Last week I described the ongoing collaboration between Lilly Diabetes and Disney, which includes the Coco and Goofy’s Goofy Day book for young children, several ESPN themed books for tweens, and a family cookbook. This week I’d like to share a little more about my trip to Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis.
I was very hopeful that Lilly had a museum and that our day would include a tour. As I read the book Breakthrough (read my review of Breakthrough because it really is a fascinating story!), I learned about the discovery of insulin by Banting and Best. At that time, the company Eli Lilly sold the proverbial (and literal) snake oil as other contemporary pharmaceutical companies did. But they had the vision to find a way to mass produce insulin and get it to those who needed it.
In the lobby of the Lilly building is a statue that symbolizes a woman and her child. The mother brought in her son, who was literally starving to death, seeking to save his life. Within months of being on insulin, he was a plump and healthy little boy.
Also fascinating is the sheer volume of cow and pig pancreases that it took to produce a small container of insulin. It wasn’t until 20 or 30 years ago that synthetic insulins were developed.
I wanted to share a couple of stories from my day with you.
At lunchtime I sat at a table with president of the Diabetes Division Enrique Conterno and several bloggers. One asked if Lilly had a supply of insulin on hand, should anything happen, to ensure that people who need insulin could get it. While Enrique couldn’t give specifics as to how much insulin they actually have on hand (pharma companies are tight-lipped on some issues for legal reasons, FDA reasons, and not giving out secrets to the competition), he assured us that there is always a back up supply. So I asked the president, “So, what you are saying is that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, we should all converge on Lilly headquarters.”
I always ask the hard-hitting questions!
And I also need to stop watching shows like The Walking Dead. We all know what happened when they finally made it to the CDC.
But in all seriousness, I have to say that there were several moments during the day when I became choked up or teary-eyed. Like hearing the winning entry of the Lilly and Disney Once Upon a Time Contest, or an e-mail from the week before when the son of an executive’s family friend was diagnosed (diagnosis stories always hit me hard), and several times as bloggers shared their own stories.
I am always moved when I hear that someone working in the industry has a personal connection to diabetes that drives their commitment beyond making a profit for the company. I’m in no way in denial; I know that the bottom line for any company is turning a profit. Toward the end of the day, Vice President Steve Sugino shared his background with the group. He described growing up as a child and seeing his grandfather getting injections. Steve has been around type 1 diabetes his entire life and you can tell when he speaks that there is cause and passion behind his efforts for the company.
(Shout out to Steve’s grandfather!)
And that’s why I like these types of blogger events. Even though I’m taken away from my job and from my family, it is gratifying to me to see that there are people at these large companies who care about diabetes as passionately as I do and that it’s not just a job for them.
More posts about children’s books.
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Disclosure: Lilly Diabetes paid for my travel expenses and lodging. They also provided me with copies of their Disney books so that our family can read them. No monetary compensation was received. Opinions are always my own. Read my disclosure statement.