Well...now you know how we met (Kris & Jessica). If you missed that part of the story then you probably missed the first blog post. Click here to read.
But how did EDC get its start?
I once sat in a little Deli in Nashville, TN…talking to a friend. I was driven, hopeful, wanting and confused all in the same breath. "Be where you are”. That’s what she said. And for clarification, THAT was the most annoying advice ever given to me. Be where you are? I don’t want to just BE where I am…I want to know where I’m supposed to go and I want detailed directions on how to get there. What was next is what mattered most to me in that moment. Well, I suppose the life lesson in regards to my future was that in living for the moment, enjoying the journey, not worrying about what tomorrow holds, loving and serving the people around you, focusing on the things that matter right now…the future just sort of...happens. It unfolds naturally and organically. Nothing is forced. And the end result is that you uncover a peace about where you are. That’s where the story of EDC started.
2020 minus 9 years
After Carter’s diagnosis I would bring him to his visits every 3 months or so. Jessica would always come into the room…sometimes after we had already seen a diabetes educator. After some of those education visits I felt super encouraged and like I was actually doing a good job at being a T1D dad. Other visits left me feeling frustrated and defeated. Year after year…after year…this happened. It was a rollercoaster. It was crazy. I pretty much always felt like managing diabetes was this elusive beast yet to be caught…much less tamed.
And let’s clear the air of any misconceptions while we’re here. I was not in the medical field at the time. I was a….(wait for it)…a musician. I had a music education degree and had never taken a college level science class. I owned a music business and was a worship leader at a local church. If I ever tell you that I know what it’s like to be in your shoes, you can trust that I’m speaking truth. I REALLY know what it’s like to know little-to-nothing about the human body or the field of medicine and yet still be in the position where I’m required to make life-saving, life-changing, life-altering decisions for my child. The love for medicine and all-things-diabetes came gradually and over a long period of time. Be where you are! I began to grasp what that actually meant.
I found myself as the owner of a failing music business (every business owner has a 2008 economy story) with a budding passion for something I knew very little about. A career in the medical field had never crossed my mind. As a matter of fact, there was so much insecurity surrounding the idea of going to nursing school that I could have easily talked my intimidated self out of it. After all, I was just a musician.
I’m sure there were those who thought that an older dad (we now call them nontraditional students just so we don’t have to use the word OLD) with a wife in medical school, a child with diabetes, a baby on the way and a failing business was crazy to think about making this drastic career shift but I just had a peace about the whole thing. The time did come, though, when I chose to actually go to nursing school. I knew that I wanted to work in the wonderful world of type 1 diabetes but I was also aware that to do this I would first have to become a nurse, accrue an enormous amount of hours working with patients with diabetes over the next two years and then sit for a pretty difficult exam. Did I mention that I have an ENORMOUS amount of test anxiety? Well…I do! I crammed 4 years into 5 but I finally finished. It was one of the biggest feats of my life. Not only did I earn my nursing degree but now I’m also uniquely qualified to speak on how not to go back to school. I didn’t take the easiest route but I got it done.
Though MY plan was to work my way into the pediatric endocrinology department by way of being hired as a general peds nurse…that certainly didn’t happen. After a serious of very strange encounters with various staff in the hospital I ended up getting an offer from the ADULT ER. Really? I couldn’t stand working with adults. My experience as a Patient Care Tech during nursing school solidified that sentiment. But, I took the job. I was calm under pressure, a bit of a quiet adrenaline junkie and thrived pretty well in stressful situations. I ended up absolutely loving it! But my desire to work in the diabetes field grew stronger and stronger with each passing week.
I eventually found out that the Pediatric Endocrinology department was hiring a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator). I was a bit bummed, though, because I had not yet qualified to even sit for the CDE exam. How would I convince a group of people that I had never met that not only was I not technically qualified for the position but that I was the man for the job!? We’ve said it before and we truly mean it; God has a sense of humor and is ultimately in control. I got the job. It was under the premise that I would become board certified in diabetes education within a certain time frame…and so I did. It all worked out. And that’s when Jessica and I began working together.
I believe that diabetes is very personal. I also believe that to effectively manage it you have to be...well…personal! When I meet with new onset families and begin to walk alongside them on their diabetes journey I look at them not as room numbers or charts but as real people. People with stories and struggles. People that go home to the same chaos as me every day…people just like me. It might seem a little crazy but I truly want to struggle beside them. Knowing a patient’s story helps me figure out how to teach them to fit diabetes into their life; instead of the other way around. The alternative approach is to just leave a patient to their own struggles and watch them spiral into a diabetes-centered life.
Every three months or so Kris would bring Carter into his visits and I began to learn more and more about Carter’s story, which included his amazingly supportive and very blended family. Kris was super inquisitive, nervous-but-in-control and seemed to take the lead in Carter’s treatment and management. Over time, what I learned was that despite his feelings stated above, he HAD Carter’s diabetes. He asked questions…lots of them. Even though he thinks he annoyed me with incessant questions, emails and phone calls he didn’t. When he needed answers he wasn’t afraid to ask and certainly wasn’t afraid to think outside of the box. Honestly, he intrigued me because at the time I had met few parents quite like him.
I will never forget the visit with Carter when Kris, in a super casual tone says, “So, I'm thinking about going to nursing school. What do you think?” God really does have a sense of humor because this newly married guy whose wife was in med school and had a child with diabetes and a new baby was dead serious; and I for some reason thought it was a great idea?!?!?
Fast forward through Kris’ journey through school until right before he graduates. He, in a visit, announces he really wants to be a CDE, and wants to take a job in peds to get this process going. So, of course, when I would go to the hospital I started looking for him but never saw him. Then all of a sudden I found out he accepted a job in the ADULT ER?! Seriously?!?! And then I find out he liked it!!! I was a bit blown away, oddly unsettled (with no true reason why) but I moved on… I mean, it was his decision and it didn’t really affect me right? So it didn’t matter right???…..HA!
About a year later I found myself needing help transporting kids back home from diabetes camp. Kris had volunteered as a counselor all week and agreed to step in and help out. This was the first time I actually interacted with him aside from regular office visits where he was typically just “Carter’s dad”. There were 28 kids on the bus and he was exhausted. Together, though, we managed to keep all the kids alive and happy. Though he napped a little we still had enough conversation that made me want him to come work with me. Why though? I seriously can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that this is a God-sized story and He has been in control of this from day one. In less than a year, he was signed on to begin working as my full time CDE.
Shortly after we began working together, it became very clear that Kris and I had the same goals and a true desire to see diabetes management change in our area. My approach to diabetes management wasn’t quite like others and I learned pretty quickly that I could only go so far by myself. I needed someone to come alongside me to help me dream and implement all of these crazy plans and ideas. I wasn’t interested in being the lead or having someone else lead. I wanted to be a part of a healthy team. A team not afraid to dream and implement. A team that put patients first. A team unafraid to speak truth in love to patients.
I not only got that in Kris but the more we talked and planned the more we realized that we truly and very organically complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Kris is by far the dreamer and I am the implementer; both of us capable of being the opposite but all-the-while knowing our places. His desire to innovate and love for technology began to transform our patients’ management and communication processes within months of us starting to work together. It may have intimidated some, but not me. I was ecstatic. This is what I had wanted for so long. It took about 12 months of us working together for the idea of EDC to begin to form; “where real life meets diabetes”.
...to be continued