The Airplane Analogy

I found this great analogy ( for making people understand the difference between Type I and Type II. I’ve modified it a bit suiting my ‘use case’. Here goes :

You are flying from L.A. to New York. You have to maintain a consistent altitude the whole way.

Note: For this analogy we will focus on a good cruising altitude and pretend that taking off and landings aren’t important.

Food raises blood sugar (altitude.) Insulin lowers it. Non-diabetics don’t have to think about altitude, as you all have a working pancreas (autopilot) and don’t sweat altitude. Diabetics, on the other hand, have to constantly wonder if they are at a safe altitude. Staying at a consistently high altitude (high blood sugar) will eventually make you sick; while a low altitude (low blood sugar) will kill you quickly.

When I prick my finger to check my blood sugar with a glucose test strip, that’s an altitude check. I want to know how I’m doing. Each time I do it, it costs about $1.

Each time I feel I need to lower my blood sugar, I take insulin. I take a manual shot by measuring the insulin and filling the syringe by hand (or I use an Insulin pen). I would typically take about 2 or 3 shots a day (presently).

Here’s where the analogy gets interesting. Remember in the analogy we are flying from L.A. to New York, except we only get to check our altitude seven times. And, we only get to change altitude (take insulin) less than ten times. But, when I check my blood sugar, I’m actually seeing the past. I’m seeing a reading of what my blood sugar was 15 minutes ago. And, when I take insulin, it doesn’t start lowering my blood sugar for at least 30 minutes.

Now, imagine yourself in that plane with an altimeter that shows you the altitude 15 minutes in the past, and a yoke that changes the altitude – but when you press on the yoke, your altitude won’t change for a half-hour. It would be a challenging trip.

Kind of reminds one of the delays in controlling the Mars Rover by remote, eh? This is what Type I diabetes is like. It’s a daily “chasing of one’s tail.” This is why I prefer to eat at Subway when I’m in NYC or SFO. It’s consistent. I can count on it. I know how much insulin to take for a Steak & Cheese. Believe me, I’d love to eat new kinds of food every time I visit a new city, but I’d have to discover how much insulin to take and that’s and exhausting series of calculations and trial & error.


One thought on “The Airplane Analogy

  1. […] Fly the airplane just as before – See the analogy here […]

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