On The Job, Circa 2000

Setting the stage: At an office building in Oakland County, Michigan. My 20-year old self worked as a budding newspaper reporter in one of my first “professional” gigs.

One minute, I was sitting at an office desk staring at a computer screen.

The next, everything had changed.

I was drowsy. Probably because I'd stayed up late the night before and gotten little sleep. But nothing I couldn’t push aside for the rest of the workday if I just concentrated, stayed busy, and was able to close my eyes for a brief moment to re-focus...

Next thing I knew, my eyes slowly opened to reveal the ceiling. Apparently, I was sprawled out on the carpeted floor in the office. My back to the ground. My boss stood over me, along with a small group of coworkers and some paramedics.

An IV was in my arm, pumping glucose into my system for a quick BG boost to bring me out of the hypo-oblivion.

Vaguely, I recall someone saying, “I think he has diabetes.”

No, it wasn’t a paramedic (thankfully), but someone from work.

That situation was more than a decade ago, at one of the first places I worked “professionally” as a newspaper reporter even before finishing college with my degree. Back before I had an insulin pump. Before I talked openly about my Type 1 with anyone who might even remotely care. Prior to the days of maintaining good D-Management on a regular basis, but just about the time that I was pushing for “tighter control” before I started on an insulin pump.

No, I don’t believe I was wearing a medical bracelet or alert of any sort at that time.

Of course, this was one of the last times that I didn’t tell me boss and the people I work with about my Type 1 diabetes. Luckily, the paramedics figured out what was happening after someone summoned them because of the guy passed out on the office floor.

So, this situation came to mind recently when I saw the DSMA Blog Carnival topic for March:

“Does your employer/school/friends know you have diabetes? Why or why not?”

Clearly, the answer wasn’t always yes. But it has been, since the situation played out as described above. Because if I happen to go Low while at work, I don’t want to leave it to chance that someone will know what’s happening and alert the paramedics. Sure, that would probably happen anywhere that someone passes out on the floor unexpectedly… but you get the point. Knowledge is power.

I’ve not had more than a couple times in the past decade where a Low has come out of nowhere at smacked me senseless while at work. At least, not to the point where I couldn’t recover and manage myself. But if it does, I want those I work around to know what’s going on – that’s only fair.

School also knew, back in the day in the 80s and 90s. For the same reasons. At least a couple of my friends and people I lived with through the years, if not all, got the same information so they could navigate the situation in an emergency.

As for the job, I've let my boss know. Not in the first or even the second interview. But once the job was in place and we'd started - kind of like a disclosure. Over time, others learned just by watching and being around me or by picking up on signals as they happened (like me testing or changing an infusion set at my desk). We have birthday treats and special events with food and sweets, and the fact that I'm a diabetic doesn't come up. It's not awkward. I've had my share of Lows there at the office and also been late or had to leave because of something in my D-Life, but those I've worked with have traditionally been very understanding and flexible.

Still, my goal is to not have this happen at all. So it won’t even matter. I’ve never been discriminated against, and the people I’ve worked with have all been totally cool with having this D-knowledge. Maybe some choose not to share at all – that’s fine. To each their own.

Personally, I know my history and track record on having Lows and want to increase the odds of survival should something unexpected happen despite all my efforts to avoid these situations.

** This post is my March entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival.  If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetessocmed.com/2012/march-dsma-blog-carnival-2/


Judi said…
And if you are out now, away from everyone you know, do you wear a medical bracelet or necklace???
Kate Cornell said…
I can completely understand why you, or anyone with T1, would want their co-workers to know that they have D for just this type of thing. How scary....I can only imagine. I feel a wee bit guilty that imagining is all I can do at this point. (how strange is that?)

It's cool that you've had good employers who understand and don't make a big deal out of your condition. I know that there are others who aren't so lucky. Thanks for sharing!
Shannon said…
I can relate to this as well. I don't share it in my interviews, but by the end of the first week, if not day, my boss and close co-workers, and frankly anyone who has spoken to me for more than 10 minutes, know I am a PWD. It's not something I'm ashamed of, and I think it's important that the people around me know. Just in case .... (and I have recently started shopping around for medic alert type bracelets, too.)

Thanks for sharing!
Pearlsa said…
That is scary Michael! I have had employers I have not shared the fact that I have diabetes with in the past.

However my current coworkers know.
Karen said…
Wow, what a scary experience. I'm so glad you got the help you needed and have insured that those around you are aware now!
Anonymous said…
I think what happened to you Mike is one reason why people should share with someone at work, just in case.

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