When natural disasters strike and you need to get out quickly, it is important to make sure you are prepared to manage diabetes until you are cleared to come home. Are you ready? Here's advice from Peg Abernathy on emergency preparedness with diabetes.
Right after we purchased our first home, there was a major earthquake in the early hours of the morning. We were completely unprepared in any capacity for this catastrophe. We lost power, our house was leaning and we had to sleep in our car for 3 days until the experts arrived to let us know the condition of our home and whether or not it was safe to go back in. There were multiple aftershocks and we could hear the house settling with every little shake.
After the quake, my husband and I walked around, connecting with neighbors, everyone numb and badly frightened. And then suddenly it hit me: my diabetes supplies were somewhere in the house and I had no idea where. My kit, my stuff and my insulin! I quickly looked down and checked to make sure that I still had my insulin pump as I had fallen several times trying to get out of the house. I remember my shaky, dirty hands picking up the pump from my waistband and dusting off the screen. Whew. It was working. But, I also knew that all my supplies were back in my devastated home and that they were all over the house in various places. Some were in my closet, some were in a cabinet upstairs, some newly delivered supplies were on my kitchen table and of course, my insulin was in my refrigerator. This was not going to be easy.
Going Inside the Danger Zone
I was so panicked about my supplies that I was determined to go back inside and gather whatever I could. I was able to borrow a flashlight from a neighbor and carefully, I stood at the front doorway, using the flashlight to survey the sight before me. It was dark, smelly and a complete and total mess, and every time I started to step inside, the house would shiver and shake. So I made the difficult (and smart!) decision to wait until we were told by the experts that it was safe (or not) to go back in. I felt helpless and scared. For those of us dependent on those supplies, I think you can imagine exactly how I felt. Touching my pump, I knew I had a few days' worth of insulin, but that was it. I didn't even have glucose tablets or juice to help me if I went low. The vulnerability I felt was like something I'd never experienced before.
What I Learned
As you might suspect, after a couple of days, I was cleared to go back inside my house to survey the damage and, of course, gather my diabetes supplies. But, I had learned an invaluable lesson. And if you take anything away from this story, it's this: have a diabetes emergency plan in place! Any emergency, big or small, can be made much worse if you add a critical diabetes issue into the mix. After that earthquake nightmare, I knew I had to be better prepared and now I have a solid plan in place. Of course, anything can happen to derail that plan, but I have a plan anyway. Here are a few tips that I use to help keep myself safe. Perhaps this will give you an idea about how to begin to prepare for the unexpected in your own situation.
My Personal Plan: 5 Tips
- I keep my refrigerated insulin all together in one special container. That makes it easier to grab and run if I need to. No more keeping some here and then some over there. You know who you are.
- All and I mean ALL of my diabetes supplies are stored in one cabinet along with an empty, bright neon pink duffle bag so that I can quickly scoop my supplies into that bag in an emergency. Nothing else is in that cabinet. **the neon color also helps me keep track of it.
- Every night, I always keep my purse WITH MY CAR KEYS next to my bed. My wallet, medical ID, health insurance card, diabetes kit, etc. all within arm's length.
- Tell your family and/or friends about your plan. In case you're hurt or incapacitated, they will know where your things are and perhaps can better help you.
- Make sure your plan is one that you will keep up with and also, one that you will remember.
I hope this helps you create your own, very important plan! Good luck!