9/11 and Diabetes Created New Concerns

Remember 9/11

This post was originally written in 2012.  The sentiments remain the same. 9/11 was horrible.  When you live with diabetes, 9/11 brought out fears and concerns that you would never previously have considered…

September 11, 2001.  Is there any adult in North America who does not remember where they were on that fateful morning?

I  had left my house early to drive to the airport 2.5 hours away to pick up my grandmother who was coming to visit from the other side of the country.  My oldest son was in school and my youngest was with me for the ride.

I stopped to do a bit of shopping and was looking at paper towels when my cell phone rang. I was told  “A plane has hit one of the towers in New York. There has been a terrorist attack.”   It made no sense to me and I didn’t believe it.  There had to be a mistake so I continued my shopping  before the next leg of my trip.

A few minutes later my phone rang a second time.  This time it was a woman from Air Canada who said,  “We have your grandmother here.  The plane can’t fly her  because all air traffic has been grounded.  We will be putting her on a boat and you can meet her tomorrow morning.”

What? The terrorist attack was real? Planes grounded?  I was shocked to the core as  I spoke to my grandmother who was in great spirits and excited to experience an Atlantic Ocean ferry boat crossing.  We  headed home and like many others, I alternated between being glued to the tv and checking my computer for updates from friends and family.

I had recently found an online support group  for parents of children with diabetes. The people there had not only become my lifeline, but also my family.  We were frantic to hear from people that we “knew” living and working near the towers in New York.

I had a cousin who was an NYC police officer. I had to find out if he was working that day or safe with his family on Long Island. Another cousin was due to go to traffic court that day in one of the Towers and I wondered if he went before the collapse? It was a day of chaos, fear and some relief.

By the end of the day, everyone was accounted for.  There were a lot of prayers for those lost as well as those who made it out alive.  As the dust settled–figuratively and literally, a new fear began to permeate.  I live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and can easily be cut off from the rest of the world–the rest of my family.

More importantly, if we were cut off how would I get insulin or diabetes supplies? My youngest son relies on insulin to live.  What if we couldn’t get it as easily anymore? How would I keep him alive?  What if the terrorist attacks continued? Would they target pharmaceutical factories? Could I feed him no or low carb foods? Would he be okay? I could feel the panic welling.

I wasn’t alone in my concerns.   Other friends with children with diabetes were thinking similar thoughts but some were much more resourceful than me.  One friend investigated getting insulin from rabbits to use for her child.

Thankfully we never had to be concerned with any of those fears coming to pass.   My grandmother is now passed on.  Each year, we all continue to  remember exactly where we  were on that day and we say an extra prayer.

For those of us living with diabetes, we give an extra pause.  We remain grateful for access to the supplies that keep our loved ones alive.  It is oddly funny however that once diabetes enters your life, it permeates everything–even memories of disasters.

Preparing for Disasters with Type 1 Diabetes

This year we have seen many mandatory evacuations because of both hurricanes and fires.  When you live with diabetes in your home, how do you prepare for disasters? Do you have a list of evacuation supplies checked off and ready to go?

People in the hurricane states, often have an emergency tote or bag that they can grab on the way out of the door but remembering everything that you could need can be a challenge.  Over the years, we have come up with a detailed list of evacuation supplies for people with diabetes.  In lieu of recent events, I thought that it might be a good time to go over some of the items we think you need when preparing for disasters with type 1 diabetes.

Download your free emergency evacuation supplies checklist here.

Keep a diabetes bag near the door

diabetes supplies bag

As I mentioned, it is important to have all of your supplies in a quick, easy-to-grab container. Evacuations can be planned, but sometimes you are only given minutes to have all of your valuables ready to leave.  Make sure your diabetes bag is always in the same place so that you won’t waste valuable time trying to find it.

Packing Basics

Make sure that you have some of the basics like a Frio pack if you live in a warm climate.  You will also want a flashlight and spare batteries in case your area loses power.  Candles and wooden matches can also provide light and heat if need be.

A first aid kit should also be in your emergency container. While you may have a lot of diabetes supplies, other medical emergencies can happen and basic first aid is a must.  Don’t forget to add anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea medication to your kit.  You should also have copies of all prescriptions in case you are away from your home pharmacy and need to access your medication refills.

