Richard has type 1 diabetes, which requires him to have set routines so that he can maintain his blood glucose. He does not mind explaining to people about his diabetes, but finds that some people do underestimate the consequences for him if his blood sugars were poorly controlled and are unsympathetic.
© Disability Narratives
at the time of the interview – 2016
Richard is a Professor of Egyptology, He is married.
Ethnic Background/Nationality: White-British.
at the time of the interview - 2016
Richard has worked at the University for the last three years. He is the professor of Egyptology and specialises in ancient Egyptian poetry. He teaches and supervises students as well as researching.
When he was a child Richard was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Since then diabetes has affected Richard's daily and professional life in various ways. For example, it has prevented him from doing fieldwork, which might have had consequences for his career. However, as Richard's work is mostly with papyri he was able to focus his work in an institutional context, such as at museums.
In order to control his blood sugar levels, Richard needs to inject and carefully manage his eating patterns on a day to day basis. Should his blood sugar get too high or low it can severely affect his mood. Very low levels can lead to unconsciousness and death. In the long term having elevated blood sugars can lead to complications such as blindness, or kidney failure. Therefore having a good control is an important part of Richard's life.
Richard said he was happy to explain to people about his diabetes or how it affects his life and diet. Most people, Richard finds, are understanding and are happy to accommodate the structure he needs to remain healthy. He also finds that most people understand when he explains (and apologises) that his mood might have been affected by his high or low blood sugar. But this is not always the case. Richard explained that some people do seem to underestimate the consequences of poorly managed diabetes. For example, he said it can be humiliating to repeatedly remind people that he couldn't attend meetings that run over mealtimes.
I think the one thing I'd say is that openness is by far the best policy. The more people who know about the condition, the more people who will be there to help if anything goes wrong.
Diabetes has affected Richard's academic work in a number of ways. Practically it means that he has to plan well ahead when managing his workload, as it does not suit his regime to work late in the evenings unexpectedly to meet deadlines. Richard also reflected that being diabetic had impacted his intellectual life, making him aware of how ideas and moods are dependent upon a person's physical reality. His diabetes has encouraged him to consider how the emotional and intellectual responses to poetry are part of its materiality.
Richard advises other people with diabetes to be open about their needs and encourages them to try and overcome any embarrassment. The more people that know about a condition the more they can help if something goes wrong. He feels this is particularly true for an invisible condition like diabetes. By being open and frank about it, he finds it can help to resolve many issues. Richard asks those who work with people with diabetes to be patient, considerate and compassionate about the disability the person has. This response, he believes, should not just be part of a professional responsibility, but should come as part of being a decent human being (even for academics!).