In Guest Writer

Devin Grayson is a fiction writer who has been working in the comics industry for the past twenty years. She is best known for being the first woman to launch a monthly Batman series for DC Comics back in 2000. In addition to original series and graphic novels, she’s scripted for well-known superhero characters ranging from Batman to the X-Men, and recently completed a full-length Doctor Strange novel for Marvel. An insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, Devin is also a passionate advocate and volunteer for Early Alert Canines (EAC). Fatima Shahzad, Advisor and Associate Producer for The Human Trial, interviews Devin to learn more about the many hats she wears, about Diabetic Alert Dogs and her perspective on hope and The Human Trial below.

Devin also penned a letter, which captured our hearts, from Batman to a boy upon learning he’d been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. You can read the full letter here: “Holy Diabetes Batman!”.

Fatima Shahzad, Advisor and Associate Producer for The Human Trial, interviews Devin to learn more about the many hats she wears, about Diabetic Alert Dogs and her perspective on hope and The Human Trial below.

One woman, many introductions.

Fatima: How do you usually introduce yourself to people?

Devin: I have a social introduction, a professional introduction, and a mommy-introduction – “hi, I’m X’s mom,”, but probably the most unique would be my “D.A.D. ambassador” introduction when people stop me to ask about the beautiful service dog I’m with. In that case, I don’t even bother with my name, I just launch right into having diabetes and the incredible alerting work these dogs can do. Talking about the dogs and the amazing organization that trains them is the only time having diabetes becomes a positive social trait that ends up brightening someone else’s day. It’s impressive what technology (like CGM) can do, but it’s not the same as bonding over a brilliant dog who’s standing right there smiling up at the person in question.  

Cody

Fatima: Tell us about Cody and the picture you shared (above).

Devin: This is the part of diabetes that I do love talking about; that even now, four months after his death due to old age, makes me smile. Cody was my Diabetic Alert Dog (D.A.D.). Though he was initially partnered with me through a different organization, his continued accreditation and training was handled through Early Alert Canines (E.A.C.), a nonprofit organization in Concord, California dedicated to improving the health, safety, and well-being of insulin-dependent diabetics through partnerships with certified low blood sugar alert dogs.

In addition to being a certified Medical Service Dog, meaning he could safely and legally accompany me pretty much anywhere and did go everywhere with me, Cody was trained to use his remarkable canine sense of smell to detect and alert on shifts in my blood sugar. The dogs are taught hypoglycemic alerts but usually end up performing hyperglycemic alerts as well. Both are incredibly helpful because they occur pre-symptomatically—that is, the dog knows something’s wrong before the diabetic’s body has begun responding to the blood sugar imbalance with indicators like headache, confusion, tremors, and compromised vision. This can be literally life-saving—especially in the middle of the night, when a diabetic might otherwise sleep through the low—and is a great enhancer/failsafe/accompaniment for CGM alerts. It is a much more pleasant way to be alerted. CGM alarms, though useful, tend to add stress to what is already a panicky situation; not so a gentle nose nudge from a beloved pooch. Even kids don’t seem to mind testing their sugars when urged to do so by a dog. It’s especially critical for families managing multiple T1D kids—the scents the dogs are picking up on are universal, meaning one dog in a multi-T1D household can keep everyone safer.

The other thing I found so remarkable about having Cody was how much difference it made not to feel alone with my illness. Cody couldn’t talk to me about diabetes, but he listened and he cared and he was my ever-present partner in my diabetes management. My husband is amazing – he finds ways to help all the time, from fetching juice boxes in the middle of the night to filling insulin reservoirs and working out carb ratio calculations with me. Most of the time, these are things I could do myself, but it’s so wonderful to not be alone with them, to have some company, to have someone else taking a few minutes out of their day to join in the grueling medical minutia of mine. Cody couldn’t do things like that (though some dogs have been trained to fetch testing kits and glucose tabs), but I knew that he was always paying attention to me, always scenting the air for changes in my body chemistry. It made a profound difference in how I experienced diabetes. It became a shared burden.

Cody changed my social relationship with T1D. Diabetes is mostly invisible, but a gorgeous Golden Retriever in a Medical Assistance Dog coat gets a lot of attention. People stopped us all the time wanting to know about him, leading to so many great conversations about dogs and diabetes and medical science. Cody would smile and wag his tail and I would get to educate people about everything from service dog laws to the difference between type 1 and type 2. With Cody, there would be three or four of those kinds of conversations a day with strangers. I’m extremely introverted, but I never mind talking about Cody, so this was another gift, another way he eased my isolation.  

The Human Trial

Fatima: After chatting with the team and learning about the film — what is The Human Trial story about, to you?

Devin: I see two stories in The Human Trial, and so, to me, maybe the real story is about the intersection between them which is, of course, hope…. Part II.

Read more here about Devin Grayson and what The Human Trial means to her as someone who has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years.

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