My name is Ronaldo, and I am 24 years-old. I live in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, where I was born. I was diagnosed with diabetes 22 years ago at the age of 2. Everything started after an ear infection, I started to lose weight, frequent visits to the bathroom, and I was always thirsty. Every pediatric doctor I visited stated that it was only a viral infection that would be cured by itself…
…but, suddenly, one day I did not wake up. My mother ran with me to the nearest hospital, and luckily the emergency chief was also an endocrinologist. He requested a blood glucose test which was sky high, and, with a diabetic ketoacidosis, I was admitted to the ICU for eleven days. Those days haunt my mother until now.
With the help of the medical team, I managed to recover completely, and a “new” life started for me. I use the quotation marks because I really can’t remember how my “old” life, without diabetes, was. Then, insulin injections – even if it was animal insulin –, glucose testing – even if it was in urine – and nutritional care – even if it was by forbidding sugar and carbohydrates – always made part of my life, as long as I remember.
My first contact with a diabetes association dates back to the end of 2004, when my mother found the ADJ’s (Associação de Diabetes Juvenil) website, announcing the 2005 Diabetes Camp. This was my first camp, and from then on, I never left the camps, I started as a camper and now a counsellor.
Even before being diagnosed with diabetes, I always wanted to be a doctor. Today I realize that it was because I always wanted to help people, but, today I want to follow endocrinology as a specialty, partially because knowing what is to “be in their shoes” is a blessing to help people to improve their quality of life, and partially because it is fantastic to understand how tiny amounts of special substances control the whole body. Nowadays, I am an intern in the Central Hospital of Santa Casa de Misericórdia, in São Paulo.
In 2011, I finished the Brazilian Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) training, making my conclusion work as the development of a card game to provide diabetes education for children. This led me to be curious about educational diabetes programs in Brazil and in the world, thinking about how to make them available for all.
In 2013, I participated in the Melbourne Young Leaders programme in Diabetes, hosted by the IDF (International Diabetes Federation). By meeting young people from all around the world I realized that it was not “only” diabetes education that should be available for every with diabetes in the world but also, insulin, medical care and healthy nutrition are quintessential in the treatment of diabetes. Thus, I started my work as a diabetes advocate, together with other fellow Young Leaders.
From then on, I introduced a study group in my Medical School to provide medical students with more information about diabetes and information on how to place the people with diabetes in the center of this care. I've also organized an academic symposium about diabetes education for healthcare students, with more than 600 participants.
I've also coordinated detection campaigns with the academic centre of my faculty to talk about diabetes for people in general, with over 900 participants; and I have written articles for the website Diabeticool.com, which has more than three million visits. I could not forget diabetes education, and therefore I will continue in the Brazilian YLD training, as auxiliary coordinator, helping other young to be multipliers of diabetes education.
Future works include linking more people to diabetes associations, reviewing diabetes’ guidelines in public health and provide data about diabetes in South and Central America (SACA) region. But, the full extent of our work cannot be measured by predictions.
There is a lot of work to do. Yet.