The California Supreme Court’s decision to allow school employees other than licensed school nurses to administer insulin shots to students is welcome, especially in light of the fact that diabetes seems to be reaching epidemic proportions in some populations.
The American Nurses Association criticized the decision, saying that allowing non-nurses to administer insulin to kids could be unsafe for children and undermine the roles of nurses in the public schools.
But the court was right to set this concern aside and recognize that insulin is administered all the time by unlicensed people — parents, other relatives, friends, and the children themselves.
The first diabetic I remember knowing was a a fellow student at Shelley Elementary School in Shelley, Idaho. Her name was Marilyn Riley. We both were in the 6th grade, and we sat next to each other. She seemed normal in every way — except one. Every day or so, just before lunch time, she would lift the top of her desk, take out a white bag and raise her hand. The teacher would nod to her, and Marilyn would leave the room with the bag.
As you might imagine, it made me curious. Where could she be going? Finally, about half way through the school year, I asked her, and to my surprise she told me: “I have to go give myself a shot.” Naturally, I asked why. “I’m a diabetic,” she said. “I have to give myself a shot of insulin before I eat.”
My response was, “What’s a diabetic?” She explained to me it was a disease which meant she couldn’t eat anything sweet, and that even regular food, such as white bread, could make her sick.
I asked to see the needle. She opened the white bag, and there it was, with two bottles — she said one was insulin and one alcohol. There also were cotton balls. The needle looked huge.
“Does it hurt?” I asked. She nodded. “Sometimes, sometimes not. When the insulin goes in, it burns a little.”
Insulin injections today are simpler. One can use a pen-like device with a thin, disposable needle. Most diabetics I know give themselves the shots. It keeps them healthy.
I lost track of Marilyn after a couple of years. She and her family moved to another town, and then a few years later, I heard she had gone to Idaho State University to become a teacher, even though her diabetes was beginning to take her eyesight away from her. A few years after that, I heard she had died.
The court now has made it possible for the schools to help kids who need insulin shots, just in case a school nurse isn’t at hand, and that’s a good thing.