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Accepting Diabetes Archives
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There’s No Shame in Taking Insulin Injections in Public


Jan 12, 2012

Meagan Esler

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion on the subject of testing your blood sugar and taking insulin shots in public. A shocking number of people on social networks have commented that their family members don't want them to test their blood sugar or take their shots in public. They report having to inject in restrooms or even through their clothing to avoid drawing attention or offending their families. One hypersensitive husband even objected when his recently diagnosed wife took a shot in the relative privacy of their car.

Sometimes people resolve this problem by getting a pump, which makes insulin delivery much less noticeable. But insulin pumps are financially out of reach for many, even those with insurance coverage, and a good number of people just prefer injections to a pump.

I used to be among those who hide their diabetes. Hiding was a way of telling myself and others that I thought something was wrong with me. While I was hiding, everyday life was far from happy. I used to take my shot in my car or run to the restroom before going into a restaurant. It was a little like playing Russian roulette because I could never be sure I'd be seated right away and get quick access to carbohydrates. It definitely wasn't a smart plan of action, but I was younger and willing to do anything to avoid the stares of other patrons as I whipped out my test strips, lancing device, insulin bottle, and syringe. I dreaded looks of pity, expressions of horror, or any attention whatsoever.

Thankfully, my husband, children, friends, and family are more than understanding when I need to test my blood sugar or inject in public. Truthfully, they have no other option because I have made peace with having diabetes, and I simply refuse to hide anymore. I personally take five to six shots a day with a syringe, which is way too many to worry about hiding. I will take my shot anywhere: at my desk at work, at the local coffee shop, and even in a crowded movie theater by the light of my phone. As a person with diabetes, keeping my blood sugar level is more important than being shy.

I have also come to believe that taking a shot in public helps spread awareness about diabetes. It shows people that anyone can have this disease. Of course, I am discreet about taking my shots. I certainly don't wave the syringe around or make a scene. I simply take my shot and move on with my day.

Accepting diabetes and doing what we need to do to survive shows how strong and resilient we are. We should be nothing but proud!


Categories: Accepting Diabetes, Blood Sugar Level, Diabetes, Diabetes, Injections, Insulin Bottle, Insulin Delivery, Lancing Device, Syringe, Taking Insulin Shots in Public, Test Strips, Testing Blood Sugar, Type 1 Diabetes



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Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 12 January 2012

I enjoyed this article. I must admit that I have recieved the same reactions, while testing and injecting. I am now on an insulin pump. I have a small wireless device to activate the pump when I need to dose for carb intake. This has helped. I feel that this is a lifestyle, and I do not hide or flaunt it. It is what it is, and I make it part of my routine.
I hope readers find comfort in their disease contol. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by Gratingchap on 12 January 2012

I began using insulin about 6 wks ago but had been (and I am still taking) oral meds for roughly 10 years. I do not test or take my insulin in public. For me it's about drawing attention to myself or my physiological needs. By nature I am an extrovert - nevertheless, self care should be relegated to times by myself. I am a diabetic who is not ashamed of my disease, however neither I a poster child for the diabetic liberation front! Just my two bits!

Posted by Melissa D. on 12 January 2012

Like you I prefer not using a pump. I currently use insulin pens,which can stay at room temperature and I just carry in my purse and dose when I need it. I usually excuse myself to the ladies room when out, but it's quick & easy to do. My CGM has been a huge help as well. I will test my BS anywhere & anytime. I wasn't always this relaxed about doing it in public, but am no longer embarrassed & like the opportunity to let people learn about me & diabetes.

