Susie is a Canadian author, public speaker and singer-songwriter currently living in the UK with her husband Don and Chihuahua Carlos. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 9 almost dying, and has been collecting illness ever since (including temporary blindness – saved by a good surgeon with an eyeball vacuum!) and even a brain tumour she had removed in her early twenties!) With a regular newspaper column called, ‘Expert Patient Here to Help!’
Susie is passionate about helping people go from being a patient (just a number), to a person at the doctor’s office. She has just finished a manuscript called, She has a book coming April 18th called, ‘Help the Doctor Help You! 31 secrets and tips for self-advocacy to get the BEST at your appointments’ and is working on a memoir about her chronic illness life. She also regularly releases music under her two artist names: Susie Bird and Suschwa everywhere there is music. A regular podcast guest, she loves talking about negative-positivity. (What not to say and what to say instead, when trying to be supportive to the sick or hurting.)
There was no time for an ambulance. The doctor knew my diagnosis with a couple of questions and one look and told my parents to drive the 100 miles to the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg Emergency Department, and FAST.
I was nine.
Type 1 Diabetes ushered me from the resuscitation room to intensive care, where I recuperated for the next four days. Eight or ten beds holding kids tied to tubes with monitors and beeping and alarms…oh the alarms. They were fighting for their lives. What was I doing there? Was I as sick as them? Two beds over, a little boy about three years old had so much bandage wrapped around his head and neck, only one eye poked through. He had been run over by a car. My heart still twists at the thought now, I certainly had no idea what to do with watching his parents silently weep by his side back then.
In the week and a half that followed on the regular ward, sometime between learning how to inject myself, eat for diabetes and catch up on homework, my doctor would come and give me a red wagon ride up and down the hall as part of his visit.
My mom took me on a walk down the children’s burn ward where I saw and heard kids in agony with burns all over their bodies.
Little did I know then, all of this prepared me for what was to come. Over the next thirty plus years and counting, I have had thousands of blood tests, countless ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, surgeries, emergent, urgent and routine appointments with the doctor. All of these thanks yes, to the Type 1 Diabetes, but also peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, eye disease, chronic constipation, Gastroparesis, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Hypothyroid) and I’ve even had a brain tumour removed. Yes…I’ve been busy.
Type 1 Diabetes was just the beginning.
I mentioned being prepared for what was to come. Here’s what I mean:
The Intensive Care Unit taught me that illness doesn’t only hurt the patient, but those who care about the patient. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see the eyes of that little boy’s father staring right back into mine, loaded with silent sadness and pain. His face slowly changes to my husband’s.
We’re in it together.
The ICU also showed me how loving and dedicated nurses can be. They had to park their car or get off the bus in front of that hospital 40 hours a week and walk into that room knowing full well one of those alarms might be the last for a child that day.
I learned compassion at its best.
When my doctor called me into the hall and let me climb into that wagon for my turn, it was the highlight of my day. I mean, who does that?!? I don’t remember his name, but I definitely remember the attention he gave me, and have a clear picture of him weaving us around the other children in hall, making sound affects and laughing freely as he pulled. He was not scary, or stern. He was human.
Doctors are people too.
So picture me lying in that ICU bed and watching that little boy two beds over. Hearing the alarms ringing, nurses rushing and a dad grabbing the bedrail as to not collapse with fear and exhaustion. Now picture my mom watching me watching them, and as we both held our breath, quietly reaching for my hand to hold.
Illness is hard. Let me help.
Thanks to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba for caring so well for me, and so many other sick children.
My Professional Adventures
“Susie’s story is messy, and her unabashed honesty speaks to the heart. Weaving humour through a serious and painful narrative, Susie not only helped sell pumps, but instilled hope in her audience. Anyone touched by Diabetes can benefit from hearing Susie speak. She hasn’t achieved perfection with her disease, but if you wish to instill optimism and change towards healthy living with Diabetes, she’s the woman for the job.” – Linda Pavan, Medtronic Sales Rep
An NLP coaching diploma; Working as an acting patient for paramedic exams (Acting is hard when you are “in anaphylactic shock” and a candidate injects their own thumb instead of your thigh! I know right? There was no laughing allowed! Can we say, Oscar nomination?); Volunteering to speak with teens about living with and coping with Type 1 diabetes at my local diabetes education center; Guest speaking at the University of Manitoba to medical students about living with Diabetes and chronic illness from the patient’s perspective.
Having come from a career as a Youth Director which included informal teen counseling, event planning and premarital counselling, my focus has slowly turned towards writing nonfiction and fiction, and public speaking in the chronic illness world. I am honoured to have had many opportunities to speak to crowds of people living with diabetes and those that love them, including a cross Canada tour promoting insulin pump therapy, and also to women at various wellness events. Humour gets infused with the difficult, because I personally couldn’t live my life without laughing. I also write a regular newpaper column in six Canadian newspapers called, ‘Expert Patient Here to Help!’