Diabetes Ignorance: The Importance of Education

Posted by kayley on Wed, 01/22/2014 - 12:46 in

I don’t know if any other teens have struggled with the same issues dealing with diabetes and teachers/coaches that I have recently. This year, as a sophomore in high school, I experienced problems with teachers and my diabetes for the first time. In my high school, as crazy as it sounds, the teachers aren’t made aware when a student has diabetes. In middle school they were notified, so I incorrectly assumed during my freshman year that all my teachers knew and that’s why I never had any issues. But as I learned very early this year, none of my teachers were informed about my diabetes.

Experiences with Diabetes at School

I’m on a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), so if it reads an out-of-range blood sugar it vibrates. During the beginning of the year when it would vibrate, teachers would look at me as if it was my phone and they wanted me to shut it off. In reality, if I shut it off I may not know how my blood sugars were doing. This happened multiple times in many of my classes.

One day I was talking to my mom and she asked me if the teachers knew if it wasn’t really my phone, but a device that helps me maintain my health. I told her that I didn’t even know if they knew I had type 1 diabetes. I assumed that they were already told. So in hopes of solving the problem, my mom wrote an e-mail to the school nurses to have it forwarded to all of my teachers. She told them what the pesky buzzing noise in my bag was and if it happened again to just ignore it and not bring it to the class’s attention.

Before this e-mail went out, things with the teachers got to such a bad point where I was actually afraid to wear my CGM to school for fear that I would get in trouble with my teachers. Sometimes when I would wear it to school, I’d purposely shut it off on the bus just to make sure I wouldn’t have to deal with the buzzing in school. But after the e-mail was sent out to my teachers, I haven’t had a problem since. From this experience, I’ve learned that talking to people helps with their understanding of type 1 diabetes and it’s important to be always be open and upfront about it.

Diabetes Misconceptions from Coaches

Another first I ran into this year was encountering issues with my field hockey coaches about my diabetes management. As everyone with diabetes knows, it can become very frustrating when people don’t understand diabetes and try to make assumptions about the state of your health. Both of my coaches did this a lot this past season, which made things much harder on me emotionally and physically. When I would get a low blood sugar at practice, I’d mention it to my head coach. Because I had to go eat a snack or drink some juice and miss about 15 minutes of practice, she would roll her eyes at me like she thought it was my fault. Like I purposely got a low blood sugar. Multiple times when I would get a low blood sugar my assistant coach would come over to make sure I was ok and ask me if I needed to do more exercise. Some people’s misunderstanding is very frustrating and the fact that my coaches have absolutely no idea about a disease that one of their second-year varsity players has astounds me.

Taking Action to Teach and Spread Diabetes Awareness

My mom and I talked to my nurse about my coaches. She was appalled at how they were acting about my diabetes and really wanted to educate them the best she could. At the time we only had two games left, but at the very beginning of next season my mom and I are going to make a date for my nurse and coaches to meet. She’s going to teach them about diabetes and how to handle certain situations during the season.

This season I realized how much it surprised me how arrogant people can be when it comes to something they know next to nothing about. In the future, instead of getting frustrated with people who don’t understand diabetes, I am going to try to help educate them as much as I can.