How many times have you dashed out the door without those all-important diabetes supplies?

Maybe you forgot your glucose meter or insulin pen, or possibly an OmniPod insulin pump receiver or backup infusion set, or test strips in case you need them. Be honest, we've probably all done it countless times.

Now, D-Mom Laurie Park in Pennsylvania has an idea to address that problem. It's a low-tech, simple solution for our past-paced, high-tech world of diabetes gadgets and gizmos: a simple door hanger, that reminds PWDs (people with diabetes) and their loved ones not to forget their critical "D-stuff" as they leave the house. It's much like those "Do Not Disturb" door-handle hangers you see at hotels, but this diabetes-specific hanger goes on the inside, winking at you in bright fluorescent yellow with bold letters that shout: "Don't Forget Your Diabetes Supplies."

We think this is a perfect fit for our periodic Small But Mighty series here at the 'Mine, featuring D-folk who have invented some sort of helpful product for our community out of their own personal experience and passion.

So today, we're digging into Don'tForgetYourDiabetesSupplies -- yes, that's the name of this new little home-based business in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA, where Laurie is making these following her daughter Jenny's T1D diagnosis four years ago. 

"My main motivation has been to create something that there's a need for, that didn't exist, and could help my own family and other diabetes families in their regular daily lives," Laurie says. "It's a simple reminder that can relieve that mental anguish that comes with forgetting your diabetes supplies, something that happens time and time again."

A "Sweet Sixteen" Diagnosis

Jenny's diagnosis came at age 16 in February 2014 during her junior year of high school -- a time they now refer to with the double entendre of "Sweet Sixteen" because her blood sugar was so high. That was a big year of college prep, and Laurie says her daughter was probably living with symptoms going back into the Fall. At first, she thought her daughter might have an eating disorder because of how much Jenny was eating.

Ironically, Laurie says that many years ago when Jenny was little, she seemed excessively thirsty and they took her to the doctor to test for diabetes, but that wasn't the case. Only years later did Jenny end up in the ER -- not quite at DKA level, but with very high BG numbers. So began the D-journey in their household.

And it even gave Jenny a college essay topic, with the opening line twist: "I was High for most of my junior year, but not in the way you might think." That got her into American University in Washington, D.C., where the 20-something now attends school.

Seeking a Daily Reminder

Over the years, Laurie says she'd browse the Internet for diabetes-related items (especially for girls) -- cases, jewelry, decorative accessories, spandex belts and undergarments, and different attire with device pockets sewn into them.

"I found all these great products online, many created by type 1s or families of type 1s. But what I could never find was a reminder -- a system or product to remind you to take your diabetes supplies with you before leaving the house."

Even though both Laurie and her daughter are conscientious, there were times they left without taking the D-supplies with them. And once Jenny went away to college, that also happened -- often leaving her dorm or apartment without those needed D-items. Sometimes she was only a short distance away so it wasn't a big deal, but it was not always possible to run back and get those supplies.

At one point recently, Laurie explains that her daughter was heading out to an evening gala and was all dressed up; she hurried out with friends before realizing at the event venue that she'd left her D-supplies back at the apartment. With only a short time before the gala's start, Jenny had to take an Uber back and forth to get those items before the event began. That ride-share cost more than what this new door hanger now costs, Laurie says!

For a reminder, they've tried using yellow sticky Post-It notes, but that didn't always work well.

"I'd stick those to the inside of my finished basement leading out to our garage, and would stick one to the door too so we wouldn't forget. But I always knew that wasn't a good solution, because sometimes it would fall off, or you might not notice it because it was so small. I thought, 'There has to be a better mouse-trap out there,' but I couldn't find one online. So I decided to create my own."

While in at a hotel noticing the "Privacy Please" hanger on her room's doorknob, Laurie says an idea was born.

Low-Tech = Can't Go Wrong

An attorney by trade who's now a stay-at-home mom, Laurie admits that although she once practiced corporate law, she doesn't consider herself a seasoned business-woman. So starting up this small business is a learning process for her.

She began by searching the Internet to find a company that could help her both design the product and manufacture it  in the United States. Fortunately, she found a Montana printing company that could provide all her criteria for the door hanger -- affordable, reusable, large size, high-quality and durable material that could be printed in bold, noticeable colors. The design features a big stop sign to grab attention, and it has a "universal fit" for all door knobs and handles. Laurie also snapped a photo of her daughter's D-supplies that could be used on this door hanger, in part because young kids might notice that image more than the words.

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"It's that final reminder as you're walking out the door," she says. "We all have so many things on our minds these days, and we can forget -- especially if we're rushed. I know we live in the age of technology, with Alexa and different apps or expensive reminders. But this is so easy to use, low-tech and anyone can use it. Nothing's going to go wrong with it."

Laurie says she set herself a deadline to get this initially created by the beginning of 2018, just before Jenny left for a semester of studying abroad in New Zealand. She met the deadline, and was able to give one to her daughter to take with her overseas.

"I'm hearing good things, that it's helped reminder her over there," Laurie says, with noticeable pride in her voice.

Solving a Universal Problem

Noting that she's been an active volunteer with JDRF since her daughter's diagnosis, Laurie points out that whenever she's with other D-parents and PWDs she hears stories about how they've forgotten diabetes supplies at times. That has motivated her to work to sell this more broadly to the D-Community.

"Everyone seems to have a story to share, about this problem of forgetting diabetes supplies. It's just a hassle, and I think this door hanger would save people money, time and energy," she says.

Her online store is currently based at Etsy, where the door hangers sell for $4.99 each, or in a three-pack for $9.99.

She's planning to create her own online store on her main website soon. Meanwhile, she's trying hard to get the word out in the community, selling these door hangers from out of her home and just asking people to pay the cost of postage.

Many customers are buying multiple packs, so they have enough for all the main doors into and out of their residence, Laurie says. They're also good of course for college students in a dorm or apartment, or for any PWDs who travel often to pack in their suitcase to hang on the inside of their hotel door.As to the future, she says anything's possible -- she has "visions of an empire." but will see where everything takes off from here.

"Diabetes is hard enough to manage when you have your supplies, but it's impossible to manage without your supplies. This eliminates one of a thousand problems in diabetes management, but it's an important problem."

We're definitely fans of this low-tech solution!

I have personally faced the scenario of forgetting critical supplies while traveling internationally. Once, I thought I'd forgotten my supplies in a hotel room in Punta Cana, and spent the entire day with rising blood sugars and feeling sick. As it turned out, my little black case was just hidden in the bottom of my bag, but I couldn't remember whether I'd grabbed it off the hotel bed before rushing off to the airport. If I'd had one of these door hangers to remind me, I would've taken an extra moment to check before leaving the hotel, and avoided a terrible day in near-DKA levels.

We definitely think this idea has merit, and wish Laurie the best as she moves forward with her little home business!


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