It certainly can be an interesting experience trying to explain diabetes to the little kids in our lives -- attempting to simplify this complex condition and all that goes with it in ways their young minds can grasp.
Fortunately, when it comes to explaining the diabetes devices and tools we wear and carry around with us, there's a new book that can help. And it's here just in time for the holiday gift-giving season!
The cute new little paperback book is called Carolyn's Robot Relative, written by fellow type 1 and do-it-yourself innovator Dana Lewis, who's become something of a celebrity for hacking her own D-devices to create a homemade closed loop system called OpenAPS. She was recently named by Fast Company magazine as one of the Most Creative People of 2017.
Turns out that Dana's not only a gifted inventor and advocate, but also has a penchant for writing children's books -- or at least for explaining her insulin pump and CGM to her niece and two nephews. It was their questions over the years that prompted her to write this book to help others educate kids in their lives, she tells us.
The self-published 24-page paperback features hand-drawn images from Dana's own artistic aunt Sandra Massengill. It's a fun look at diabetes devices from the perspective of a realistic chat between little Carolyn and "Aunt Dana," who answers the girl's questions about her CGM and explains that it's just "one of her robot parts."
The main illustration appearing in the book is from Carolyn's imaginative mind, picturing a yellow and red robot character with the body being a blue Dexcom receiver!
This book really hits at the heart of mashing up fun and educational, talking about diabetes devices in clear language that kids can relate to, using bright images, and also hitting on themes of being different.
What's especially cool is that Dana goes beyond just diabetes in explaining her "robot parts," delving into other medical devices that people might use or wear -- such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs.
As someone with a 5-year-old niece and 3-year-old nephew myself, I've faced these inquiries often -- about everything from my insulin pump to inhaling my Afrezza insulin. Most recently during the Thanksgiving holiday, I went into another room to do a fingerpoke and take my pre-meal insulin; the kiddos of course followed Uncle Mike.
When they asked about my meter, Dana's "robot parts" book was fresh on the mind and I referred to it. They gave me an inquisitive look in response. When I took an Afrezza dose, my niece immediately asked "What's that?" during the 10-second hold-my-breathe period, so I couldn't say anything at all in the moment.
Instead, Uncle Mike did a little dance that made them laugh.
When I was done holding my breathe, I responded: "That's my medicine to keep me healthy."
My 3-year-old nephew lost interest and went back to pretending he was an airplane, wanting me to pick him up and fly him around the room again. But my niece remained curious.
She asked: "Does it make you dance?"
I just about lost it laughing, but loved her logic.
"Yes, it does. It's my dancing medicine."
So now my meter is a robot part and my Afrezza is the "dancing medicine."
I plan to give them a copy of this book for Christmas later in the month, since they both love being read to. And for those interested, it's worth reading Dana's blog posts about her adventures writing this book and everything that went into the design and open-source mentality behind the creative process, as well as how she's had even more fun with the robot character more recently. A true DIYer, indeed!
Thanks, Dana for self-publishing this book and making it available as a teaching tool for those of us involved with diabetes devices and kids!
You can find this book on Amazon for $9.89, but before you go off and buy it, here's a chance to win a copy for yourself (and the children in your life, of course)...
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning a copy of Dana's new children's book? Here's how to enter:
Just leave a comment below, and be sure to include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in your comment so we know you're in it to win it.
Since our comment system requires log-in, you may also email us your entry directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, using the subject line "Robot Book."
You have until Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, at 9pm PST to enter.
Please be sure to keep tabs on your Facebook messages or emails, as that's our only way to contact winners. Good luck, Fellow Cyborgs!