A few weeks ago, a young woman working out next to me at the gym suddenly collapsed. She was still unconscious when the ambulance arrived, but luckily came to and seemed to be feeling ok when they left for the hospital.
It was a scary experience, and really made me think about what would happen if I had an accident at the gym (or anywhere else) and needed medical assistance.
As a person living with type 1 diabetes, it’s essential for me that the ambulance crew or first responders know that I have diabetes so they can treat me accordingly.
If I am unconscious, it’s most likely due to hypoglycemia (critically low blood sugar) and can be treated by simply giving me a glucagon (sugar) injection. If the paramedics know I have diabetes, they can test my blood sugar and quickly decide on the correct action. This could save critical minutes that would otherwise have been used on driving me to the hospital, or even save me from getting the wrong emergency treatment.
To make sure that I am prepared for any emergencies in the future, I have made a list of what people with diabetes (or any other condition that requires special treatment) should do to alert paramedics and first responders to their condition:
- Always wear medical ID jewelry or ID tags if possible. Medical professionals have been trained to look for medical IDs but in an emergency, they may only have a few seconds to look. Make sure that your medical ID is clearly visible and easily recognizable.
- Set up your medical ID on your phone. Most phones allow you to enter your medical ID and emergency contact information in a format that can be accessed without unlocking your phone.
- Carry a medical ID card in your wallet. If you have your wallet on you, this is the third place the paramedics will look (but most likely not until you get to the hospital). Keep your medical ID card next to your insurance card and any other information you want them to see.
- Have the name and phone number of your emergency contact person in your wallet, next to your medical ID.
- Talk to your friends, family, and coworkers about what to do in case of an emergency. You don’t have to give them lots of details, a simple, “I have diabetes, if something happens, please make sure that the paramedics know this” is enough. You want to provide them with the best information possible before they start treating you.
- If you go to the gym, talk to the people at the front desk and make sure they have a procedure in place for emergencies. If you work with a trainer, you can read my post about What to Tell Your Personal Trainer About Your Diabetes for guidelines on what to tell him/her.
Hopefully, none of this will ever be relevant to you or me, but it’s always best to be prepared, and these steps are so easy to implement that it would be silly not to. Especially when you can combine a potentially lifesaving medical ID with a beautiful bracelet or tag from Lauren’s Hope!
Christel is a Los Angeles based blogger, certified personal trainer, and diabetes advocate. She has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and at an early stage decided that it wasn’t going to slow her down. Her motto is, “There is Nothing You Can’t do With Diabetes”. She writes about Health, Fitness and how to be Fit with Diabetes on TheFitBlog.com. She also trains people with diabetes from across the globe, online and in person, and supports them in meeting their health and fitness goals.