There is something very frightening about the realization that the average person in your life might end up killing you in an effort to save you if you’re diabetic.
What does the average person know about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Heck, do they even know how many types of diabetes there are? T1D, T2D, T3D of Alzheimer, LADA, MODY, Gestational, Neonatal, MIDD and diabetes insipidus – this list, possibly not even complete, probably contains one or more types of diabetes that many diabetics haven’t even heard of despite having lived decades with the disease. I can’t blame anyone for not being more knowledgeable of the disease and all of its forms, especially if you never had a run-in with it and never had to be knowledgeable.
Being knowledgeable might save a life, though.
As I grow more insulin dependent in my type LADA, I am already faced with the potential that, one day while riding my bike, that might be it. A hypo is difficult to detect during exercise, and biking is all I do to get anywhere I have to be. I could be in (or cause) an accident. I might faint in a public place, like a supermarket, and before the EMTs arrive I’m already in a diabetic coma. But none of this is as scary as the thought of having a hypo so severe where I am close to passing out, able to communicate I’m diabetic, and being injected with more insulin because insulin is what diabetics take to get better.
I had a nightmare about this the other night. Research and anecdotes from fellow insulin dependent diabetics has revealed that this is the connection most people have with diabetics that take insulin. Friends, family, strangers – it doesn’t seem to matter too much who it is, but someone somewhere thinks that a diabetic suffering from a hypo needs insulin. It’s most likely a lack of knowledge and simple deductions without a desire to learn more. Diabetics feel bad? They take some insulin and feel better! Why question exactly how it works, or how much of which insulin they need, when the answer is so simple? This can make it frustrating to instruct people around you on what to do when something happens, because chances are in the moment of panic they forget what you told them and they do the wrong thing. Like giving you insulin when you need sugar.
I’ve committed myself to the idea that my first response should be “I’m diabetic – call 112/999/911/(whatever the local number is)” so that whoever finds me and has to deal with me will be talked through a process by a professional who knows what to do before the EMTs arrive. Out of all the ways for the disease to kill me, this is probably the scariest one for me.
If this confuses you, regardless of your relationship with diabetes, try to remember this: we can do our own injections when we need them and likely won’t ever need you to do it for us. We need sugar when we run low which we need you to get for us because we can barely speak, sit up or stay conscious. If we can’t consume the sugar ourselves because we’re unconscious, call an ambulance and don’t force-feed us. We might choke and die.
If in doubt: call an ambulance and follow the operator’s instructions.
Maybe this post won’t make a difference. Maybe it will. I hope it reaches a lot of eyes and ears and maybe do some good down the line.