Posted by Anonymous on 15 January 2012

Thank you for this article. What is most ironic is, when this was written was a few days after I went to a restaurant with my husband and friends. I asked my husband to grab my medications from the car so I could take my insulin. When he returned with my medication bag, he looked me square in the face and said "go to the bathroom to do that". I was embarrassed, one, that he thought he needed to tell me to go to the bathroom (I've never done it at a dinner table, especially in front of mixed company) and, two, that he seemed embarrassed of my disease. It really did hurt me, and your article truly inspires me to tell him to get over it. My diabetes is a chronic disease and what I have to do are part of my lifestyle, not something that I can mess around with. Again, thank you so very much.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

This is such a positive article. I totally agree that those with diabetes should inject without hiding themselves away. My child has Type 1 and we have never asked him to pop to a bathroom whether we have friends over at home or whether we are out for a meal. His friends are so used to it that they don't pay the slightest heed to what he is doing and accept him... all aspects of him. The more people with diabetes who just do what they have to do without hiding... the more the rest of the public will get used to it too. We are ok... We don't need to hide away.... This is our normal!

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I'm appalled that in the 21st century, people in this country can be so medieval in mindset. My son has type 1, and when he first went off to college he was using syringes. Someone saw him injecting in a dining commons and had a similar negative reaction, but my son, fortunately, just saw it as an opportunity to see the reaction as funny. He played up the injection, pretending he was "using" and making an appropriate facial expression of great satisfaction as the insulin was injected! Don't let ignorant people determine for you how you manage your diabetes. If syringes work better for you, then use them when and where you need to. If someone else has a problem with that, it's their issue, not yours.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I think you should be able to take your shot and test your blood sugar wherever and whenever you see fit! Even dropping trousers in a public place if necessary. If it offends people then find a cure, but until then we should not have to hide to manage our disease. Diabetes is not something to be ashamed of. Why do we have to manage other people's ignorance and self insecurities. That said, my only concern would be if someone was doing it in a manner that is unsanitary to themselves or others around them.

If people have a problem with managing this illness in public then join the fight and be a voice for change in how its managed. Help be a voice for more non-invasive tools, but don't sit there and pass judgement and make ignorant remarks.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I used to hide giving my injections, but because I wanted to avoid the reactions and questions of others. Now, I do it in public, discreetly, and warn my friends who are squeamish of needles that now's the time to look away. It works.

I'm still nervous about testing my blood in public though. I just do'nt want to be interupted with nosiness from other people. I guess that is something I need to work through. I just want to be left to do what I need to do.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

Good grief, women whip their breasts out to feed their children in public....why are people offended or embarrassed by taking care of their health? Frankly, I'd rather see needles and a meter than a bare breast, but that's just my opinion.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I usually go the restroom to check BS or inject insulin not because I'm embarrassed of what I need to do but rather to wash hands especially before checking BS.

Posted by jtreeves on 17 January 2012

Meagan,
Thanks for bringing this subject up. I was a frequent injector before I switched to a pump 10 years ago. However, frequent BG testing is a requirement and on occasion, pod changes are required while out and about. I don't hesitate to test my glucose whenever and wherever I am - as long as a have a tissue to staunch the blood flow from my punctured finger. I also take the liberty of starting a new pod while sitting in a movie theater. I have to be careful to put my covered needle back into my knapsack or pocket so it doesn't fall to the floor. This is easier during the summer when thighs, upper arms, and abdomen are easier to reach and don't require partial undressing to find the next available site.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

There may not be any "shame" in taking insulin injections in public however as a Type 1 Diabetic myself for over 20+ years who also uses insulin injections, I don't at all support this. This is a question of Hygene plain and simple. There could blood and/or insulin spillage, and a person can also be accidentally pricked from the insulin gage. The best is to do it in the bathroom. The only one time I had to inject in the public was in the air plane as the lavatory did not look favorable. So I did this in a seated position with my blanket and made sure there was no contact to anyone with my close proxity with the person seated right beside me. I did this only when the meal was served. When you are injecting you are opening a little of your skin becuase of the puncture stemming from the syringe. This is why I do not encourage this. So don't think of "shame" consider safety and Hygene first.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I am really surprised...seriously...no one has ever said anthing to me..when I was a young teenager I used to hide but then one day I realized that it was just silly to be furtive...now I check my blood sugar anywhere I happen to be and when I took multiple injections aday, I just pulled out my bottle and syringe, drew up my dose and injected...no fuss. Truly if you act like nothing untoward is happening, very few people notice. And the main point is, who cares who notices?!? It's not dirty or disgusting..it's just a little pinprick!

