As summer wraps up, it’s prime season for Mother Nature to play havoc with the weather, which could mean scorching heat waves and events like tornadoes and hurricanes. We featured the story of Dr. P, who weathered an EF3 tornado in Fayetteville, North Carolina, just months after her type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Today I’d like to introduce you to Scott Estrin, blogger at Rolling in the D, who also faced a natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Scott received his type 1 diabetes diagnosis in 1981 when he was seven years old. “I remember I was out shopping with my mother,” he said, “and I was annoying her when I kept wanting to buy something to drink and then use the bathroom. She is a nurse, so she knew enough to bring me to a doctor right away.”
TuDiabetes.org was Scott’s introduction to the diabetes online community (DOC). “I was changing blood glucose meters,” he said, “and had a bunch of leftover test strips for the old meter. I was trying to figure out what to do with them, so I did a Google search and found a related discussion on TuDiabetes. That was my initiation into the DOC.”
He also started reading some diabetes blogs, such as Kerri Sparling’s Six Until Me and Kim Vlasnik’s Texting My Pancreas. “It grew from there,” he said. “I like writing, and I noticed that sometimes I would leave long comments on other blogs, so I decided I should create my own platform on which to write. I particularly enjoy finding something seemingly mundane, elaborating on that and offering my observations and thoughts, rather than simply keeping the blog as a diary of my life.”
When Sandy was on its way, Scott took a cue from Hurricane Irene the previous year, and started preparing. “I stocked up on batteries and canned goods,” he said, “and also filled up a bathtub with water and coolers with ice. When I went to fill up the car with gas, the station was out of regular gas. I didn’t want to pay the price for premium, so I didn’t fill up, and I regret that a little bit. It didn’t leave me stranded, but I know for next time, I’ll pay the extra 10 cents a gallon.”
Related to his diabetes supplies, Scott was already well-stocked. “I had plenty of supplies on hand,” he said. “I use a mail-order pharmacy and refill prescriptions in large quantities when they come due for a refill, so I’m always prepared. I also have spare meters and my previous insulin pump, which I kept with me as a backup just in case. I also had two or three jars of glucose tablets around the house.”
Scott also took precautions with his insulin. “Before the storm, I set the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest possible settings,” he said, “so if the power went out, my insulin would stay cold for a little bit longer, hopefully.”
One thing that did surprise Scott was the effort it took to prepare the house and yard for the coming storm. “I have a lot of lawn furniture outside and a grill on a deck with stairs, so it was a little bit difficult to maneuver,” he said. “When I was bringing everything in from outside, it led to low blood sugar. I didn’t think beforehand that I should either eat something first or lower my basal rate, so I got caught after the fact. That’s a lesson for next time that hopefully I’ll remember.”
The first night of the storm, Scott, his wife and two young sons spent the night in the basement, all four of them on a lumpy pull-out couch.
The second night after Scott’s house lost power, he had to change his insulin pump infusion set by candlelight. “The light obviously was difficult,” he said. “The batteries in the flashlights were starting to run down so I didn’t want to use one. I brought a candle into the bathroom so some of the light would reflect off the mirror. It was a slow process. I didn’t have complete confidence that I got all the air bubbles out, but I did it the best I could.”
The next day they still didn’t have power so Scott’s family headed to his aunt and uncle’s house about a half hour away, where they still had power. They wound up staying there for about a week while they waited for their power to return. Once at his relatives’ house, Scott was able to change his pump infusion sets under better lighting conditions.
Scott’s biggest lesson learned was to be prepared. “My takeaway is don’t be prepared for what you think might happen; be prepared for what you don’t think might happen, like being without power for ten days like we were,” he advised. “I think this storm came out worse than was expected in some ways, though we only really lost just a few roof shingles. We were very lucky.”
Looking ahead, Scott knows to make allowances for his medical supplies. “I’m now looking at getting an insulin cooling case that’s supposed to keep the insulin cool for several days. I’ll also keep a good amount of spare supplies with me all the time, like batteries for my pump. I get the packs of 18 batteries from a home supply store which lasts me a year, so I don’t have to be down to the last one before running out for more.”
It’s good to hear that, with all his foresight and preparations, Scott’s family came through the storm relatively unscathed. I know from personal observation it could have been so much worse. My thanks to Scott for sharing his story and insights on diabetes emergency preparedness.
All the best,
Disclosure: Scott Estrin received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.