“One, two, shhhh, she’s counting. Ariel runs, tiny legs waddling across pavement, her chubby fingers barely able to grasp her daily Pepsi, she runs. Poison in hand, smile on face, looking for hiding spots, three. Ariel stops, she takes a sip. She’s already consumed 1460 sodas in her lifetime, she’s 5. She runs, inhaling deeply as her lungs try to catch up with her feet.
Kayla’s 35, 4, 5, she counts the lights hanging from the hospital roof as she’s rushed to surgery, they flicker above her as she tries to remember every memory she’s ever had involving her feet, but her mind won’t let her wander from this moment, this second, this flickering light, a hush whisper, the last moment she’ll have with her feet. She blames it on her diabetes, as if this disease has a mind of its own. Doctors blame it on the 4410 Pepsis she’s been drinking since childhood.
Little Ariel can barely spell, she’s 6, and knows nothing about fructose or dextrin but neither does Kayla. Beaten, living in a broken home, she just keeps trying to find pieces of herself at the end of that bottle. Ariel only knows the sizzle of bubbles, the aches she feels in her tummy, the big words doctors use to describe her condition. They tell her mom that her kidneys are failing, her blood sugar is too high, the pain she feels that mommy can’t fix because mommy’s been surviving off of ramen and sodas because mommy can barely afford to live.
Kayla sits back in her wheelchair trying to look over her stomach but she can’t. She can’t see the stumps, the spaces where her feet used to be, she can’t see herself, when she looks at the reflection staring back at her she’s just a person she turned into but she can’t stop, bottle after bottle she can’t stop, 6, 7. When Ariel turns 7 they see her dying behind overstuffed teddy bears and deflated balloons, it was her birthday. 8, 9, I’ve heard of death before, but I swear, there’s something foreign about the way it creeps to the lips of a 7-year-old, 10.
Every 10 seconds someone dies from diabetes, and in the time it’s taken me to recite this poem, 15 people will die.”
This haunting spoken word poem comes from The Bigger Picture, an organization spreading diabetes awareness.
I cried when I watched this video. A frightening reality planted itself in front of me as I remembered that my own grandmother had passed away from type 2 diabetes almost 20 years ago. She spent her last years injecting multiple daily insulin shots, in and out of a hospital bed 300 km away from her hometown. I remember my mother telling me that Nan used to drink a lot of soda.
The implications of a disease are hard to fully grasp unless you or someone you love has suffered through it. But even more horrifying than my Nan’s sole story is the fact that type 2 diabetes is a reality for millions of people worldwide at this very moment. In America alone, over 29 million people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2012. It stands as the 7th leading cause of death in that country.