Posted by KayKay1313 on 17 January 2012

I was 49 when I was diagnosed as Type I and insulin dependent. I had always been very active and athletic so at first I was very ashamed and 'hurt' that somehow I was now an 'invalid' and so dependent on medication. I would always go to the bathroom and hide when I needed to 'dose up' but it also bothered me that I was in a dirty toilet stall trying to give myself medication.

Thankfully, my wife and kids and most of my friends were wonderful about the whole thing and really encouraged me to less ashamed. After a while I realized that most folks were just curious AND that the biggest reason I was so ashamed was that I'd never seen someone else do this. So I changed my entire attitude and basically "came out" about the diabetes and my medical needs and discovered that my willingness to be so open about it made it easier for others when they discovered they had the problem. Oddly enough it also helped others to feel more comfortable opening up about their non-diabetic issues as well.

I don't want to discount the issues others have mentioned however, as I too have run into folks that have a problem with my 'dosing' or testing in public. To date, my response has been to smile at them and then literally act as if they don't exist or that they simply never said anything. I don't think they appreciate being excluded from the conversation or being totally ignored but I've not found a better way to communicate to them that they don't get a vote on this subject.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I SO agree about "being open"--and have been astonished by some people's problem. One female friend honestly does faint when she sees blood, so now I warn her to look away. I worked with RNs for a while and they didn't want to see me test or inject because it "made them feel like I was a patient." I am a social worker--doing what I should do!

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

Hello People, Several years ago, there was a gentleman in our local deli. He was testing his blood sugar and then gave himself a shot. The gentleman was told by the owner to never do that again. It made the local news here. Being a type 1 diabetic and at that time a frequent customer there, I asked the manager about it. He told me it made his customers uncomfortable. I wear a pump. I usually test my blood sugar in my car before I go into a restaurant (or I will use the Ladies Room). Just because of the owner's attitude, I never went back there. I don't miss it either. We found a wonderful restaurant (Zachary's in Stoughton, MA), where it's usually crowded, but even if I have to test my sugar at the table, I can do it very discreetly. You all have a nice day!!

Posted by WonderWomanUSA on 17 January 2012

I check my blood sugar and inject my insulin at restaurant tables all the time, and it doesn't matter to me if it's the local pizzeria or a 4-star dining venue.

Restroom stalls are unclean and there's seldom a dry space (shelf? edge of the sink?) to put my supplies -- I will not try to balance this stuff on my lap to save someone's sensibilities.

With diabetes so prevalent, non-diabetics are just going to have to get used to it. If they're squemish, they can look away, as some of my friends do.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I totally disagree. I am a diabetic although not insulin dependent but, if I ever get to the point where I use insulin, I will take my shots in private. My sister is also a diabetic and gives herself a shot in the hip area at our table in restaurants. She also makes a big deal out of testing her bs in the living room when we are visiting. For her it is all about attention and I think that is wrong. Some people are offended or it actually makes them nauseous to see a needle being used in that manner. Is it so very terrible to excuse yourself and take it in private? I DO take shots for my migraines and I have NEVER taken it in public. You don't have to be ashamed of being a diabetic but you do need to consider other people's feelings and be a bit discreet.

Posted by JamilahWMA on 17 January 2012

So wonderful to see this article! What a huge issue! Where are all you public testers/shooters?

I have wondered over and over why, as I test in public (as long as my hands are clean), with literally millions of other diabetics, I have never seen one single other person perform any diabetic related activity in public. I literally have thought I was the only one. I used to both test and take my insulin in public, but now with my pump I only test. I admit I reuse lancets, but if I do change the lancet , I just cap the old one and put it back in my little zippered bag. I do agree it's part of consciousness raising. But that isn't why I do it, it's just too inconvenient to go to a bathroom when there often is a line, at least for women. When one friend gave me negative feedback about this I wondered if Ms. Manners has a Diabetes Etiquette protocol? Well, we are making our own! ;o)

Posted by dgjt on 17 January 2012

I have never been afraid of testing or dosing in public. I go to Tims all the time and have never hidden it. Nobody has ever said a word or given me a look except to mention that they or some one they know has the disease or they ask how long I have had it. A friend once looked as I lanced and laughed and said " do you have to do that here."My reply was "It's just life". Any one who has the nerve to be squeemish can just thank whatever god they pray to that they don't have too.

