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Stop, Drop and Roll with the Diabetes–Planning for Emergencies

Apr 12, 2018

It’s a conversation we have as educators – what do you do in case of emergencies? Do you have a sick day plan? What happens if your vial/pen/pump/site/[insert-anything-here] malfunctions? What do you do? The amount of people who are unprepared won’t surprise you, but it should scare you. It’s a super easy question to ask at all visits: “Quickly, tell me what you would do if an emergency happened?” It’s something that our kids and we, adults with diabetes, need to be able to articulate as easily as you would “stop, drop and roll” for fire safety.

It’s something I hope you won’t need to use, but I want you to have the knowledge and the comfort of knowing how to use it. I’m a technology fanatic – and to be honest, in the last 10 years, there have been two days that I’ve resorted to having to give injections due to a pump malfunction, and neither day was recent nor lasted a full 24 hours. My backup was there when and if I needed it. Rehearse and discuss the backup plan like you would run through a scenario with a kid. For example, in a calm situation where you have a captive audience – let’s say in a car with the cell phone off. 

“Hey Paul, think quick – your pump or pump battery dies because you forgot to change/charge it, you just ate a 35 gram carb snack because you are going to soccer practice, but you haven’t bloused. You were at 185mg/dL when you could see your CGM readings on your pump screen that is now down. What do you do next?”


Think through these things when they are NOT happening, so that when they do you are ready.


Run through the various scenarios with Paul. What resources does he have? Does he have access to a pen or a vial in his backpack? In the nurse’s office? Are you close by? Can he obtain a new battery easily, or plug in, or change his pump? Does he typically go low during practice? When was his last bolus? How much insulin on board does he think he has going on? It’s so much better to think through these things when they are NOT happening, so that when they do you are ready. Why should this be different than fire safety? Life with diabetes requires some stop, drop and roll with the punches. Be prepared and talk through it. 

This is not different for adults. When we are suddenly faced with a crisis thjoi– oops, my vial of $300 insulin broke on the floor (hey, it happens) – what’s your next move? What will you do to cope and get through until you can get a new vial? What resources do you have? Don’t wait for an emergency to strike before you plan. Plan beforehand so the emergency isn’t a crisis. Life with a chronic disease is stressful enough. Don’t let bumps in the road (trust me, there are plenty) become potholes. Plan your route so you can navigate through the rough road and come out the other side smoothly or at least feel like you have a map.


Molly-McElwee-MalloyAbout the Author:

Molly McElwee-Malloy is the Clinical Services Manager for Tandem Diabetes Care. She previously worked for TypeZero Technologies and UVA's Center for Diabetes Technology. Molly is the chair of the technology workgroup for AADE. She's active in the diabetes online peer support community: @MollyMacT1D.

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