Living With Type 1 Diabetes: 911, What’s Your Emergency?

Recently I was working at the store I manage when a volunteer came into the backroom where my assistant and I were working. She informed us that something was wrong with her fellow cashier. I didn’t know what to expect, and wasn’t prepared for what I discovered.

I saw the volunteer sitting in a chair in the opening. I called out to her, but she didn’t answer. Her eyes were open, and she seemed to be drooping in the chair. Not receiving a verbal response I announced that I was calling 911. My assistant held her up in a chair with the help of the volunteer that had advised us of the problem. I couldn’t enter the register area because the chair that she was sitting in was blocking the entrance, so I ran to the office to call 911.

I told the 911 dispatcher our location and explained what was happening. I didn’t know what was wrong with the volunteer. I adored this lady. Just that morning we had been laughing together and chatting about the business of the shop. The dispatcher asked me if she was still conscious. I couldn’t answer that because I could no longer see her. She wanted more information for the paramedics, so I went back up front and hopped over the now unresponsive volunteer.

I was shaken that her eyes were closed. My assistant was feeling for a pulse. My eyes began welling up as I told the dispatcher the current state of our sweet volunteer. My assistant, seeing my emotions and hearing my voice crack assured me that she was still breathing. I heard the sirens as I followed the dispatcher’s requests to command the volunteer to raise her arm or speak if she could. She moved her mouth slightly but no sound came out, and her eyes remained shut.

The first responder burst through the front door. Other than asking what was happening, his first question was to ask whether or not she had diabetes. I replied no as I knew she didn’t. He asked if she had any medical information or medications in her purse so I searched. I fumbled through her handbag and came up with nothing. The other paramedics arrived with a gurney and started to move her. She began to come to and looked bewildered. We assured her they were just making sure she was okay and that they were going to take her to get some tests. The paramedic asked if she had a list of the medications she took and she spoke and said she had one in her purse. I looked again with no luck.

As they took her to the ambulance, I began to process the whole scary event. As a person with Type 1 diabetes, I realized how easy it would be to have a medical issue outside of the house. I always take for granted that I can tell people about my diabetes, but what if I couldn’t speak? What if I was in the same boat of my dear friend? People at work know about my diabetes, but how scary would it be if it happened while I was at the grocery store, or out taking a walk?

My wonderful volunteer was fine. She was in the hospital for a couple of days but is doing well now.

I have several medic alert jewelry pieces that I hate to admit I’ve gotten complacent about leaving at home. Even worse, at the time of this crisis, they were in a tangled pile of tarnished silver, badly needing attention. You never know when an emergency could strike. I decided I needed to break this habit. I now realize how important it is to wear a medical alert bracelet to help others care for you in the event of an emergency.


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