I have always loved the concept of space travel. I built model rockets when I was kid and even did my count-down with my Estee Rockets. Once I even made it a ‘manned spacecraft’ and placed a spider in the nose of the model and watched with nervous anticipation as it climbed toward the clouds, I felt the sense of sheer joy and accomplishment when it ‘parachuted back’ and I let the spider go—-back into the grass. Space travel and TV, I watched it all.
Thirty years ago I was living a dream through the eyes of Sharon Christa McAuliffe. She was a ‘regular person’; a school teacher everyone called ‘Christa’ from New Hampshire, who was being launched into space with six other astronauts in the Space Shuttle Challenger. She was chosen from a pool of 11,000 applicants to become the first civilian in space.
On January 28, 1986, with eager anticipation, I watched as the Challenger countdown began to launch this ship, which was less than three years old, into its tenth mission of space. It cleared the launching pad and was on its way; but 73 seconds into flight, it exploded into thousands of pieces. The entire crew was lost including a very special school teacher.
My mouth just dropped open as I stared at the television in Hempstead Town Hall, where I was working at the time. Stunned. Numb. Thirty years ago today.
My love for space travel taught me a great deal. The unknown always fascinated me. This love for space taught me much about the unknown. I never thought back then that I would need this same ‘love’ of the unknown when I became a father and two of my three children ended up diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. There is no definitive when it comes to exploring the unknown. A huge success today can be a set back by failure tomorrow.
I. Understand. Research.
Years later as I became very interested in research for a cure, my space fascination would help greatly. I follow progression from concept as much as I do human clinical trials. I watch as heroes who give themselves over for research projects. I watched in horror as my daughter enlisted in a project and it ‘went south’ as the project began. The pediatrician stepped-in to stop the process but through blood and tears everywhere, my daughter’s voice to continue the process won out for the project to continue. It did. Unless you were there, you cannot understand the pain I felt as a parent. Her voice of, “I’m not stopping, it’s too important”, will ring in my ears forever.
You see, the hype you may see in newspapers regarding any diabetes science is not always what is actually happening. There is no guarantee when a spaceship takes off, and there is no guarantee when someone enlists in a research project. No device ever went from paper to market, no science regarding a cure will go from concept to completion, without the involvement of those we love living with diabetes playing a role.
At some point, they say; ‘Take me, I have diabetes….learn from me.’ Anything you read about the past, and will read about the future, will somehow involve those who allow themselves, for the benefit of science, to be used and studied.
Devices, cures, and even those who are not involved but have died and their family said, “study what happened here, so others don’t go through what we are going through…”….well in my mind……they are all heroes. Heroes. Remember that. Remember that things do not just happen….someone stepped up so you, your child, and others might have a better life in this diabetes world.
I have known families who have lost children and took that experience to allow others to learn. Surely of late, we have learned that lesson from Little Reegan’s mom. They more, than any others, accomplished the same as what President Reagan stated of those Astronauts thirty years ago today; “…….. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”
No research ‘just happens’…….remember that always.
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