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Diabetes is commonly misunderstood as a debilitating condition that may prohibit us from being able to work, exercise, travel, or live full, productive lives. This kind of misinformation is often the source of wrongful discrimination.
For Vince Zambrana, being a highway patrolman was the culmination of his childhood dream and lifelong goal. After being diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes, he was involuntarily demoted to a desk job. But Vince fought the demotion, and won. In the following interview, he describes his experience, and the impact of his success for other people with diabetes.
DIABETES HEALTH: Congratulations on your diligence and hard work in winning this important case. I understand that the highway patrol has a policy prohibiting people with diabetes from driving emergency vehicles, such as police cars, is that right?
Vince Zambrana: Yes, because of the risk of low blood sugar, which can be a valid concern, especially for highway patrolmen who are sometimes involved in high speed chases and that kind of thing.
DI: But you were able to prove that the risk of low blood sugar was not a sufficient reason for you to lose your job.
DI: How did you do that?
VZ: I demonstrated to two separate teams of medical examiners that I am well educated, in good control, and have adequate hypoglycemic awareness- that I am able to recognize low blood sugars, and know how to treat them.
DI: How do you manage your diabetes, Vince?
VZ: Now I am on a pump, though at the time of the initial court hearing I was still taking multiple injections. But I have always checked my blood glucose levels at least four times a day, and I always carry some carbohydrate with me to protect against possible low blood sugars. I have also been through several diabetes education training programs.
DI: So you were able to prove that the risk of low blood sugar does not automatically prevent you from being able to perform your job adequately.
VZ: Right. My case sets a precedent that any person with a handicap (whether it is diabetes or epilepsy or something else) should be judged individually, and should not simply be dismissed based on blanket policy.
DI: But it doesn't change the policy.
VZ: No. It just paves the way for others to fight policies they feel are inaccurate and discriminatory.
DI: Do you think that your case has helped educate the people around you about what diabetes is...and isn't?
VZ: Yes, I definitely think it has helped reverse some of the misconceptions about diabetes, particularly about the risks and dangers of low blood sugar.
DI: That's really important. Vince, having worked long and hard to fight against something you felt was inaccurate and unjust, how do you feel about it now?
VZ: I have no bad feelings at all. I feel that my case was simply something that needed to happen, and I certainly hope it is helpful and inspiring to other people in similar situations.
We applaud Vince for being unwilling to allow diabetes to prevent him from pursuing his dream, and for demonstrating that living with diabetes is not necessarily a handicap. We hope that his story will inspire our readers to educate the people around them about diabetes, and to stand up in the face of discrimination.
2 comments - Feb 1, 1994
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.