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Hanuman Garden

By David Mendosa

Last Update: September 3, 2002

A monkey named Hanuman lived in a wonderful garden. But one day a shadow slipped over it and stunted all the plants. Eventually Hanuman learns that the shadow's name is diabetes and they begin to live together.

“They need a story that gives hope…”

That's the bare outline of a charming and beautifully presented story and Web site called Hanuman Garden.

While Hanuman is the Hindu monkey god of healing, this story was written by Paul Del Bene, a story teller and performer as well as office manager for the site's sponsor, Islet Sheet Medical LLC. This company, a part of the Hanuman Medical family of companies in San Francisco, is a research company developing a thin-sheet bio-artificial pancreas.

"When you are diagnosed with diabetes, you are frightened," says Islet Sheet Medical President Scott R. King. Scott himself has had diabetes for more than 20 years. His Web site notes that "all diabetes entrepreneurs in San Francisco are named Scott King." He is not Scott M. King, the publisher of Diabetes Interview magazine, although both of them live in the San Francisco Bay area and both have type 1 diabetes. They have known each other for many years and are apparently not related. It's too much of a coincidence to be believable if this were a story.

The story that the Hanuman Garden site tells is what people—particularly children—need when they are diagnosed, Scott says. They need a story that gives hope based on reality.

"Hanuman Gardens tells you what your life is going to be like from now on," Scott continues. "The metaphor is pretty clear. You are living in a beautiful garden and suddenly a shadow falls over it, and nothing will grow any more. What you have to do is to find a way to live with that shadow and still enjoy your garden. It is simple but it touches people."

Hanuman came to mind when Scott and his principal scientist Randy Dorian were thinking about a name for the company. As a monkey fancier who legally has monkey animal companions, Randy knew about Hanuman, Scott says. Randy also publishes the Monkey Matters Web site.

"One of the stories about Hanuman in the Ramayana is that when Rama was wounded, he needed herbs to heal himself," Scott says. "They grew on a mountain deep in the Himalayas, so Hanuman flew there. Since he couldn't see the herbs, he brought back the whole top of the mountain. So you often see a picture of Hanuman carrying a mountain, because he is taking healing herbs to Rama. We like the idea of an Hindu monkey god going to extremes to heal people as an image of what we are trying to do."

One of Randy's monkeys named Molly got type 1 diabetes. That gave him and Scott the idea that it would be interesting for children to know that Molly's diabetes has to be treated the same way as theirs. Molly, a lesser spot-nose guenon native to Africa, has to watch what she eats and needs to take the insulin shots that Randy's wife, Camille, gives her several times a day. That's the basis of the Hello Molly! site, which is linked to Hanuman Garden through GoodBloodSugar.com.

Scott intended GoodBloodSugar.com to be the educational arm of Islet Sheet Medical. But he stopped updating it a year and one-half ago.

"We were trying to find some way to participate in the information boom on the Web," Scott, recalls. "At that point everybody believed that if you just had a few click-throughs, you would have enough money to pay for everything."

That was not to be. But all of Scott's sites remain on the Web. They all look quite different from each other in order to differentiate them, Scott says.

Hanuman Garden in particular is a beautiful site and a reassuring story. "We have a little niche there where we are hoping to do some good," Scott says. "I am just hoping that people will know it is there, particularly for kids. You can reassure kids of a certain age and explain things to them, but they aren't yet capable of internalizing that and feeling the comfort that we want to give them. What they need is a story." 


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


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