Lisa Hoffmeyer Navigates Diabetes Technology With a Support Group
In honor of Diabetes Forecast magazine’s 70th anniversary, we’re kicking off a series of profiles about people whose lives have been touched by diabetes—and who have touched the diabetes community.
When Lisa Hoffmeyer was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12 in 1963, she didn’t waste any time. “I just went to the hospital library and read everything I could about it,” she says. She learned to manage her eating and exercise, inject insulin, and check her glucose using Clinitest tablets, a special testing agent obtained at the pharmacy. Over the course of her life, she’d learn many more lessons about dealing with diabetes—and then pass them on to others.
Reading about Frederick Banting’s discovery of insulin fueled her interest in medicine and research. As a teenager, she volunteered in hospital training programs and diabetes camps, teaching younger children how to check their blood glucose and give themselves insulin. As an adult, she earned a doctorate in psychology and worked as a hospital diabetes educator.
When new innovations like home glucose monitors and insulin pumps became available, Hoffmeyer realized just how much new technology could benefit people with diabetes. She got her first insulin pump in 1984 and was thrilled with the amount of control the device offered her—and the fact that it helped her improve her neuropathy. Some of her patients and friends with diabetes weren’t as enthusiastic about new diabetes technology. “For some computer-anxious people, those were scary things,” she says.
In order to help people with diabetes gain confidence in using meters and pumps, Hoffmeyer and a friend formed a support group to provide a community of people with type 1 diabetes who could help newcomers learn how to use new diabetes technology to its full potential. “It’s memorable to see someone make the transition from being scared to feeling that they’re a part of the group and this can be done,” she says.
Although education is the group’s primary focus, its members have also seen one another through difficult times. “It’s not all wonderful,” Hoffmeyer admits. Several of her friends have faced complications such as kidney failure or eye disease. “Having support for that from other people who have lived through it, knowing you’re not the only one, that’s a big deal,” she says.
While Hoffmeyer is excited about the advances in diabetes technology, she sometimes finds that they can make diabetes care more stressful. If you’re learning to manage diabetes, she says, the best thing to do is pace yourself. “Patience is important because people get so overwhelmed about all of the information that’s coming in,” she says. “Learn as much as you can, but don’t expect to learn it all at once, because you can’t.”