Posted by jeanne lese on 17 January 2012

Sorry to see this problem is still around. It was discussed in Diabetes Health in 1999, when former editor-in-chief Scott King publicly answered a letter from Ann Landers. She had come out against testing in public in her newspaper column. The good news is that Scott convinced her she was wrong, and she printed a public retraction. You can read it here
http://www.diabeteshealth.com/press/archive/AnnLanders.pdf

Full disclosure: I don't have diabetes, but my husband and son do, so I'm familiar with the issue. I also was PR consultant for Diabetes Health and helped Scott write the letter to Ann.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

What do all these hiding diabetics do for a living hide in a cornor? Come on wake up?
This is your business not anyone else needs to be concerned.
When I started using Insulin some 30 years ago I did the run to that bathoom route. I was at a local Cocos restaurant. Went into the BR fixed my Insulin took the injections and by the time I was finished dabbing with an alcohol pledget I had a policeman grabbing my arm. He informed me they didn't want any junkies messing up their town. I tried to explain, showed him my DM card and script from the doc but he just said they were fakes.
I was thrown into jail in the ugly horrible town until morning when they called my doc.
They then informed me to leave and get out of their town.
I did. Shortly thereafter I got an early pump and have been On a Medtronic pump the rest of my diabetic life. Not only does it do away with such idiocy it is wonderfully convenient. If it had not been for the pump I would have lost my eyesight sometime ago.
I will never forget this experience nor one when I went to an ER early on in Pump history.
There I was stripped down and waiting for the ER doc. When he came in he asked me what that thing was in my side. He then stated he had never heard of such a thing and literally ripped it out of my side and told my husband to take it home with him.
Onr suit later they learned what a pump does and how to take care of them and the patient that is wearing one.
I could go on such as being arrested leaveing Rite Aide for setting off the alarms. It was the pump. In the early days they set off every scanner around. No longer and I wouldn't be without it and I do test in public or where ever I need to.
My health is more important than some nosy nancy.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

Thank you for this article. For the person who suggests that it is more hygienic for me to take a shot in a public restroom than at the table... I disagree. There are masses of germs in public bathrooms. There is no way that I would take a shot in a public restroom. I will take it at the table. If that makes someone uncomfortable, that's fine.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

CAUTION! Injecting anything in a PUBLIC RESTROOM presents two dangers. First, restrooms are not sanitary. Second, a Sworn Officer of the Law seeing you in a restroom with a syringe may over-react. If you are inclined to inject in public, you should have a laminated card with a note from your doctor to prove that your actions are medically necessary and quite legal. Be prepared to be asked to leave a restaurant because other patrons find your actions offensive. You should also realize that there people who have very strong reactions to the mere sight of a syringe.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

There is another Reason you don't 'Do it In Public-Especially at work"..It is a sign your a Sickie- a weak person.. beleive it or not.. How do you feel towards Those that are Physically Handicapped? Same thing..

You want to Get ahead on the job? You don't go shooting up or testing among Co-workers or the Boss..

Another Reason? Ask others how they feel about Syringes? Taking Shots? It makes them Nausih? Upset? Some will Faint? How about the site of Blood? Repect that and be Discrete.. I used A Syrnge for yrs, then a Pen and got so good at Hiding the injections, no-one knew..

Sorry, It's a Guy/Man Thing.. and you diffinetly don't have your Kids do it around other kids.. Same issue..

Posted by Trekker on 17 January 2012

If anyone has a problem with your testing/injecting in public it's THEIR problem not yours.

I totally agree with what this person said....."Truly if you act like nothing untoward is happening, very few people notice. And the main point is, who cares who notices?!?" Right On!

