Living with diabetes can be hard. No matter what type of diabetes a person has they face many difficulties both at home and in public. They must be acutely aware of their blood glucose levels so they do not fluctuate too far. People with diabetes have to closely track their blood glucose levels. If they feel their levels are dropping to low or raising to high they need to take action right away. In the event they do not take medication to balance out their blood glucose levels they can potentially experience dangerous health problems.
There are different types of diabetes. Some are developed when a person is still a child, type 1, some are developed while pregnant, gestational, and some are developed when the person is an adult, type 2. No matter the type of diabetes it is important for these people to have access to their medications and be able to freely taken them when needed.
The story of Ben Lockwood
Recently a man with type 1 diabetes was criticized for taking the medication that he needs. After a long day at work Ben Lockwood needed to inject his insulin. He noticed that his blood glucose level was too high and he needed a dose of insulin to lower it. He used his cartridge to quickly inject his insulin and a stranger noticed. This stranger chose not to politely ask Ben what he was doing. He did not have concern for Ben's well being since his blood sugars were high. Instead, he assumed that Ben was taking illegal drugs. He went as far as criticizing Ben and calling him a “druggie scum bag”.
In public people often take Ibuprofen or Tylenol. They may even take items like tums or use cough drops when sick. These medications are normal to see a person taking while in public. People may even share these items if someone is complaining of a headache or heartburn. No one criticizes someone for treating a headache. Since there are medications that are normal to see another person use, why does the idea of someone taking a diabetes medication cross a line? Insulin is taken by injection. Sometimes it is in a insulin pen and sometimes a needle and vial is used depending on how the person's insurance works. When using an inject-able medication people do not look past the needle.
Injecting medication in public
People with diabetes face the challenge of trying to discreetly take their medication in public. Some people are lucky and are able to inject their medications while at home or in a private place while at work. In situations where blood glucose levels are too far out of range a dose must be taken no matter where the person is. That means that many diabetics could face the same situation that Ben has. Ben was lucky. This stranger had accused him of taking drugs publicly, but he was also receptive to an explanation. Ben took the time to explain that the drugs he were taking were not illegal drugs, but medication. He explained that he was in need of an injection of insulin because of his blood sugar levels.
Raising awareness and educating a stranger
This moment between Ben and a stranger at a bus stop gave him opportunity to educate someone. The man apologized for the conclusion that he jumped to and even hugged Ben at the end of the encounter. The encounter started off as a diabetic's worst fear about injecting in public, but ended up a good experience. With more knowledge about diabetes in the public people will think before they judge someone for taking medication. They could be more open to the idea that someone needs a medication and they are not taking illegal drugs. If more people recognized the differences between medication injections and illegal drug usage they can avoid a situation like this.
After this encounter Ben was inspired to educate more people. He wrote his story on Facebook to help others who have had the same experience. He also hopes his story will educate those that were unaware of treatments for diabetes. With his story he also included a picture of his insulin pen to allow people to recognize what one looks like. Insulin pens like Ben's look much like an Epipen or even a large marker. There is typically a clearly printed name of the pen as well. To an untrained eye they may not notice that a person is carrying an insulin pen with them.
Carrying insulin vials and insulin syringes is a bit more difficult. It can also look a lot less like taking medication since it is a plain syringe that is being use to inject the insulin. The vials will still have the name of the medication printed on them, however it is not as apparent as on an insulin pen. With his story Ben explained that people with diabetes are likely to need to inject insulin in public. He is hoping to raise awareness about this need so others do not need to be nervous about taking their medication in public. He hopes that he can let people without diabetes know that, while it may not be pleasant it should not be criticized.
Using his experience as motivation
While many people take a situation like this and become jaded, Ben is determined to stay positive. The situation was awkward for Ben and it did not feel great for someone to accuse him of taking illegal drugs. However, these hard talking pieces are a perfect way to open up communications with the community. He does not see this as a bad experience. It is something that has pushed him to be more active in diabetic awareness. Ben has a few suggestions for people who have seen someone injecting in public. When choosing to confront a person about using an inject-able in public please wait until they are finished with their injection. To try to stop them or interfere could cause injury to them or potentially to the person interfering if the needle is exposed.
He also wants people to realized how much courage it takes someone with diabetes to inject themselves with insulin in public. Many people fear the backlash that they could get from people for injecting in public. For someone to choose to inject they feel like it is a necessity during that moment that cannot wait. Possibly the most important suggestion is to avoid pitying anyone with diabetes. They are living their lives and dealing with their condition with medications. Someone with diabetes does not need someone's pity. When they do need is the public's understanding of their condition and the treatments associated with it.
This post grew widely popular as people shared Ben's story. In just a week the post has over seventy-two thousand reactions. It was shared more than forty-eight thousand times. That is a lot of people who are learning more about how people with diabetes handle their condition and how they can avoid a situation like Ben's. With this post there had been a lot of support from those in the diabetes community. Many people with diabetes have come forward and added in their own stories that were similar to Ben's. His willingness to share his story has opened up the ability to talk about diabetes for many people. It is going to help many people become more aware of their actions and judgments.