The Corn Flake Traveller at School
My first ever experience of diabetes was during my infant school years as one of my class mates had the condition from an early age. His parents and the school used to mollycoddle and overprotect him which actually turned out to be damaging and harmful to his character as he used to exaggerate his hypos and use them as an excuse to get sympathy. Although detrimental to him it was beneficial to me as seeing him display this trait made me avoid doing the same thing and I decided when I was diagnosed years later that I would always try to look after myself and not rely on anybody else. After diagnosis’ I wasn’t at my infant school for much longer, just enough time for them to annoy me by forcing me to go to the medical room to eat my 2 digestive biscuits at snack times.
For the first few years of senior school only my friends and the odd teacher even knew I was diabetic but this changed as I changed my insulin type. I went from 2 to 4 injections per day which meant that I didn’t need snacks but did need to inject at school. My mum was adamant that I wouldn’t be treated differently so I used to just inject in the class room and in front of all my classmates, nobody took issue with this because everyone knew I was diabetic, everybody knew I needed to inject and after seeing me “perform” an injection nobody even cared. Not until I was spotted by Cruella de Vil, one of my teachers who took offence and took me straight to my head of year. Here they both lectured me about what damage this could do to the school if the press got a hold of the story and the damage I was doing to other students by encouraging drug taking. My mum didn’t agree with their weak arguments so she arranged a meeting with the headmaster and presented a case for me to be able to inject freely. The school resisted but on the basis of me not being treated differently we won the long, hard-fought battle and it turned out to be just what I needed as I suddenly felt normal and it also gave me a platform to educate fellow pupils and teachers about my diabetes. Indeed I even stood up in front of class and talked people through my condition with pictures of pancreas and needles and from then on everybody knew and nobody even batted an eyelid about it.
As I said I was pretty independent but there are always times when you get random, unpredictable hypos and I found that my educating people turned out to be the best tool for helping me in these situations. When I was 14 years old I had a hypo and was found by a girl in my year ‘asleep’ in a puddle in the park, she proceeded to inject me with insulin, obviously making the situation worse. I eventually came round hours later and after 6 hours of holding her in a head lock I calmed down and after she explained her thought process I realised it was not her fault i.e. she thought a diabetic was ill and a diabetic’s medicine was insulin. From this moment on I have instilled in people that if I need insulin I will be compos mentis and sort myself out, if I am acting weird I need sugar.
Nowadays we hear stories of pupils being neglected or ignored and having problems controlling their diabetes at school which obviously has a knock-on effect of effecting their education. Stories of neglect have to be acted on and educating people is always the best way to prevent things like this happening in the future. I applaud diabetes.org.uk for their campaign as even though I took control of my diabetes not wanting to rely on anybody else things still happen and people need to know what to do if they do.
I think in times when the state seems to be encroaching on our lives and creating ‘Nanny Britain’ we must also make sure that we do not mollycoddle and overprotect young diabetics, they need to learn to stand on their own 2 feet and take responsibility for themselves, I mean learning to inject and testing blood sugars are not the most taxing of things to achieve. If you are a young diabetic just make sure everybody knows if you act weird to give you sugar, you should be able to take care of the rest.