Joe's Diabetes

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Diabetes, the Media and Idiots Drive Me Round the Bend



Sometimes you really have to wonder… There was news this week that a 17 year old diabetic girl, Lowri Jones, was thrown out of her driving theory test for having her glucose meter by her side.  All ‘personal items’ must be locked away to prevent cheating. For breaking this rule, she was disqualified, and left the centre in tears.

Fair enough, you might think, and in some ways I actually agree. In all honesty she didn't “need to have the machine on her at all times”, since you can go for hours without measuring perfectly safely if you've learnt how your body responds to different foods, activities and environments. It’s not the equivalent of taking an inhaler away from an asthmatic.  Her meter would have made no difference if she’d gone hypo. Sugar would have, but nothing sweet was mentioned as being confiscated.  In any case, the chances of her going hypo in the test were probably fairly low considering exams tend to raise blood sugars and the theory test itself only lasts about 40 minutes.  If she was worried about her glucose levels she could have measured before the test and taken appropriate action (i.e. eat something if she needed it or just get on with the theory test). 

So maybe, at a stretch, maybe it could have legitimately been taken away from her. However, that seems rather harsh considering she’d got permission to bring it in to the test room. And to disqualify her from the test is frankly ridiculous. How the DVSA people thought a glucose meter could help her cheat is beyond me.  But what do I know, perhaps having knowledge of the levels of sugar in your blood is part of the test nowadays?…

The really stupid thing is this sends out the message that glucose meters and driving do not go together. In fact, having your meter on you when you drive is not only the responsible thing to do but is (in practical terms at least) required by law. Anyone on insulin is meant to measure before they set off to make sure their blood sugar isn't too low. If you fail to do this and then have a crash, you can be charged with dangerous driving. If you have the misfortune to hypo at the wheel then you can be charged with driving under the influence!    

So please, diabetic drivers of all ages, do take your meter with you! And something to sweet to treat a hypo in an emergency. Oh, and maybe your insulin on the chance you get high blood sugar and need to correct it. That sounds like a lot of clobber to take with you. I wonder if there’s a handy little case you, which would fit that all…

Asides from the questionable circumstances in this story and the frankly irresponsible message it sends out lies a deeper and more disturbing truth about modern Britain. The DVSA staff were completely ignorant of what it meant to be diabetic. The education most people get on diabetes in this country is scant or dangerously misleading, coming from a media obsessed with obesity. No wonder the staff didn't seem to know what was going on; Lowri isn't overweight, she couldn't be diabetic, could she?  We really need to sort these issues out in this country. I want to see more diabetes education being given to ‘normal’ people. I want to see media regulation so that they can’t blur the facts to create sensationalist stories, or mix up the major types of diabetes thanks to sloppy journalism. We need to make our voices heard or face the same day-to-day discrimination that Lowri faced at her theory test.