Emergency Response to Diabetes

“We had come on a mission, one still ongoing, to bring help and support to the hurting and desperate.”

| Nov 1, 2005

Five thousand feet above a city besieged by water, you feel very small. A devastated New Orleans smoked from chemical explosions and other rolling disasters. To say it seemed like a war zone is not quite complete. Our small jet banked slowly, and I realized that as far as I could see, I could not see the end of it.

During that low flyover, just five days after Katrina’s landfall, I couldn’t help but think of those fighting for their lives and their family’s survival—and at the same time trying to manage a chronic disease or serious health condition. We had come on a mission, one still ongoing, to bring help and support to the hurting and desperate.

Diabetic! Need Help!’

Even now, many weeks later, I’m sure you remember the images we all saw on the news. The people on one rooftop who had spray-painted “Diabetic! Need Help!” to signal rescuers. In another, a woman wandered the flooded New Orleans streets crying out for insulin. And there was the woman who went into a diabetic coma-like state, live on camera during an interview.

Four days after the crisis began, I found myself on a plane with Rep. Curt Weldon (R–Pennsylvania), headed for “Katrina Ground Zero.” My mission was to find distribution details for diabetes supplies and support services. In those few short hours since the disaster began, diabetes companies, professionals and patients alike came together to help those in need. At that time, more than $3 million in supplies and resources had been donated and were awaiting instructions for delivery.

Although the mission seems simple, it proved to be daunting. The red tape, the bureaucracy, the chaotic nature of disaster management, all played their part.

After eight hours of meetings, I had a temporary distribution location. Twenty-four hours later, a refrigerated warehouse had been identified and traveling medical centers created.

Diabetes and Disasters—What Can We Do?

The situation got me wondering, how can we help those affected by diabetes prepare for disasters? What do people with diabetes need to do to remain safe in an emergency?

As I traveled with Rep. Weldon, who also has diabetes, we discussed these questions. One potential solution is legislation.

An effort to make sure that insurance companies allow patients to always have an adequate supply of medications on hand in case of an emergency. Along with that, a standardized notification system is needed so that patients are aware that it is time to reorder supplies so that their buffer supply is not depleted.

But legislative change takes time, and in the meantime, we need to prepare by creating our own diabetes emergency kits. Extra batteries for meters and pumps, extra test strips, glucose tablets, drinking water, nonperishable foods, oral medications, syringes and at least one bottle of insulin should always be readily available. I have packed up my kit and feel a little more prepared. In the midst of the physical and emotional chaos of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, planning ahead is essential. It’s planning that will help create at least a little peace of mind amidst disaster.

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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Food, Insulin, Syringes

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Nov 1, 2005

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