I feel saddened by spouses/family/friends who haven't accepted their loved one's diabetes. I feel Accept Me, Accept My Diabetes. And if someone truly loves you they will.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 January 2012

I really appreciate this commentary.
I am an insulin dependent diabetic.
I am a shy person by nature and have never quite known how to tackle the issue of injecting in public(at restaurants specifically)
The great majority of my friends are very supportive and value my friendship and they say "as long as it keeps you here with us.. do what you need to do". One friend of 30 years finally told me that it makes her very uncomfortable to see me injecting ( even though it is all done under the table and out of view. This changed the dynamic of our relationship but I grew to understand and respect her perspective.
Most people when seeing me injecting are more interested in me being in their lives and taking care of myself..
So it is a very personal decision and I respect those very few friends who express discomfort, and feel very free with the vast majority
Thank you

Posted by ghlatty on 18 January 2012

I have mixed feelings with mixed company. First, how sad that people have spouses that are embarrased by their "better half" doing simple things that will prolong their life IN PUBLIC. Personally, I have injected at a table in mixed company. However, I wont do a blood test at the table unless I'm by myself or with my wife. Not that I'm embarrases, I just dont want to make others uncomfortable. Maybe I'm just blessed to have a wife who wants me to do all that I can to perserve my health, but honestly, I was quite taken aback by the story and comments on the spouses that want you to "go away to do that". Just sad.

Posted by markkoeks on 18 January 2012

I've been pumping for over 6 years and just recently switched back to pens. I have found people to be mostly curious, and I've NEVER shied away from taking my meds or testing, but always open to educate and explain what it's all about. I agree 100% with this article that you should not be ashamed of what you need to do to stay alive, the more people know the better. Especially important when you go "wonky" at the table when you over-bolus #oops!

Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2012

When my son was diagnosed at 13 (he is 26 now) I encouraged him to test his blood sugars and take his shots in public. I did not feel he should have to hide his diabetes. I wanted him to do what was necessary for his health so that in an emergency he wouldn't be embarrassed to treat himself. Later I worried I was wrong. Thank you for sharing your story. He is on the pump now and it works well for him. Blessings to all of you. ♥

Posted by Rich b on 18 January 2012

I have been a police officer for 30 years and have seen many things. I test at my fitness center before and after working out. I dont let other people tell me how to control my health. If they dont like it, then DONT LOOK. If there not willing to die for me, then dont try to live for me.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2012

I have type 1. I test and inject everywhere and anywhere. When I ski with my husband and I pull my meter out to test he makes his hands into a little table for me to put the meter on. Now one of my close friends has started doing this, too. Diabetes self care can be lonely. I love having the support of family and friends. I am very active and I want lots of people around me to know that I have diabetes. It makes me feel safer.

Posted by cde on 18 January 2012

In over 40 years of injecting myself with insulin (usually around 5-6 times a day), publicly if I am not at home, NO ONE, in dozens of different settings (restaurants, public library, university library, car, public transport, airplanes, waiting rooms, hotel lobbies, grocery stores, etc.) has ever said a word to me, either negative or positive, about what I was doing.

Since the meters have got smaller, I monitor my BG in public, too. No one has ever said anything negative, though 1 guy once asked, "Do you have diabetes?" That question I regard as positive (AND a sign of his intelligence and education) because it opens the door to conversation with a stranger, something I enjoy.

Even in the second-class compartment on a 3-day train journey in rural Turkey (and I am pretty certain that no one there had EVER seen the likes of my actions before!), not a word from passengers or conductors.

So, since it is my personal decision, mainly based on comfort (a short time after DX, I did drop a bottle of insulin on the tiled bathroom floor at home and apart of the money down the drain, picking up those tiny pieces of glass was a pain in the homonym...so no more bathroom shots), my belief and practice is to do whatever shines your apple. 99% of people have never paid me any mind.

