I could be reached on.

At 1.09pm, that call was promptly returned.

“I was wondering if you would be able to e-mail me my appointment confirmation letter now so that I can arrange time off from work,” I asked the receptionist.

This clinic usually sends confirmation letters four weeks prior to an appointment. However since I would need a few days off from work after this appointment, I wanted the letter as soon as possible.

“We only send appointment letters out four weeks in advance. We don’t actually send the letters ourselves. It’s automatically generated through the computer. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do,” she replied.

“Would I be able to get a letter from the doctor?” I asked.

After a few umms and ahhs (much like my own), I decided that I would simply have to give my boss the dates now, and owe him the appointment letter and doctor’s note when I got them. I thanked the receptionist for returning my call, and she wished me a great day.

The reality is that many large businesses I deal with seem to go out of their way to avoid human interaction with me. As my mother often says, gone are the days where a business caters to what the customer wants.

Yet if I were the one cancelling the appointment, I’d be expected to call up in person, with reasonable notice, give an explanation for cancelling, and possibly jeopardise my ability to make appointments in future.

If I were to fall sick tomorrow, I’d love nothing more than to be able to send one generic mass email to everyone I had to cancel on. But in reality, I’d be on the phone or emailing every single person affected. They’d have an explanation, my sincere apologies and an invitation to reschedule.

If I can make that effort for free, surely businesses can be more flexible in delivering their services when the need arises.

A freaking letter shouldn’t be that hard…

The Challenges of Parenting a Young Adult With Diabetes

Today is my Mum’s birthday, and I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than to re-share these words she wrote about the challenges of being the diabetes parent of a young adult last year. And also because I got a bit carried away making birthday cake last night! Happy Birthday, Mum!

We are so proud of you Frank, that you manage your diabetes yourself. I must admit, in the beginning when we were learning about type 1, I didn’t know how you would cope. I myself found all of the information given to us mind blowing. There was just so much to take in.

So, fast forward five years and you ask the question, how much do your parents think about diabetes. Obviously, over time, the focus has changed. You have proved that you can manage your diabetes yourself, so that element is a relief for us. But we never stop worrying. Just knowing that you could black out if you went too low is always at the back of my mind. I am so relieved that I have never had to use that glucagon kit that we have in case of emergency.

We worry when you are out by yourself, especially since you don’t like wearing your bracelet. You wouldn’t believe our sighs of relief when you returned from the apartment after doing the BridgeClimb that night in Sydney. We know that you don’t want to burden us with your diabetes, so we try to act calm even when we are worried silly. When we hear noises coming from your room in the middle of the night, we would love to come in just to see that you are okay. We know that you wouldn’t like that, but hope that you will let us know if you ever need help.

We notice everything. When you don’t have breakfast in the morning, when you don’t eat all of your lunch at work and the times where you don’t eat much at all. We notice when you are grumpy and don’t want to talk, when you eat heaps of sweets and junk food, and when you look tired or unwell. Living in the same house, we know when you are checking your levels. We see you giving your insulin. We even notice the boxes in the fridge! I even feel guilty that we can just have a piece of chocolate in front of the TV without giving it a second thought, whereas you have to decide whether you are going to have it or not.

I talk to my friends about diabetes. I try to explain it to them. Most people, like we used to, know nothing about type 1 diabetes. Living with someone who has type 1 diabetes has made us more aware of the foods we eat and our lifestyle. Especially sugar and fat rich foods and recipes. Whenever someone in the family is sick, I make sure there are no diabetes symptoms. Any one of us could get diabetes. I’m very conscious of type 2 diabetes as well. So many people have it and it can be avoided!

Reading your blog has been great and I can see a difference in you. Connecting with people going through what you go through every day has made you more open and confident. It’s good to see you taking an interest in diabetes and not shying away from it.

Diabetes has become part of our lives. We don’t realise it, but “it’s there.” We have become diabetes aware. Whenever anything is reported in the media relating to diabetes, we take notice. Who can think of Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital without thinking of the wonderful Diabetes Clinic there. We know when it’s National Diabetes Week. There’s the NDSS. The Run For A Reason supports diabetes. We take notice of celebrities and sportsmen who have diabetes. We read your Diabetes WA newsletters that are sent to our e-mail. We hear of all the research that is being done into diabetes and we always hope that a cure might be possible in the future.

We are always thankful and happy that you will be able to live a normal life, and that we live in a country where we have access to doctors, hospitals and good health care. Even though we don’t have diabetes ourselves, we like to think you consider us supportive. You may not think we understand, but if you don’t include us with what is happening then it is more difficult for us. We are here sharing the journey with you in our own way whether you like it or not, whether you include us or not. Don’t ever forget that.