Ok, so I know I've complained alot about the state of design in the medical industry in general and in the world of diabetes in particular. I'm a designer by training and the idea that life can be made better through design problem solving is fundamental to my approach to the world. I believe that great design can improve quality of life, pure and simple. There are countless examples of this in the world, too many to list here. I take it for granted that if something is just "good enough" it's ripe for reinvention or redesign. It's just the way I think about things.
The reality that the stuff I have to use as a diabetic could be better designed has been a source of real frustration and sadness to me. The pump design is ok, but oh, it could be so much better. The other reality is the ability to actually change the design of the pump is slim to none. I'm involved in a couple of things where I can possibly contribute some input, but to actually be able to profoundly change such a highly regulated, complex medical devise is unlikely. For all intents and purposes at this point, I get what I'm given by the industry. Period. That fact also saddens me. It makes me feel caught and captive and passive. I don't like that feeling because it adds another negative to my experience of diabetes. I've come to believe that I can't do what is fundamental to who I am (ie. problem solve through design), which leaves me feeling ineffectual in such an important part of my life.
Well, it's occured to me lately that just because I feel this way about the pump, that doesn't mean I have to feel that way about everything I need to do with diabetes. Take medical alert bracelets for example. I'm supposed to wear one, but I don't because they are uncomfortable and antiquated and just plain ugly. I've not worn one most of the 21 years I've had diabetes, which means I've been lucky not to have had cause to need one, but also means I've been taking a risk. I'm a bit of a girl scout and so to not do something I'm "supposed" to is kind of a big deal for me. I've let the aesthetics of the existing state of medical alert bracelets (necklaces too) and the fact that they're just "good enough" get in the way of being as safe as possible. I'm not beating myself up for that fact but I do recognize it. I recognize it and realize that to some degree, this has always nagged at the back of my mind.
So a few months back, I decided to do something in my life around diabetes and design. I connected with a long-time friend about coming up with a new approach to medical alert bracelets. Beyond being one of my oldest and dearest friends, she has an impressive background in production and manufacturing and is also an accomplished designer in her own right. We talked and explored and noodled the possibilities around design and manufacturing. We researched and learned and talked some more. We sketched and mocked up and played with prototypes. We've been having some real fun and soon will have something to show for all our effort. But whatever the result, the good news is that I feel so much better because of this process. I feel better thanks to my great friend and her belief and dedication to this exercise. I feel better too, because I have remembered that I have power here and that design is about all kinds of problems, big and small. Even though I can't redesign the pump to my perfect liking, I can still design something that makes my life better and safer with diabetes. At the end of the day, this exercise has reminded me that first and foremost, I'm a person with diabetes, a designer with diabetes, not a diabetic without power. And that reminder is worth it's weight in gold (or surgical steel or titanium or silver)!