Dr. Stan De Loach
Certified Diabetes Educator
México, Distrito Federal

Posted by Trekker on 18 January 2012

I wish there was a "Like" button as there is on Face Book. I have sure enjoyed all of your comments on the Pros and Cons of public testing and injecting. I am totally Pro, myself.
Very interesting thread, thanks Meagan for starting it and all who commented.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2012

Yes, discretion can be important (like breast feeding in public, sometimes it needs to be done!). My husband (diagnosed at age 56) has used testing in public as a way to educate people. Many friends have even asked to have their BG's tested. Our son (diagnosed at age 12) is very shy and reclusive about it. We are hoping that our openness and comfort rubs off on him eventually. As someone else wrote, this is our normal. And the more "normally" we treat T1, the more understanding of it grows.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 January 2012

I was actually quite apalled by some (not all) of the answers from those who are opposed to testing/taking shots in public. There are just so many reasons NOT to do it any other way:

1. Bathrooms, especially public bathrooms, are the most unsanitary places to take shots/test. Not only are there germs all around, but one cannot juggle everything in one's hands, so it becomes necessary to put something down on a germy surface. Nowadays, many bathrooms do not even have paper towels to use for that purpose. Once I put my meter pack/insulin bottle down, it is going to be contaminated forever!



2. Testing and injecting in the car before going into a restaurant is not appropriate because a) one has no idea how long the wait to be seated and receive food will be and b) if one counts carbs, one needs to visually see the meal in order to determine exactly how much insulin to give.



3. Even if one were to test/inject in the bathroom after ordering a meal, there's no telling exactly how long it will take to get to your table. One time a waiter took our order and then went home sick - we waited over 40 minutes before we could get someone else to help us. meamwhile, I nearly passed out at the table. Another time I tested in the ladies' room while waiting to be seated...the "10 minute" wait turned into 40 minutes, and I had a serious low while sitting in the waiting area. That was the last time I tested in the ladies' room! Waiting for your food to be served and then running out to the car or the bathroom is ridiculous...you'd have cold food by the time you got back!

As for being discreet, of course one should be as discreet as one can. When I was still injecting (before pump), I usually gave myself my shots in the abdomen, below table level...no one who wasn't sitting right next to me and looking down would have been able to see it. But when push comes to shove, it is not my job to give other people's phobias higher concern than I give my own health, and being able to test and inject whenever I need to is a prime factor in my ability to manage this illness.

P.S. The man who was poorly treated in the deli in Stoughton is my brother, and neither he nor I, nor any of our friends, ever ate there again.

Posted by Anonymous on 20 January 2012

Hello again,
I am the person who wrote about the deli in Stoughton (Maxie's) whose owner told the person not to come back after injecting. I want to tell the man's sister that I feel for your brother. As I stated, I don't eat there anymore. It was a blessing in disguise, because Zachary's (also in Stoughton), is much better with friendly people. Wish I knew who you were. We could meet for breakfast........with your brother, of course! Everyone have a nice day.

Posted by Anonymous on 2 March 2012

Question for you - we had a gentlemen test and inject himself in front of of 60 fourth graders while he was giving an assembly. At that point he completely lost their focus about the original content of his program - a few of us felt as though it probably would have been better in this situation had he been a little more discreet about it - otherwise - I'd rather look at somebody injecting themselves then the underwear of the teenage boys who wear their pants below their butts. Your thoughts?

Posted by Anonymous on 6 July 2012

I am a type 1 diabetic and to hear people say their disgusted that diabetics are injecting insulin in public is ridiculous. Do you think we want to inject ourselves before every meal? No. We did not ask for this and just so you know we need to take our insulin or we will die. Before judging you should educate yourself.

Posted by Anonymous on 15 October 2012

Loved this article! I'm a T1 and unable to afford the pump and am without health insurance. I use to be really squeemish whenever I saw my grandpa doing his insulin shots in his stomach and checking his sugar. So I never took shoots in public or checked my sugar in public for the concerns of making someone passing, getting sick etc., and I try to remember how I felt watching my grandpa do his thing openly. Well very recently I happened to go to a chinese restaurant, and it just so happened I was on my LAST PEN of insulin until the following week. I went to the bathroom and did the "diabetic juggle". Well that did not work out to well because I DROPPED MY LAST INSULIN PEN INTO THE PUBLIC CHINESE RESTAURANT TOILET! Which landed me the rest of my day in the ER. So moral of the story this makes me feel a lot better and in these situations I'm going on with it is what it is and doing what I have to do even if others choice to watch.


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