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