The Diabetes Online Community, COVID-19 and Ramadan – by Heba Ismail

How does being a pharmacist impact your own diabetes management? Heba Ismail who is a pharmacist living with type 1 diabetes in the UAE shares her story. During this time of COVID-19 and Ramadan, Heba also reminds us that we are never alone in our diabetes management, especially with the diabetes online community.

We are not perfect. For more than ten years, I was not in perfect control of my blood sugars. I felt alone, especially in the Arab world where some people are not really familiar with how important it is to manage diabetes and how to actually do it. Ironically, most of the time they think it’s easy and a piece of cake, while it’s really not. 

The diabetes online community plays a HUGE role in how I manage my diabetes. Without this community, I felt depressed when facing some of the challenges I’ve encountered with diabetes since I was diagnosed in 2003: feeling bored, getting down, the honeymoon phase, developing discipline with managing my diabetes. I was almost 12 when I was diagnosed, so I learned that it’s important for me to try to keep remembering that this is all for my own health. At the end of the day no one can take care of yourself except you. 

As a pharmacist, I need to keep my health in the best place for me and for my job. In the UAE, not everyone has good health insurance, and the price of insulin is really high. From my perspective, we should never take life for granted. We honestly have to be careful about monitoring our diabetes, especially during Ramadan. If people choose to fast, they need to be more vigilant about their insulin doses and checking their blood sugar levels more frequently. I don’t think people should push themselves or their health. If you’re fasting and you get tired or don’t feel well, just break your fast!! In the end, this is your body and your life. Don’t sacrifice your life for fasting.

During this scary time of COVID-19, we in the diabetes community need to take care of ourselves. I was terrified and am still, especially with those in my profession facing more cases and more risks. I’m focusing on keeping my blood sugar readings in range for my immunity and my overall health. Most importantly, we should all remain calm and not panic! One thing I have learned about diabetes from being a pharmacist, is to never underestimate the things that can happen to our bodies. Have a relationship with your body and understand it. From my experiences, I can better understand my patients and the struggles they face. 

I definitely aim to use my profession to understand how to manage my situation better, as well to help others move forward. We always face struggles, but we’re not ALONE in this! If people are struggling mentally or physically with diabetes, I would encourage them to talk, or even scream and and express all your frustrations if you need to. We can fall down a little, but we need to rise up again. Your health is your most important thing now, and we can help each other. Please know we’re here for you! We’re all in this together.