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Returning to school as an adult diabetic ... what a difference 30 years makes

Doris' Blog
By: dorisjdickson

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Posted: Feb 8, 2009 12:04
  • Returning to school as an adult diabetic ... what a difference 30 years makes

    A few weeks ago I made a decision to return to school for the first time in more than ten years.  Back then, the courses were towards an early childhood education degree.  I was working full-time and helping raise my mate’s two pre-teen boys.  It was too much to expect my body to work full-time, go to school two nights a week (and do homework), “keep” a large home, cook meals, and raise two boys.  My immune system starting crashing and I started getting constantly sick, again.  Enough was enough and something had to give – it was school.


    It is ten years later.  The boys are young men and after 15 years of technical writing, it has become virtually impossible to find work, at least in my field, in this economy.  I decided a pro-active approach must be better than sitting waiting for the world to “get better” around me.  Money or no money, once I found out I am eligible to continue unemployment benefits, I opted to begin a certificate program, increase my writing skill set and take four classes in web design.  


    I have not been enrolled in school full-time since I was 20 years old.  I have the time.  The courses are sitting there waiting for students to enroll.  So, why not?  The theory was good.  How is the implementation working?


    So far, the plusses are 1) forcing focus on learning new software 2) discount on cost of software based on student status. 


    The negatives are even more prevalent, however.  The most prominent negative is a further exacerbated stress level and the subsequent physiological responses.  With diabetes and stress come stress hormones (e.g. adrenalin and cortisol), increased blood pressure, glucose release, and sporadic increases in blood sugar. 


    On the first day class, I went to each instructor and told them I am an insulin dependent diabetic.  I told them I check my blood sugar and take insulin regularly and would likely do this in class.  I also mentioned that if my blood sugar is low I will need to drink a juice box.  Two out of the three instructors did not object.  The third instructor is entirely uncooperative and told me I have two choices 1) apply for disability classification or 2) stand in the corner and drink the juice box.  Either suggestion is offensive and infuriating.  In the 32 years since my diagnosis, I have never been treated in such an offensive manner.  I am neither disabled nor a five year old who needs to stand in the corner.  There has never been a teacher, instructor, professor, or employer who has taken such a stance. 


    On top of the juice issue is the fact that the classes cross over lunch.  If I cannot drink juice, I surely cannot eat my sandwich on time.  My long-acting insulin is set precisely, therefore, my blood sugar rises when I do not eat lunch.  One day after class, I told the professor I could not stay any longer.  It was two hours after my normal lunch is scheduled and I needed to eat.  (I had my sandwich but obviously was not permitted to eat in the room.)  I got a nasty look and a roll of the eyes.  I interpreted that as a dismissal that diabetes has any relevant importance.  I was infuriated yet again.


    In addition, this facility is located one hour from my home.  It is located in a town noted for well, not being very safe to even drive through.  I have subsequently observed 30-40 point blood sugar increases and heart racing following the drive to and from class. 


    I can not change the location of the facility.  However, I can meet with the Dean of Students to encourage a school policy relative to the ability of insulin dependent diabetics to treat their diabetes as needed with respect and without being sent to the corner or having to leave the building to eat as needed.  If my grammar school and high school were able to handle the situation with common courtesy more than 30 years ago surely a community college can handle the situation in 2009. 


    Once more, I took classes at this school approximately 15 years ago.  There were no such restrictions then and there should not be now.  No student should be forced to be labeled “disabled” to simply drink a juice or eat a sandwich necessary to properly control their blood sugar. 


    So, in essence, I signed up for and paid for classes to educate myself.  Yet, the end-result is frustration, infuriation and an expenditure of time and energy I never anticipated.  Diabetes advocate to the rescue again.  Apparently, I will be teaching the teachers a thing or two (and paying for it)!  There is something wrong with this picture …


    Doris J. Dickson

    Comments (3):
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  • By: FatCatAnna: Feb, 10, 2009 13:54 PM

    Yeah Oneontagirl - wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to experience anymore lows - maybe in my next life ... as a cat <lol>.

    Joking aside - I agree with the poster below - that maybe changing your method of injecting might have to be considered.  I know from reading some of Doris's post she uses a different insulins then I ever used.  I know with MDI - I had managed to perfect my basal rate with two shots of Lantus (a.m. / p.m.) and then bolus for meals / BG correction when required with Novorapid.  I was able to manage without being on a schedule for meals - due to the type of work I do (Jill of All Trades).  We've come a long way since NPH that's for sure <lol>.  Of course, the stress of being back at school (way to go Doris - if I could speak French I would go back to school ... sigh) - as well as that long drive to your class - doesn't make things better.  These factors will all have to be taken into a/c when you start to tweak your insulin coverage.

    Again, what may work for me - may not work for you - so many factors make diabetic control a pain in the a## at times - but hopefully once you get settled into things - it'll get better. 

    Keep us posted.

    By: FatCatAnna:

    OMG Doris - I cannot believe the instructor treating you like this!!  I thought I had it bad when I worked at a local school board (where I was not allowed to do similar things - in the end - I quit - but have moved on to better things since).  In one of the forums I belong to online - there had been a problem for a Mum with her daughter in a private school - similiar to what you are experiencing.  She had to fill out various forms from the government, etc. etc. - and in the end - won her fight for her daughter to do what she had to do in order to stay in the course.  So, educate that professor of yours - and hopefully if he/she ever comes across a similar situation with a student - seeing as diabetes is on the rise in our population - you will have paved the way for better understanding!!!

    BTW, being on an insulin pump might illeviate your problems with ups/downs. I know it did for me - and now I have more flexibility in my eating then I used to be on MDI (multiple doseage injections).

    By: :

    I agree, Anna. It sounds like a pump would make this much easier. Plus, once basal rates are set correctly, that could eliminate the lows that would make a juice box necessary -- as well as the concern about having to eat lunch at a certain time.

    You can't get rid of all lows (wouldn't that be great!), but you can work with your schedule and factors to reduce their possibility!

    Doris -- have you considered splitting your long-acting doses so that you can get good coverage that keeps you flat around lunch? With the newer insulins that we have, there's really no reason to be on an eating schedule like back in the NPH days. (Unless you are still on NPH...)


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