The diabetes online community (DOC) is great for finding information, asking for advice but also for a much-needed laugh. Over the past few weeks, Levi Davenport’s video that humanizes his blood sugar has gone viral within our community and many are finding this two-part video series not only hilarious but therapeutic as well.
I caught up with Levi to ask him a few questions about his own type 1 diabetes (T1D), the way he copes and his intentions of this well thought out video. Please make sure to watch the two-part video at the end!
When were you diagnosed? How did you handle the diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with type 1 when I was 15 years old, in 2004. I was playing high school baseball, and looking forward to getting my driver’s license. The last thing I was interested in dealing with was diabetes.
Did you have a good support system from family, friends, and doctors?
Absolutely, I was surrounded by fantastic people – family, friends, and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I had no family history. I caught a very bad stomach bug (think – very bad). Afterwards, over the next 10 days, I lost 14 lbs. and had what I later came to know were the symptoms of high blood glucose. A doctor visit later, I was told I was the proud new owner of a dead pancreas. That was it. I had a two-week hospital stay and then my parents drove me back and forth to Vanderbilt to go through the T1D ‘crash course.’ None of us knew anything about type 1 and to date, I am the only diabetic in our family.
Being a kid is hard enough. Did you feel different and isolated due to your new normal?
Internally yes, and angry. Externally no, but only because I chose to hide it from everyone — friends, teammates, girlfriends, teachers. I only told people about it when I absolutely had to. I did not handle the adjustment well.
Did your diagnosis affect any of your life decisions (what you wanted to be when you grew up, going away to college, etc.)?
Not at all. I don’t let T1D stand between me and something I have my mind set on doing. You are only limited in life by what you are willing to do.
Did anything in your life have to change in order for you to optimally manage this disease?
Oh yes, I had several dark years. I lost an incredible amount of weight. I am 6’5 and went from fit to emaciated in a matter of 2 years. I dropped from 240 lbs to 186 lbs. The catalyst for me was my children. I was in bed one night and felt my shins and thighs tingling. I realized that it was the beginning of neuropathy. I gave thought to how many years I was shaving off my life by ignoring my health, and within 2 months I had an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and a watch that showed my blood glucose.
Did you turn to your family and friends for support?
Not really, I am a pretty private person when it comes to feelings and emotions (working on that). After years of shutting everyone down, I could definitely see that they were happy to see what was happening though. Especially my wife. Living with a 24-hour grump took great patience. Since starting on the pump/CGM I have regained the 50 lbs and I felt so much better that I no longer cared about who knew I was a T1D.
Once I found the DOC, the face of this disease changed for me. Not only the information I got from others living with type 1 but I made real friendships that helped me feel less alone. Did you go online for support and information? Have you made any online connections that have helped lessen the burden of this disease?
I turned to the DOC when I started learning about resources like Spike and Xdrip. Shortly after, I discovered the social media groups and pages. I couldn’t believe it. If you aren’t a member of a T1D page or group, you need to check them out. There is a wealth of knowledge to be had, as well as encouragement and community. Seeing all of the people participating, commenting, sharing experiences and advice was very motivating. It also was when I realized I needed to find a way to contribute to the cause.
You clearly have a great sense of humor, do you find humor to be therapeutic?
I definitely find it therapeutic. It is a great pressure relief valve. I spend most of my day focused, serious, and perhaps not smiling enough. People in my professional life were somewhat shocked to see me be silly in that video.
Speaking of humor, what do you think of all the diabetes jokes out there?
If it is funny, I can laugh at it. Diabetes wins if you let it get in your head.
Your video has gone viral within the DOC. Did you expect such a positive reaction from our community?
I’m completely blown away. My channel ‘Between Two Lines’ is very new. I remember talking to my wife about making a funny video and being very nervous. Wondering if anyone would even think it was funny? Would anyone relate to it? You are really putting yourself out there to be ridiculed when trying to take something serious and use humor to encourage and inform. The T1D community is awesome. I’m glad people enjoyed the video and will certainly be making more of them.
What do you think makes it so relatable? What is one of your favorite moments? I know I laughed the whole time and have had the same thoughts and feelings as “Mr. Blood Sugar.”
I’m not sure I even know. Perhaps it is that many others feel the same way I do. Diabetes is stupid. I hate it. I hate everything about it. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. But you know what? It isn’t going anywhere and I’m not going to let it steal the happiness from my life. So, I tried to find some humor in it.
My favorite moment was when “Blood Sugar” pulled his hoodie tight over his head to ignore me joking about muscles. Reminded me of my sister and how she responds to my younger brother and me bragging about fitness and working out.
What made you think of the idea in the first place?
There are a million funny videos out there that we all watch every day. I just thought I would take a stab at making one about being diabetic. It was important to me though for it to be funny, but not making fun of the fact that I had diabetes.
At the end of the day, what was your main objective of this video and what would you like people to take away from it?
The main objective of the video was actually to inform. Humor is a great tool for educating. I wanted people with diabetes to laugh, relate, and feel relief that they aren’t the only ones dealing with that garbage. I wanted non-diabetics to be able to watch the video and laugh – but learn about some of the things their diabetic friends, family, or coworkers deal with.
Thanks again for giving us all a laugh. I was away and having a tough time with my blood sugar and laughter was certainly the best medicine!
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Read more about diabetes diagnosis, diabetes humor, Diabetes Online Community (DOC), insulin, insulin pumps, Intensive management, neuropathy.