School nurses keep track of diabetic students
School nurses follow children and teens that have Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes throughout their school years.
Berkeley Springs High School nurse Sherry Ambrose said they currently have 10 Type 1 diabetes students in the county. She looks after seven Type 1 diabetic students, two Type 2 diabetics and three students with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar at the high school.
When first diagnosed with diabetes, kids are still learning to check their carbohydrates and need more closely monitored. By high school, students are more independent. Their goal is to have students be able to manage their condition and be on their own by graduation, Ambrose said.
She said at times diabetic students have become disoriented on campus. Blood sugar levels for Type 1 diabetics can be very high one minute and quickly drop very low, Ambrose said. For teenagers, the illness can be really hard with all the hormonal changes in their bodies.
Susan McBee, Berkeley Springs High School special education teacher and mother of high school student Harrison McBee, a Type 1 diabetic, hopes to start a support group for Type 1 diabetes students and their families.
The ramifications of diabetes are really scary, McBee said. Her son is newly diagnosed and is getting ready to go to college. The disease has to be managed.
Hard for teens
It’s difficult for diabetic teens to go about their lives—playing sports, applying to colleges and more—while checking their blood sugar levels many times daily through finger sticks and injecting themselves with insulin multiple times a day, McBee said.
“These guys are my heroes,” she said.
Paul Cooper, War Memorial Hospital community services manager, fills in as a substitute nurse at Morgan County Schools.
It’s hard to regulate kids’ blood sugar because it’s so volatile, he said. They burn a lot of calories. Children may have to test their blood sugar levels six or seven times or more a day.
Cooper said when he became a nurse 38 years ago that he took care of a diabetic patient maybe once a month.
“Now I see them every day,” he said.
Everyone knows at least one person who is diabetic, Cooper said. Type 2 diabetes is epidemic in the United States. Much of it can be prevented.
Cooper said so much diabetes education has been going on for years, but people still don’t know what they need to do to prevent diabetes or control it.
He said they make some headway with pre-diabetes patients whose doctors send them for diabetes education. It can help prevent them from becoming full-blown diabetics.
Everything most people do now is sedentary except for some farmers and manual laborers, Cooper said. Fifty years ago people didn’t have to exercise because they were physically active. We’re still eating like we work on the farm and haven’t changed our eating habits.
Kids used to be outside playing ball but now sit in front of video games. Thumbs don’t use a lot of calories, he said. People need to eat less, eat less fat and exercise.
“Move more, eat less,” Cooper said.
Wear medical ID jewelry
Cooper emphasized that it was critical for diabetics to wear recognizable medical alert identification jewelry—a bracelet or a necklace with a Star of Life—that tells emergency responders they are diabetic. They can get one at any drug store.
A person may be unconscious or unable to speak in a diabetic emergency. Medical alert identification could save them from a misdiagnosis and save their life.
“With no medical ID jewelry, they could die,” he said.