Jun 4 2011
Bret Michaels, the lead singer of the heavy-metal group Poison, manages to combine the routine of blood tests and insulin shots with a demanding job and an unusual life-style. Michaels was first diagnosed at the age of six, learned to give himself injections at ten, and has been part of a rock band since high school. It’s sometimes difficult to mesh eight blood tests and three insulin injections a day with a life of concerts and partying, with constant travel and irregular hours.
Michaels admits that he hasn’t always kept to a strict life-style, and there have been some problems along the way. He passed out from an insulin reaction in the middle of a concert one night, in front of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden. The group had been celebrating the success of its first album, and Michaels was suffering from a hangover and unable to eat after taking his insulin shot. Drinking (which he knows he shouldn’t do) makes it harder to control his blood sugar level, and overindulgence has put him in the hospital twice.
On the road in Maine, the rock star discovered a different kind of hazard. A hotel maid pricked her finger on one of his discarded needles. She called the police, who arrested Michaels as a suspected heroin addict. His tour manager brought Michaels’ insulin supplies and blood-testing kit over to the station, and he was released just in time to make his concert appearance. Michaels does work out regularly, lifting weights and mountain-biking, and he is careful about his diet. But “I don’t let diabetes run my life,” he says, and adds, “Most diabetics could never live my erratic life-style.”
Some occupations’, such as piloting an airplane or driving a bus, may not be open to people with diabetes, especially those who are taking insulin. These restrictions are imposed for safety reasons. Passing out from an insulin reaction at a rock concert may be embarrassing, but in some jobs it would be a disaster. Many people’s lives might be endangered if an airplane pilot or bus driver suddenly became unconscious on the job. But with relatively few exceptions people with diabetes are free to take up any occupation they wish.
Insurance companies used to refuse to write life insurance policies on people with diabetes. That made sense when people with the disease generally died within a few years after being diagnosed. But modern treatments have permitted most people with diabetes to live a nearly normal life, and insurance companies have changed with the times. Now life insurance policies are available for people with diabetes, although they may be charged somewhat higher premiums.