September 16, 2008

Thinking about Folks with Diabetes in TX/LA

The short attention span of the media has moved on from Hurricane Ike, but there are still millions of people without power in the Gulf Coast area, and predictions are that they will remain without power for weeks more.

I went through Hurricane Gloria in Connecticut (the week I was due to give birth to my second child) and waited a week to get our power back. But that was in the Northeast where September is the one month when you can get by quite happily without heat or air conditioning.

Texas is different. I've lived in Texas, and still remember the week in November when our air conditioning broke down and it quickly got up to 94 degrees in our apartment. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be in Texas in September without air conditioning or power for weeks. But I know it must be horrible.

And that's without having to deal with diabetes.

Insulin goes bad very quickly when kept at temperatures in the 90s. So, of course, does food. People with Type 1 diabetes who find themselves trapped in a disaster area like the Gulf Coast is now could very quickly find themselves in a life-threatening situation. People with severe Type 2 who rely on insulin aren't in much better shape. And poor people with diabetes who left the area and holed up in motels thinking they could go home in a few days and who have run out of money are in even direr shape.

I wish there were some way to reach out and help. Unfortunately, the ADA does not appear to provide any programs for people with diabetes trapped in disaster areas. I just checked their home page and the only thing new on it is their "Recipe of the day" which is for "Couscous"--a pasta that contains 46 grams of carbohydrate for an unrealistically small serving of 1/2 cup.

If someone does know of a way for us to reach out and help people with diabetes who are having a tough time on the Gulf Coast, please let me know!

Meanwhile, each of us should probably stop and take a moment to think about steps we could take now to help us get through disasters that might strike our region: Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earth quakes, terrorist attacks, or just plain old infrastructure failure (a.k.a. "power blackouts.")

What would happen to you if you were without power for a month? What kinds of foods could you eat if you did not have a working refrigerator? If you could not get any money from an ATM or electronic Point of Sale system?

How would you keep your insulin cold? How would you get insulin if local pharmacies were also without power or you couldn't get out of your home because it was under water and the road impassable?

What other meds or treatments do you have to have to stay alive?

One of the saddest things about the mess in Galveston is the number of elderly people who apparently did not evacuate because they were attached to dialysis machines. We saw them being airlifted to "safety" but have to wonder why they weren't on some kind of priority list at the time when the evacuation order was given.

Maybe you will never have to deal with any of this. I hope so. But maybe you will, and if there is anything that these recent mega-disasters has shown us, it is that we take a lot of things for granted that if they aren't there make it really really tough for us to stay alive.

I'm not quite ready to move to a bunker in Montana filled with canned goods, but a generator is starting to look like maybe it isn't a luxury (our water comes from a well and without power we have no water or toilets). And it might be a good idea to have some high protein canned goods on hand since just about all of what I can eat without insulin is perishable.

What kind of things are you going to do to prepare yourself to take care of your diabetes if you run into a disaster?


Harold said...

I keep my insulin in a Frio bag all the time. The Frio bags are recommended by Dr Bernstein and I have found that my insulin lasts several months in it. I think they would be great in unairconditioned hot areas.

Anonymous said...

We have a generator, not hooked up yet, we are doing a professional installation, although we could use it with extension cords. Our well supplies two families and grandma's apartment. Our first floor never goes over 65 unless we heat it. And the propane decorative stove will keep much of the house warm at very low temps. I really should find what canned veggies besides tomatoes I like. Drained spinach lacks some elegance, but if chopped and sauted is OK. Saurkrout is good.

Incidentally the new head band LCD lights are so good, and the sun powered walkway lights can provide "walk around" lighting at nighttime.

It would be good for us diabetics to help look after others in disaster zones. RobLL

Lili said...

I've heard that people in India use a similar method.

Cindy Moore said...

I remember Gloria!! I was a single mom with a 3 yr old and an 11 month electricity, ice, anything for 12hrs short of a week. I was in MA....and you're right, Sept there is usually quite tolerable.

I'm now in NC, which isn't as hot as Texas and today is the first day in months I've not had a/c on. I can't imagine what those poor people must be going thru! I saw one report that said that people were also being eaten alive from mosquitoes!

People were not evacuated, people have no place to live, people have no food or potable water! Apparently we learned little from Katrina.

As for the it's 2008, when are we going to start a serious effort to bury the lines! Electric and telephone should be routed underground where they can't be damaged in such a storm....and the citizens that are caught in the areas can't be harmed by down lines.

Jenny said...


The article about using the unglazed clay pot to keep insulin cool in the desert is interesting. But they were using R insulin for their experiment which I am pretty sure is more stable than the analog insulins are.

Anonymous said...

Galveston County has a good evacuation plan for the special needs and got many out but some of them refused. It is a BOI(Born On the Island) thing. Some say "I never left and never will". They just do not under the island id sinking.
The sent out buses and ambulances load of people, but you have to ask to me evaced

Jenny said...

Since posting this, I have learned that my son who lives in Ohio is in a city that has been without power since Sunday, too. The cell towers are out too, so I can't reach him.

I'm pretty sure he'll be fine being young and resourceful.

I'm really saddened by the way the Ike story has dropped out of the news while it sounds like many people throughout the affected areas are in situations much like that of post-Katrina. The toll on the old and families who live from paycheck to paycheck (and no longer have paychecks) is terrible and growing worse daily.

Anonymous said...

I feel for all the people affected by IKE. In addition to the Gulf Coast, IKE caused widespread power outages in Ohio, KY, Indiana, PA, and even areas of Canada. At the height of the power outages some 2 million customers/meters (which is comparable to the Gulf Coast) were without power in these areas. Over 8 days later there are up to 200,000 still without power. Crews from the Midwest utilities were recalled from the Gulf Coast to help in the power outages in the midwest.

Neither the devastation to the Gulf Coast or the power outages (and flooding) in the Midwest has gotten much air time on any channel other than TWC.

The weather channel has good blog about the lastest weather at:

There is even a blog entry that discusses the lack of news coverage for IKE.

BTW: Burying cables would not solve all problems (they need more maintance than overhead lines, they need to be replaced more often, and can NOT necessarly survive being flooded). It is quite expensive (1-Million+ $ per mile) to replace overhead lines with underground lines. Any replacement cost would have to be past on to the costumer via taxes, and/or higher utility bills. Here a cost estimate for the city of Memphis:

renegadediabetic said...

I live in SE Houston, about halfway between downtown & Galveston. We weathered the storm with minimal damage and were without power for about 5 days. I bought a generator the day before the storm. I'm a type 2 and not on insulin, so I was just trying to preserve my food and have a few other amenities.

I heard complaints about people not being able to get ice at FEMA sites when then needed it to keep their insulin cold. You really have to plan ahead. All I had to worry about was stocking up on canned meat, water, & veg.

My part of town wasn't hit too hard, just a bunch of fences and tree limbs down. There are areas of Houston that are still without power. There are people on Galveston Island and further up the Texas coast that have no homes. Others have been flooded and are uninhabitable. They finally let some Galveston residents come back yesterday.