A reminder of vulnerability

Earlier this morning, the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) reported the death of Miami-area TV news anchorman Joel Connable on its Facebook page.  Being from the northeast, I had never heard of Joel and wasn’t aware that there was even a TV news personality who had Type 1 diabetes, so I quickly turned to Google to find more information.

It’s sad.  So very, very sad.  He got married just two weeks ago, and instead of a honeymoon, his bride is now planning a funeral.  It’s sad when somebody dies, but it really hits home when the person dies because of diabetes.

Google brought me to this article from the Miami New Times, and reading the article not only made me sad, but it made me scared.  It made me feel vulnerable, like it could have been me.

Here are just a few of the more touching excerpts from the article:

Former WTVJ anchor Joel Connable has passed away at the age of 39 … Connable suffered from diabetes throughout his life, and died as a result of a diabetic seizure.

The age of thirty-nine.  In just four months, I’ll be celebrating my 39th birthday.  Diabetes may get easier to deal with as we get older, but the longevity of diabetes-endurance doesn’t make us stronger.  It could happen to me.  On the other hand, the article says he “suffered” from diabetes for a long time.  I doubt – well, I hope – he didn’t consider his life “suffering”.  I’m sure Kim will agree with me.

Connable always wore a diabetic pump. The pump malfunctioned, which Connable did not notice, and he ended up suffering a seizure.

I’ve heard stories of insulin pumps malfunctioning.  While I don’t know what happened in this situation, I’ve heard of pumps emptying the entire reservoir into the person wearing them. Tandem Diabetes built some sort of “two-chamber” mechanism into their pumps as a precaution against just that, so the concern must be real. (Personally, I can see mechanical safeguards protecting against some things, but if the software says “bolus-all-the-insulin”, then that’s what I expect it would do).

Yes, I’m (almost) 39.  Yes, I use a pump.  And yes, I’ve heard stories that my brand of pump has emptied itself into people wearing them (a phone-rep told me that can’t happen, because if it tried, a Motor Error would result and the pump would stop delivery).  And yes, after three decades, I may have grown a bit complacent about my diabetes.

This blog post isn’t intended to be all about me.  I’m not trying to turn someone else’s tragedy into my own soapbox, and I hope it’s not coming across that way.  But there’s only so much “this is awful, I’m so sorry” that I can write and that you’d be willing to read, so I’m taking a bit of a different perspective here.

By the way, I’m almost finished reading Wil Dubois‘ book Beyond Fingersticks (I’ll write more on the book later, but don’t wait on me to get your own copy).  A theme he makes early and often is that diabetes can kill you. A CGM can alert you to those plummeting blood sugars before it’s too late.

Suddenly, everything’s starting to come together …



Posted on November 8, 2012, in Blue Candle, Diabetes, Insulin pump, News, Type 1. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. An article on the FB page stated that the pump was disconnected. Or at least that’s what his parents posted.
    Makes me wonder how many times he tested a day. If he was testing often, would he have discovered his levels were crazy high or low? (The seizure and disconnection don’t really match.)
    Haven’t heard stories about the pump emptying though… that’s kind of scary. (What brand do you have?)


    • I read somewhere that he had an alert dog that alerts him to hypoglycemia – interpret that as you wish.

      I use a Medtronic pump (I’ve written a lot about it previously), and I’m overall pleased with it and absolutely don’t at all feel like it puts me in any danger whatsoever. The stories (unverified, by the way) might refer to older models which may have been since improved, or may even be a result of user-error. So if you’re considering a pump, don’t be swayed by this. I am, however, interested in finding what went wrong with the pump in this particular case.


  2. I almost came home to that a week before my wedding and finding hubby passed out with a blood sugar of 12. He’s 37. It does show us (me) that there’s a reason to be really involved and aware. I don’t know the complete story , so he may have not had any signs or napping with nothing to warn him. Makes me want to go hug my hubby and tell him I love him though.


    • Wow, that is indeed scary! And it just reinforces the whole theme of my post… we are all vulnerable, no matter how hard we try. In response to your last sentence, go do it!


  3. His mom has said he died of a high blood sugar after his pump became disconnected during the night. Something doesn’t add up…


    • I heard the word “disconnected” as well, but I couldn’t tell if he was disconnected from the tubing or if some electrical wire inside the pump became disconnected. There’s more to the story, I agree, but with respect to him and his family, I’m not going to try to figure it out.


  4. Reading this story is like a punch in the gut. As a kid I had plenty of seizures due to lows, always in the wee hours of the morning. It may sound stupid on my part, but seizures really don’t scare me. I used to have 3-4 a year (though none for 10 years now! woo hoo!) and feel like I’ve been there and done that so many times. But this whole pump-malfunctioning thing and a seizure due to a high? Huh? Something doesn’t add up. Having a seizure actually kill you rarely crosses my mind because I’ve always been lucky enough to have someone around to save me. But this–this is scary.


  5. Scott great post as always. A few months ago in the Chicagoland area there was a young boy (19) who was recently diagnosed with type 1 and went missing. It was all over the news and very scary to me with a son newly diagnosed with type 1. The end of the story was unfortunate as well. And reminded me of how vulnerable we both are in this process. My heart goes out to this gentleman and his family. No matter the details in the story we have lost a T1D family member and that hurts.


  6. Reblogged this on Smells Like Band-Aids and commented:
    When someone passes with T1D it hits home to all of us connected to the disease.


  7. So sad, and eye opening. I hope he and his family find peace and that they don’t take anger out publicly on the disease.


  1. Pingback: Checking my (other) child « Rolling in the D


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