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17 June 2014

Teach a Fish to Swim Into Your Child's Mouth

'Most everyone has heard the adage: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry."  There is also the NAACP slogan (at least from my recollection, it was NAACP's but maybe it is older) from a long time ago: "Give us a hand up, not a hand out."

In other words, we as a society want people to be self-reliant, independent, equipped to take on whatever challenges life might present them, survive and thrive when we are not around to help.  This philosophy benefits them and benefits us and overall, benefits all.

So, imagine my indignation when I heard the NPR Morning Edition piece about a father determined to perfect the "bionic pancreas" before his son David, diagnosed a Type A diabetic since 11 months old and now aged 15, goes to college. His parents are worried, very worried, terrified that they would not be there to prevent him from dying during the night.  His father "became a 24/7 blood sugar monitor," testing his son's insulin level and even, if necessary, coaxing juice down the boy's throat without waking him.  During the day, David is not responsible enough for his own health to remember his having his insulin pump with him, leaving it in his backpack in his locker.  His parents chalk it up to a teenaged brain.  Why is David not more responsible?  Because he is confident his father will prevail and perfect the bionic pancreas before he goes to college.

His mother fears that one day, she will hear that her son is dead, because of an insulin overdose. "I raised this precious person to die because of a mistake."  No, I don't think so.  He will have died, because it was not impressed upon him for 14 years that his precious life is important enough to himself as well as to his parents to CARE, to be self reliant, to learn to know his body best.  It starts by waking him up when he needs to take some sugar in the middle of the night. "What does that too-much-insulin-in-the-blood situation feel like, Davy?  Remember that feeling and learn from it."

I know I am a better parent for never having been one, but I have talked to others and I am not the only one who sees this:  It seems to me that his parents do not want him to be self-reliant.  His father Ed, in fact, wants him to be reliant upon Ed, as a father or as the inventor of a bionic pancreas machine, forever.  To be reliant on a machine is scary, too.  What if the batteries or the wi-fi malfunction?  And what if, Davy, who cannot remember to have his insulin pump with him at all times, forgets to refill the tubes of insulin or glucogon, which the bionic pancreas is using to monitor and send the right stuff to his body when needed, forgets to strap it on, forgets to recharge the batteries, forgets where he put it last?

He could have been like Arianna and the other diabetic human subjects testing this device for Davy. Yes, it will change their lives, because they can be a little more carefree.  But no, for Davy, the device will keep his life the same -- totally irresponsible and inconsiderate and dependent upon others to keep him alive.

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