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Critical Space Item: Handle With Extreme Care

Someday I want to open a box. The box will be neatly wrapped up with an excessive amount of packaging. Its contents will have been years in the making, and even though it won't weigh much, this small box will represent a huge step forward.


As most flight hardware begins, the space-rated closed-loop insulin delivery and monitoring device inside the box will be sterile and stark. But as the batteries whir to life and insulin is placed within, it will become an extra appendage, an external pancreas, for this Type 1 astro-hopeful. Bluetooth connections will be made and doctors, hungry for telemetry from my bionic body, will be at the ready. We will rely on each other - he on I for his very existence, and I on him for my continued existence. Together we will make up one whole, completely functioning, Type 1 Diabetic astronaut.

Admittedly, this dream feels further and further from reality. I have lived with this disease just under 20 years now, and the cure has always been "just 5 years out". I could stomach that overused phrase fine at age 11 - a cure at 16 gave me plenty of buffer room to still get those astronaut wings. But at 31, with still no cure in sight, it's hard to keep the faith that my Diabetes days will ever end. As glum as it may sound sometimes I feel that my only reward for pricking my finger multiple times a day and counting carbs until I'm blue in the face is just another day of pricking my fingers and counting carbs. The reward of another day with the real possibility of being told "No" because of this absolutely unfair disease.

The fact is there are so many other people with aborted dreams simply due to misunderstanding or outdated rules/laws or lack of sufficient data. Often we are all lumped into a one-size-does-not-fit-all box with limited paths to inject new information or treatment or understanding or data. We are not individualized and therefore take on the form of the worst representation of our condition. Ironically, the only way (seemingly) to break through this unjust barrier is in joining our voices together - to advocate for individualized screening as a first step at removing the erroneous blockades. And joining together does not mean we all have to be diagnosed.

I want to introduce you to a group of young ladies from Vermont who have dubbed themselves the TechnoTurtles. I have had the absolute privilege of riding along on their journey to solve a "physical or social problem faced by humans during long-duration space exploration" as part of the First LEGO League 2018 competition. While I am so incredibly proud of the work they have put into this project, I am even more excited to hopefully cross paths with them in the future! I can't help but imagine that these girls, this generation, full of excitement for the future and equipped with strong STEM skills will finally (finally!!!) cure Type 1 Diabetes. And I know they will do so much more than that - because they will have to. It will take groups and money and research and science to face the challenges human health presents - on this planet and off of it. The small interaction I have had with these girls gives me great hope way down in my gut because they get it! They are obviously not afraid of hard work, meeting on the weekends to work on their project and enlisting help from far away sources (hi!).

A screen capture from our last Skype session this past weekend! These ladies have designed an improved plant habitat for growing fresh veggies on long duration space missions!
Good luck ladies, you will blow the competition out of the water! Future astronauts will have you to thank for improved conditions on long-term missions - and remember to always look for places to improve living conditions of those in space, and maybe all of us currently grounded. <3

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Thanks for joining me during Diabetes Awareness Month for some extra-juicy (pun intended) Diabetes posts!

Comments

  1. Here's to a dream realized, someday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank You for taking time to visit with our girls and for all you do raise the question why we have such blanket Type1 restrictions! Keep up the fight! Someday I hope that some dad out there can look at his beautiful Type1 girl and tell her that she can do anything... even be a NASA astronaut !

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am April's Dad and I have always told her to follow her dreams! Good luck girls and keep dreaming because someday it might all come true!

    ReplyDelete

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