Good Samaritans and Social Activities

Lindsey Guerin’s dLife blog mentioned how one of her friends, seeing a classmate having a seizure, saved the day by checking that classmate’s purse, finding glucagon, and administering it. This fellow is now one of Lindsey’s “heroes”, for having done what nobody else in the classroom had the presence of mind, or the courage, to do.

Some STARFLEET friends and I been running a heated discussion about this same type of heroism earlier in the day. Several expressed concerns of legal liability if they were to perform any action other than calling 911, even if they knew in advance that one of us had diabetes and a history of bad lows, or that another has an anaphylactic allergic reaction to bee stings, and even if they knew where to find the glucagon or the epi pen. At least one of these is a trained and certified EMT.

In most places, Good Samaritan laws cover a bystander’s actions if he has certification to perform that action (e.g., current Red Cross CPR certification); however, these laws do not apply to untrained “civilian” bystanders. That’s enough to scare many people away from doing the right thing.

All of us agreed, though, that it is a reasonable and rational course of action to make sure that any one of us with a medical condition should consider letting at least one or two people around us know, and let them know what to do if they find us incoherent, or seizing, or acting in a way that suggests an impending medical emergency due to that condition.

This buddy system is not specific to diabetes, but for the course of this discussion, let’s call those colleagues “diabetes buddies” or “d-buddies”. You need to be able to trust your d-buddies to be able to tell someone that you’re having a low and need immediate treatment. You need to be able to trust your d-buddies to get you that orange juice and fight for it to get to you pronto. You need to be able to trust your d-buddies to administer glucagon if you’ve seized and/or gone too low to drink that OJ…

Depending on your environment and your social activities, you may have just one or two d-buddies, or you may have a different d-buddy in each facet of your life. Your d-buddies may have diabetes, or may know other people with diabetes, or not. Sometimes the most obvious d-buddy is the fellow down in the next row of cubicles who let slip that he didn’t get to lunch before a meeting and is now “dropping low”, or the one who is complaining about a shift change because she needs to have her food and medication at a particular hour. Other times, you just have to go with how you feel and whom you feel you can trust.

Your d-buddies are not the Diabetes Police, nor should they be. They’re around to quietly-and-diplomatically nudge you if you’re acting like you might be dropping a bit too low, speak up with you when the rest of the group wants to grab lunch from the candy store instead of the saladworks, or when the group wants to hike five miles first, but you need an OJ, NOW. And they’re there to make sure you get that glucagon injection if you need it, and that the EMTs know you’re diabetic, even if your Medical ID bracelet gets lost and your wallet was stolen.

Obviously there is no excuse for not taking care of one’s self and trying to avoid incidents… but just like the net suspended below the high-wire, your d-buddy is one more person who will make sure you are safe.

Here’s to d-buddies!

This is great advice. My experience is that teens don’t want to discuss their diabetes with friends. My daughter is type 1 and she doesn’t like to. And I had a friend when I was a teen and we knew she had it, but never mentioned once how to handle an emergency situation. As an adult I look back and think “What would I have done - panic!” Having a d-buddy should be a must and more than one would be ideal!

I’ve been told that this is normal for teens. OTOH, consider that (1) all teens want to seem “normal”, (2) most teens have not learned discretion – and all she needs is for an indiscreet pal to let things slip, for it to get through the grapevine to someone who might want to make her get goofy-low to make fun of her or take advantage of her, and (3) she may not feel her friends are mature enough to take the info for what it is, and act appropriately.
Of course, at school your daughter’s d-buddies could as easily be one or two of her teachers, or a teacher or student at the school who also has diabetes… it doesn’t need to be her BFF du jour

I know the dLife Foundation has a “Diabuddies” education program for preschool and lower primary grades… I’m wondering if there’s an education program or two for teenagers. It could be part of their normal Biology or Health curriculum. I remember learning the basic physiology of diabetes mellitus (“Isles of Langerhans” – before they called them “beta cells”) and diabetes insipidus, but there was nothing in either Biology or Health class that discussed hypoglycemic events in persons with diabetes (or for that matter, anaphylactic allergic reactions). Perhaps you can ask on this site, or ask around the PTA or on parent-teacher night, or ask your daughter’s CDE to see if something appropriate exists. If it doesn’t, I think there’s enough brainpower and will here to make it happen!