Thursday, June 28, 2007

If You're Diabetic Don't Take Amtrak

Update: July 30, 2007 @ 8:56am

They found him! (video from Thank God he's okay.


Okay, this piece of news enrages me: Diabetic Man Kicked Off LA-Bound Train, Now Missing.

Video covering the story from in Los Angeles:

Amtrak abadoned a diabetic man at a railroad crossing. To make it worse Roosevelt Sims is 65 and this railroad crossing was in the middle of nowhere.

I don't swear much when I'm writing my blogs but what the fuck!!!!?

What kind of stupid people work for Amtrak that they're unaware that some people have special needs and those needs are often not obvious. Like the doctor says in the video there is no way to know. However, shouldn't Amtrak train their staff to ASK DETAILED QUESTIONS?

Now, I don't take the train in the States and I definitely won't now that I've heard this. When I fly I almost always order a diabetic meal and, even if I don't order a special meal, I tell my flight attendant that I'm diabetic (they always check if you've ordered a meal.) But I don't think they have catered meals on Amtrak trains. The time I took the Orient Express from Vienna to Paris we got a meal in the morning but I boarded the train in the evening in Vienna after stopping at Subway to get a sandwich. The experience is the same on the high speed Eurostar and Thalys trains. You just get up and go get something when you're hungry. On Amtrak you just get food from whatever is there too, right? I dunno...really, just asking here.

There is no way to know a person is a diabetic just like there is no way to know a person has high blood pressure or heart disease. You can't see it, but if any of these diseases or conditions act up people need to stop and think. It also helps if the person is wearing a Medic Alert braclet or pendant (I just ordered a new one a few weeks ago.) However, you still have to think to look for the bracelet.

If you've hung around my blog a bit you know I'm an insulin dependent diabetic. I wear an insulin pump and there is always a risk that at times my blood sugar will drop. In fact, it happened last night, but I felt it coming on and got a cup of apple juice.

It happens because with my type of diabetes, type 1 (insulin dependent) your body doesn't make insulin or, for type 2's, your body is having trouble producing insulin. Diabetics have to try to keep our blood sugar levels in a very tight normal range. If it goes too low you have hypoglycemia or low blood sugar:

Hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, occurs when your blood glucose (blood sugar) level drops too low to provide enough energy for your body's activities.
This article also goes on to describe some symptoms:

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include

* hunger
* nervousness and shakiness
* perspiration
* dizziness or light-headedness
* sleepiness
* confusion
* difficulty speaking
* feeling anxious or weak

Hypoglycemia can also happen while you are sleeping. You might

* cry out or have nightmares
* find that your pajamas or sheets are damp from perspiration
* feel tired, irritable, or confused when you wake up
This list isn't exhaustive. Also, it doesn't hit upon on thing that is very common. A diabetic who is having an insulin reaction might appear to be drunk or intoxicated.A diabetic who is that deep into a reaction probably isn't coherent and even if you ask "are you okay?" you're probably not going to get an answer that describes the situation. Basically, if your friend is diabetic and they're acting strange get something sweet for them like orange juice and ask questions AFTER they've gotten their blood sugar back up. Also, the list of symptoms doesn't touch upon hypogylcemia unawareness which is a condition where the diabetic can't even sense their glucose level is dropping. Stress also contributes to being less likely to pick up on your blood sugar dropping low.

Actually, this happened to me this term. It was my last term, I was working and I was a stressed out mess. One evening I was in class. I'd had a brownie I'd bought a bake sale for our department and had taken extra insulin to cover it. Well, I took too much insulin, so at the end of class I got really drowsy and I had other symptoms. I always carry sugar tablets and juice with me. However, I've noticed when I'm stressed I'll mistake those low blood sugar symptoms for stress. Then I'll get more and more confused and eventually someone has to figure it out for me.

Well, it happens that this past term I had two classes back to back. I just put my head down on the desk and clearly looked like I was sleeping when the next class started. The people around me most of whom know I'm diabetic because I don't hide it for the very reason should something go wrong I want them to remember I'm sick. This also includes my professor because I also told him I was diabetic. No one initially figured it out. I actually had some classmates say they thought I was just sleeping or that I might have been drinking (offensive as why would I start boozing it up in class when I'd never done it before...stupid, stupid, stupid.)

It took me being passed out face first on the desk for over an hour for a classmate to figure out I needed help. She's from Jamaica and I do think the culture where taking charge is good caused her to step up when she saw that questions from the professor were going unanswered. She got me a soda and a snack and slowly my glucose level got back to normal. However, I still have no recollection of what happened during that couple of hours except for selected bits. I also had experience with it early this past semester because I was taking too much insulin and my activity level spiked which left me with too much insulin and nothing digest I was passing out or coming close more often than not.

Anyway, at least in Korea for all the whining foreigners do about rude Koreans, the people helped me out in all but one of those emergencies were Korean where verbal communication was limited. Having people around you be helpful and aware is crucial when you are unaware of what's happening and can't help yourself. It also brings home that it's necessary to pay attention and not just go on superficial assessments.

I hope they find Mr. Sims is alive and well. Last I heard they'd traced phone calls from his phone somewhere in Arizona. When they do find him I hope that Amtrak and its employees get an ass-whipping for just being plain stupid.

If you're going to cater to the general public then be ready to deal with the needs of the general public. It would have been much easier for the fools at Amtrak to give the man a glass of orange juice than to toss him off the train.

More links:

American Diabetes Association: Hypoglycemia
Diabetes Health: Amtrak Abandons Diabetic Man at Lonely Railroad Crossing
KTAR News: Police: Diabetic Man Missing After Being Kicked Off Train


What's interesting is I didn't mention race but Mr. Sims is a black man (that's clear if you want the news clips.) I can't help but wonder if they would have put Mr. Smith out in the middle of a national park. I wonder.

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