By: Meagan Esler
Having diabetes means attending medical appointments regularly. It’s entirely possible that at some point, you experienced an incident in which a medical professional hurt your feelings, made a mistake, or told you something completely incorrect. Medical mistakes do happen. While most doctors and nurses are amazing and professional, they are also human. Errors and inappropriate comments can occur. Some simply don’t understand all aspects of diabetes.
When I was about to have a surgical procedure unrelated to diabetes, the doctor’s staff told me to take only a portion of my long-lasting insulin and to skip my fast-acting injection so that I wouldn’t go low during surgery. When I arrived at the hospital on the morning of the surgery, my sugars were high due to the lower insulin dose and all the stress. The nurse actually scoffed and called me a brittle diabetic. My husband and I were shocked.
The nurse complained that she was having trouble starting my IV because of my high blood sugar, and she stuck me three or four times before I stopped her and told her I wanted the anesthesiologist. She looked offended, but I was done being treated that way. The anesthesiologist couldn’t have been kinder, and he got the IV started on the very first try. In the nurse’s frustration, she had really hurt my feelings. Crying before surgery and feeling like a failure isn’t healthy for anyone. When something doesn’t feel okay, speak up and ask for someone else.
In another incident during a regular checkup, a nurse asked about my insulin doses while she was taking my vitals. When I explained how much I generally took with a meal, she said “That’s too much insulin.” Later, I found out from my diabetes educator that my insulin dose wasn’t quite enough! I had been made to feel like I was defective for needing the dosing scale I had, but now I know that we all have different requirements. Make sure the person giving you advice is well educated about diabetes and has the proper authority to give you instructions.
I encountered another medical incident when I was in the hospital because of complications related to the flu. I hadn’t eaten in several days and was finally feeling better. Unfortunately, my blood sugars wouldn’t come down enough for me to eat. I was tired, weak, and extremely hungry. The nurses checked my sugars each hour. When my sugars started rising instead of falling, a nurse reprimanded me and accused me of having eaten something. When I explained that all I had eaten was ice chips, which could not raise my blood sugar, she shook her head in disbelief. Luckily, my sister was in the room, and she noticed something dripping on the floor. Apparently they’d somehow disconnected my IV when I asked to use the restroom earlier in the day. I hadn’t been receiving my insulin for some time.
It’s an excellent idea to have an advocate when you’re in the hospital. I always try to have a family member with me when I’m in the hospital because I’m stressed and not feeling a hundred percent, and I risk not noticing something important. I’m confident, however, that most medical caregivers are not only well trained, but also have my feelings, care, and best interests at heart. I trust my doctors and nurses to take good care of me, and I genuinely appreciate their kindness.