D-Meetups,  Diabetes,  Photos,  Shout outs,  Travel

On the Road: Chicago Diabetes Expo 2011

This past weekend I embarked on a wild and crazy adventure in which I drove to Indianapolis, took a bus to Chicago and back, and then drove back to Fort Wayne. All in 24 hours. (I know what you’re thinking…and you’re right. I’m crazy. But that’s not what this post is about. 😉 )

The American Diabetes Association’s Indiana office sponsored a bus trip to Chicago on Saturday for the 2011 Chicago Diabetes Expo. And after reading about the planned trip on ADA Indiana Area’s Facebook page, I decided that I wanted to go. So, I made the necessary arrangements and plans were set. The only catch was the bus would be leaving from Indianapolis and I was in Fort Wayne.

So, around 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning, I got in the car and headed south to Indy to meetup with the group at the ADA office. After a short wait for the bus and group members to arrive, we loaded the bus and hit the road for what would prove to be quite an educational trip.

Learning on the way

When we left Indy, we thought the only diabetes showcase we would be attending was the one in Chicago.  As it often does though, diabetes had other plans and put on its own exposition.  A member of the group had a severe low and started having a seizure.  After attempts to treat the low and bring the guy around failed, 911 was called and an ambulance came out to the rest area where we had stopped.

He finally started to come around and his blood sugars started to rise, and after making sure he was going to be OK, the paramedics took off, and we resumed the trip to Chicago.

Personally, I had never actually witnessed, much less helped treat, someone who was experiencing a severe low and having seizures as a result.  I had heard the horror stories, but had never actually witnessed it.  I can’t say that anymore.  I can say that I learned a lot from the experience, and I’m thankful that my new friend came through it OK.

My hat’s off to everyone on the bus who came forward to help a complete stranger in his time of need.  You not only helped him, you saved his life.

The Expo

I had never been to the Chicago Diabetes Expo before and really didn’t know what to expect from it or if I’d have a good time up, but it was something that I knew I wanted to take in at least once.  And I was not disappointed in that decision.

I truly enjoy meeting other people whose lives have been touched by diabetes in some way, and traveling on a bus with the group to the expo, and then being surrounded by hundreds of other PWDs, was an amazing experience.  I hate the disease that is our common denominator, but I love the sense of comfort and community that I feel when we do come together in one place. And that’s just what I experienced throughout the day Saturday.

Before leaving for Chicago, we were given a schedule of events that were to take place at the expo, and I really wanted to attend the session called “facts vs. myths about diabetes”, but was unable to due to our late arrival.  Hopefully, they will have that session again next year.  Yes, I’m already thinking ahead. 🙂

Meeting Ben Vereen

The Taking Control of Your Diabetes group (TCOYD) had a booth at the Expo and they sponsored an appearance by Broadway and TV star Ben Vereen, who lives with type 2 diabetes.  And I must say that I was blown away by the presentation that he gave about the S.T.A.N.D.  initiative.

Here’s a clip shot by our ADA group leader:

You really had to be there to feel the passion that this man has for this cause. I’m certainly glad I was, because I got to meet him after the presentation.

The chance to meet Ben and get his autograph came with a catch, of course, and it was one that I readily agreed to.  You had to sign the Start Taking Action Now for Diabetes pledge.  You could chose one of the pre-written pledges or write your own.  I chose my own, and pledged to do what I already do every day, and that’s:

Tell the world that it is possible to live a long, fulfilling life with diabetes and congestive heart failure.

After printing and signing my pledge I went through another line to meet him and got a personalized autograph.

I was going to get my picture taken with him at that time, but the batteries in my camera died as I reached the front of the line.  I wasn’t pleased at all, but it happens.   So, while I was at lunch with another group member, I changed the batteries with the intention of going back through the line to get a photo with him, but he wasn’t there when I got back.

As fate would have it, he returned to the booth for the last hour of the Expo, and when I realized he was back, there wasn’t anyone in line to see him.  Embarrassingly enough, he remembered my camera issues from earlier in the day, and since there wasn’t a line, I got to spend a little bit of time talking to him about my pledge, about my blog, and about the DOC.  He seemed genuinely interested and thought it was cool that I had business cards for MDH.  I gave him several. 🙂

And the very last thing I did before leaving the exposition hall was have my photo taken with him.  That experience was a great ending to my time at the expo.