Food and drink

We have all seen the images of people stocking up on cases of water and in an emergency it is vital.  If you have drinkable tap water, fill up milk jugs, juice jugs, and other items with water to take with you.  Also pack juice packs, tinned food as well as cheese and cracker snacks. If you pack tinned items, don’t forget a hand can-opener as well.

Diabetes Supplies

tote for diabetes supplies

It is recommended that you pack two weeks worth of diabetes supplies with you during an evacuation.  Consider bringing a spare meter, spare batteries, alcohol wipes, pump supplies, insulin, syringes, ketone strips, and medical tape.

Other items to remember

Don’t forget to bring spare blankets, cash in case bank machines are down, and pet food for your furry family members.

I am sure that I have forgotten a few things but I would suggest that you view the Diabetes Advocacy Emergency page or download the evacuation checklist.  This will help you feel a bit more prepared should a disaster hit your community.

Get your free evacuation supplies checklist here. 

Age should not restrict access to diabetes supplies and devices

age should not restrict access to insulin pumps. Diabetes Advocacy

Since the day that I realized that there were more options available to my son than the multiple daily injection insulin regimen we were currently on, I was adamant that all people with diabetes should have a choice in their treatment options regardless of the size of their wallets. I further believed that age should not restrict access to diabetes supplies.

People living with diabetes should be able to decide if they want to use Lantus over NPH. They should be able to choose Apirdra over regular insulin.  They should be able to see if a Continuous Glucose Monitor or an insulin pump is for them without having to sell their home.

No one chooses to have type 1 diabetes. They should be able to choose how they manage it regardless of income.

In Canada, citizens are still not always able to access the best treatment options.  They may not have private health insurance or their insurance may not cover the devices that they desire to use.  The result is that they go without or go to extreme measures to get the medical tools that they need to keep them healthy. For me, that is not acceptable.

boy with type 1 diabetes in boots

My son began using an insulin pump when he was five-years-old.  I had wanted a pump for him since the first time I heard of the flexibility that it allowed but financially it was not an option.  His father had medical insurance but insulin pumps were not covered.

It wasn’t until my family stepped in and said that they would come together to pay for the pump that we were able to get one for him.  They wanted the very best for my son and were going to make sure that it happened.

That was back in 2002. Things have changed since then. All provinces in Canada have begun to cover insulin pumps–for children.  For those over 18, assistance is not always available, however.

Compare provincial coverage options by clicking the link below.

In some provinces, adults with type 1 diabetes still have to find good insurance, high paying jobs, or go back to injections out of necessity. Other people may seriously consider moving to a province that offers better coverage just to be able to afford to optimally manage their diabetes care.

Today my son is 16.  He is heading into his final year of high school and looking at career options. The most important part of his career choice is to find one that is either very high paying or offers great benefits. What he enjoys seems to be second on our list. That is discouraging and gets my dander up.

If a person wishes to use an insulin pump to best control their diabetes care, then they should have that option.  Financial status, occupation, or age should not restrict access to diabetes supplies. 

It is sad that think that pensioners are having to go back to injections because their private health care coverage ends at retirement.  Young adults who are beginning careers and new families are having to rethink how they will move forward because of cost constraints brought on by managing their diabetes care.

This is not right.  Age should not restrict access to diabetes supplies like insulin pumps.  These devices provide just as many benefits to adults as it does to children.  Adults with type 1 diabetes who are using insulin pumps often find shift work much more manageable.  They tend to see less diabetes-related downtime because they can micro-manage their disease with greater ease. 

access to diabetes supplies. Diabetes Advocacy

The addition of Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems to their care can help them to anticipate dangerous highs or lows that could have otherwise sent them home for the day.  Increased productivity and work time for people with diabetes has a larger impact on society as well. People living with diabetes who are able to work are able to contribute to the provincial tax coffers through their employable earnings.  They are less likely to have complications or dangerous blood glucose swings that could send them to the hospital.  Our young people with diabetes are able to look at jobs in the province rather than having to move to areas with better pay and better benefits.

The rewards definitely outweigh the costs no matter where you live. It is important that governments and individuals come to realize that neither wallet-size nor age should not restrict access to diabetes supplies.

Download our chart comparing diabetes supplies coverage in Canada.