Tragedy Strikes a Young Man with Diabetes

Adam Greiner’s story as told to DIABETES HEALTH by his mother, Barbara Greiner-Read, RN, CDE from the Valley Health System in Hemet, Calif.

On March 9 Adam Greiner unexpectedly died in his sleep. He was twenty-three years old and had lived with diabetes since developing it at age nine. He is survived by his mother, father and sister.

Throughout his life, Adam battled hypoglycemia. During his first three years with diabetes Adam was prone to having seizures due to the unpredictability of the long-acting insulin he was taking. When Adam went on the insulin pump at age twelve, the seizures ended, but his sugars ran high during his teenage years.

At seventeen, during an “outward bound” style sailing camp, Adam came to terms with his diabetes and decided to work harder at controlling his sugars. On more than one occasion his friends had to help him treat a dangerously low blood sugar. Once he slumped over a table while working at a factory, and a co-worker had to help him to his car to get sugar. One year ago he crashed his truck into a tree after a mid-day game of golf. He had had sugar in his backpack but was unaware he had gone too low. In the past year he had run out of comfortable infusion sites for his insulin pump and had started taking the pump off for days at a time. Because of his previous experience with NPH insulin, he would just take shots of Regular while he was off of his pump.

Adam had recently become engaged and was sharing an apartment with his cousin. He was going to school to become a children’s counselor and had picked up extra jobs to save up for his wedding to be held next Valentine’s Day. The night he died he had worked as a host in a restaurant and then gone directly to a catering job. When he got home at 2 a.m. it appears, from the insulin pen left on his nightstand, that he took Regular insulin before going to bed. His meter showed that he had not tested his blood sugar since 7 a.m., nineteen hours earlier. At about 4 a.m. his cousin heard Adam rustling but thought that he was just restless in his sleep. The coroner later determined that the time of death was 4:30 a.m. The next morning, hearing Adam’s alarm clock, his cousin went in to check on him. He found Adam lying face down and called 911.

Adam died of asphyxiation after his involuntary muscles stopped working and his breathing stopped. This can happen after a seizure if no sugar is available in the body and none is supplied in time. It’s likely that Adam’s glycogen stores were depleted after a double-shift working on his feet.

Adam’s funeral drew 350 people. He had many friends and had been an inspirational counselor at the diabetes summer camp for many years. He was a role model for many younger diabetics. Several parents stated that Adam had a wonderful effect on their child’s life and worry about what to tell the children when they ask “Where is Adam?” at this summer’s camp.

As this issue of DIABETES HEALTH goes to press the coroner has still not issued a death certificate. They found no drugs or poisons in Adam’s tissue samples, but they are still very reticent to attribute his death to hypoglycemia. This delay is causing additional stress for the family.

Adam inspired many people, including his mother, who became a nurse and diabetes educator after Adam was diagnosed with diabetes. She is currently building a memorial at the camp for Adam and several children she knew that have also died from hypoglycemia. She plans to put their names on plaques around the top of a gazebo where they will not be forgotten. The Adam Greiner memorial fund also serves the purpose of providing scholarships for children whose parents may need financial assistance to send their child to camp. Donations should be directed toward:

Diabetic Youth Services
Adam Greiner Memorial Fund
6300 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 100
Los Angeles, CA 90048

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