School Days: A Guest Post by Lawrence 'Rick' Phillips, Ed.D

I originally posted this to my blog,

The following is a guest post written by my friend, Rick. Rick and I met via the social media site TuDiabetes. We have much in common including Type I Diabetes. The following is a story Rick has written about his experience with diabetes, low blood-sugar, and the school nurse. Read and enjoy; I know I did!

School days

It is such a wonderful pleasure to be able to blog with my friend Tamra on Cinnamon. I have followed Tamra’s writing for about six months and getting the chance to write for her audience offers me an opportunity to stretch my legs a bit in a new more complicated direction. I hope you the readers, who of course we write for, will recognize some of yourselves in my crazy story.

I was diagnosed with diabetes and I started insulin during the summer between Junior and Senior year in High School. I was 17, madder than hell about being diagnosed and determined no one was going to give me anything because of Diabetes. I admit it was a crazy idea but it was the one I had adopted as school started that year. I suppose at some point I was responsible for telling the office after all I was now an insulin dependent diabetic and had anyone asked, I might have complied. But short of someone coming up to me and saying ‘dude are you sick?’ I was never going to do that. So I started high school and went about my business.

In those days, 1974, MDI meant an injection in the morning and one at night maybe. I took three, injections because I would crash so hard mid-morning most days. Crashing was not really a big deal for me; I left the house each morning with my afternoon injection and the hope I would not crash in class. I figured hey someone must have food somewhere right? I mean it’s a school.

Well I had not gone very long into the year when in 3rd period class I crashed. No one knew I was diabetic and when I started sweating like a fountain I knew what was going on but the teacher acted as if he didn’t see it, which was fair, given some of our prior interactions. As the period ended, I was still one period away from leaving for the day and well I was really having an issue. In those days of course there was no blood sugar testing, a urine test meant nothing and besides doing the test tube in the boys restroom would certainly be misunderstood. So I swallowed my pride and went to the nurse’s office.

Now surprisingly I really did not know the nurse. But my reputation preceded me and when I walked in and I was having a low episode I got the third degree. How much insulin had I taken, whose insulin was it? How did I obtain it? Was I getting high off insulin? I ended up yelling, “listen give me some OJ”. “No,” she said, “this is for diabetics; we have no record of you being diabetic”. Once again I yelled. (a side note this was not my best moment and it is funny only in retrospect).

Well after a nice, LOUD, discussion I earned two things, first the OJ, and then a long discussion about being responsible. I explained I was being responsible I was taking care of it myself, as opposed to asking a nurse to take care of it, ahh not the right thing to say. It took two hours and four calls to verify I was not an insulin abuser, the doctor’s office wanted to see me immediately to adjust my insulin. Give me a break, I complied however, and I had to get a note from my parents acknowledging that I was diabetic and the nurse could give me OJ. I forged the note, I was sure that my parents would be OK that if my blood sugar was low, the nurse could give me OJ. Good grief I also got 3 days of after school detention for not informing the office of the medical condition. I mean wait who gives detention for not telling a nurse you could get ill?

For me it was all sort of funny, since the after school detention interfered with my afternoon injection I boldly took it to school. Hmm I got to go back to the nurse where I served my detention. I got to spend 35 minutes a day for three days with my new best friend the nurse. Guess what, she was not happy. That delighted me to no end.

Now fast forward 38 years and I wondered, what was in my personal school file about that incident. I could ask for my records and I did. Just my senior year no need to kill the forest to print the entire record. And sure enough there it was. In bold angry lettering, not even on a line, but in the margin, was the nurse’s note. THIS BOY HAS DIABETES AND HE NEVER TOLD ME. Attached was my fake note giving her authority to give me OJ. I laughed so hard it was funny. A fake note memorized in my permanent file. It is so funny. I had a good chuckle.

But of course there is irony. Later in my career I became an expulsion officer for a school district. I had to expel kids who did things like bring unregistered drugs to school. The case that came before me involved Tylenol. A middle-schooler brought Tylenol to school and the principal asked the girl be expelled. According to her mom she gave the Tylenol to her child but never, “told the nurse’. Oh my. The rebound effect was in my face. Let’s say the girl got a note in her permanent file, a good talking too, oh and a good story for when she is 57 and blogs about that one day at school when a Tylenol got her sent to the school expulsion officer. You have to love a good story. For me this one was a doozy. Oh and it makes good blog material.