Bags of free stuff

You can’t go to any type of health fair without leaving with oodles and oodles of brochures, goodies, and all sorts of  other free stuff, and the diabetes expo was no different.  I wandered through the exposition hall, visiting nearly all of the vendor booths and collecting all of the stuff they had to offer, and ended up with two shopping bags filled with stuff before I was finished.

I picked up two and three of every educational item that I could, and had two reasons for doing so.  The first being that I just wanted it, and the second being that my mother’s significant other had literally been diagnosed the night before the Expo, and I wanted to get stuff to send to them.  And once I sort through it all, I’ll be doing just that.

Walking the Pier

No trip to Navy Pier would be complete without actually walking out along the pier itself, and taking in the views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.

After lunch at the Häagen-Dazs shop in the food court, my friend and I decided to escape the extremely warm building for a bit and take a walk outdoors.  I, of course, couldn’t resist taking pictures of the city skyline and the lighthouses on the lake.  You can see some of the photos in the gallery below.  Good times!

Back to Indy & Fort Wayne

By the last hour of the expo, everyone was sufficiently wore out and ready to head back to our meetup point to catch the bus home.   The bus got there around 4:00 p.m. Chicago time and we loaded up for the trip back to Indy.

We had a bit of fun on the way back, as there was a prize drawing for those who participated in the trip.  There was a big box of ADA gear, books, and other goodies, and each persons name was drawn from a stack of papers and got to chose an item.  After everyone had something, we answered trivia questions until the box was empty.  I ended up with a cookbook and a book on traveling with diabetes.  Pretty cool!

And we also play a game that one of the kids on the bus made up, in which you had to guess the animal that he was thinking about.  Everyone got a chance, and it was pretty entertaining.

We reached Indy around 9:00 p.m., and after a short break I got back on the road for my two hour drive back to Fort Wayne.  I’m not sure how, but I made it back home safe and sound, and slept for about 17 hours afterward. 🙂

That’s a wrap

All in all, the trip to the Chicago Diabetes Expo was a great experience and is something that I’m definitely looking forward to doing again.  I met some awesome people, learned some things, and had fun.  It is definitely a trip that I would be interested in making again, and hope that the good folks at the ADA’s Indy office will offer it again next year.  If so, consider this my RSVP. 🙂


Special thanks to the good folks at the ADA Indiana office for providing the first few photos in the gallery. Much appreciated!

Living with a Confusing Pancreas and a Broken Heart at age 36 #Diabetes #LADA #CongestiveHeartFailure. #MakeDiabetesVisible Creator, #ALittleHeartCanDoBigThings Creator, Advocate, Blogger, Nature Photographer.


  • Rachel

    So impressed you made the trip from Indy instead of FW! and how that must have rattled some of you to see the man who experienced that severe low!

    On the other hand, Ben Vereen!

  • Jeff Neitzel

    Right on. It was certainly liberating & fun & educational. ICBW, but it was almost like Ben Vereen was saying go out there & rock that boat.

    The animal guessing game that Bobby (sp?) started was fun too!

  • karend1

    Great post, great pictures (been there), Maybe next year! Did you gather a lot of pens 🙂

  • Karen

    Sounds like a great (but exhausting) trip!! Except, of course, that low blood sugar seizure. I’ve had one in my life-time, about 21 years ago, but I’ve never seen somebody else have one. I’m sure it’s very scary.

    I really loved looking to your pictures too. Thanks for sharing them and the day!!

  • Carol

    Thanks for this great blog, Mike! Janell and I enjoyed the day immensely. We learned a great deal ourselves so that we can better help people with diabetes. My favorite part of the trip was the bus ride and meeting so many new people. Every person is special and has unique qualities and interesting stories. It was fun to listen to all the laughter and good times being shared by a group of people who started the morning mostly as strangers but ended the day with new friends.

  • meredith

    witnessing seizures? scary!! so glad he is okay.

    and yay for the expo! WOO HOO FREE STUFF! i need to get my butt to one of those. 🙂

  • Jeanette Flom

    Mike, thanks for sharing your experience! I am so glad you found it meaningful and worthwhile, especially after the long adventure to get here. Passing along your blog to the volunteer committee and staff who helped organize the event – you are our inspiration to deliver again next year!
    Jeanette Flom, Executive Director – Chicago, American Diabetes Association