Medic Alert Me
Deciding to don some diabetes jewelry.
December 2008 — Early in December I saw a handful of blog posts about a person with diabetes being subdued with a taser gun by police near El Reno, Oklahoma. He had been pulled over, and when asked to exit the vehicle he did not respond to the commands from the officers, who thought he was under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic. So they zapped him.
This is certainly not the first time I've heard of something like this (remember Doug Burns?), but for some reason this incident really stuck in my head. Replaying itself over and over again was the ending few seconds of the video where the newscaster talked about a medic alert necklace the man was wearing being "hidden" under layers of clothing, and then showing an image of his diabetes jewelry on his shirtless chest.
I have been thinking about the incident ever since I watched the video. What could the man have done differently? Do any of the small numbers of us who wear medic alert jewelry always make sure to keep it on the outside of our clothing? In a situation where we may be acting combative due to low blood sugar, would a small piece of diabetes jewelry be noticeable? These thoughts have been troubling me lately.
Is what I am doing with my medic alert jewelry enough to minimize the chances of something like this happening to me? I just don't know, but I'm thinking that if I were to start acting really goofy out in public, the bracelet I wear with the red caduceus on it might not be noticed. It often gets caught up in my shirtsleeve. Or depending on the angle of my arm, rides up my wrist beyond the cuff and is out of site. What if I'm flailing my arms around erratically? Would anyone even have a chance to see it?
So now I've also started wearing a medical alert necklace. But just like the man in the video, I often have it inside my clothing. I've picked up some "Diabetic Driver" stickers, and applied them to a couple strategic locations on my car, but what if I'm not in my car?
There is a "what if" scenario for anything I can dream of, and I'll never be able to feasibly deal with all of them. But the fear of being mishandled by the police because I am acting crazy is driving me to explore some options and make use of ones I think may help.
I believe that almost all of us who are using insulin have experienced a low blood sugar that has caused us to act strange, and it is easy to see how that behavior may be mistaken for something else. We have an interesting problem here. Most of the time we do not openly broadcast to the world that we live with diabetes, but we need a way to do exactly that when our brains run out of fuel and we start acting crazy because of it. Something that speaks for us when we can't speak for ourselves is important for our safety.
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dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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