How to Manage Your Diabetes When A Natural Disaster Strikes

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • This has certainly been the Week from Hell in my town in Vermont (even worse in many others), and it's not over yet. The ground is saturated with water, they're predicting more heavy rain, and gravel is in short supply because everyone needs it. Hence some of the repairs they've managed to make already were done with second-quality gravel and may wash out if we get more rain. Some towns have seen additional flooding with only 1 or 2 inches of rain.


    Things aren't as serious as they were in New Orleans, but some people did lose their homes and their businesses, and a few people in town are still isolated, with no way to get out. Emergency workers are going in on ATVs to provide them with food and water, but no one knows how long it will be until their roads are repaired because so many roads washed out. We lost 5 bridges, and you can't get there from here without taking a circuitous route.

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    I was fortunate to have only minor damage, and some medication I was almost out of arrived the day the mail service resumed. But the episode reminded me of how important it is not to wait until you have only a week's worth of medication or test strips left. Also, how important it is to have your essential medications and testing supplies somewhere that you can grab them quickly if you have to leave in a hurry. People were surprised at how quickly the water rose. One minute it was fine, and the next the water was lapping at the door.


    I have gravity-flow water from a spring, so as long as I'm at home, I don't need bottled water. My power was off for only 24 hours, but it was once off for about a week after an ice storm. In the winter, one can use the cold to advantage when the fridge is off (making sure you don't let the insulin freeze). But what would one do if there were an outage during a heat wave?


    I buy 3 months' worth of insulin at a time, because it's cheaper. I have a Frio insulating pouch for traveling. But that holds only one vial of insulin. I guess I need to make plans to store more, although I'm type 2 and not insulin-dependent. It just helps me keep blood glucose (BG) levels a little lower.


    Because the roads are still so bad, the massive semis that restock the stores had difficulty getting through. Several got stuck, blocking the roads, when trying to take bypasses on dirt roads, and for several days the general store was out of meat. They are now able to get it, at least in my immediate area. Where they can't, the National Guard is providing food. But in worse emergencies, the same might apply to the trucks that restock medicines and test strips.


    There's so much we take for granted. What if a person controlling on a low-carb diet has to be evacuated to an emergency center where the only food is cookies and macaroni and cheese? There are MRE's (meals-ready-to-eat) at our fire station, I think provided by FEMA. I looked at them, and they were mostly things like lasagna. I didn't get a chance to look at the ingredients, but I suspect they're all high-fat, high-carb. In an emergency, they want to provide energy and don't worry about nutrition.


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    Obviously, you're not going to die from having high BG levels for a week, but someone with carefully planned pump rates might have difficulty coping with prepared food with unknown ingredients, might bolus too much, and might go low. Of course anyone on insulin should have glucose tabs available at all times, but in case of emergency it's important to have an extra supply.


    Ann Bartlett has posted a useful sharepost on preparations for storms. When I read it, I thought it was something I'd never need to worry about. Now that I've been through a flooding emergency, I realize this could happen to me too, and I'll make better preparations in the future.

Published On: September 06, 2011