by Latoya Burnham
Too many diabetics in Barbados are proving not to have the basic monitoring kit, says a local paramedic.
And paramedic Andrew Shepherd believes part of the challenge might be the fact that diabetes has become too commonplace in society.
Shepherd, one of the longer serving members of the profession, said they could respond to about three calls involving diabetics daily, and in the scope of their job, diabetes-related emergencies were even more common than trauma cases.
He told Barbados TODAY this afternoon during the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s open day that there was a real concern that some of the persons they were seeing, mainly older people, did not have the necessary basic glucose kits, called glucometers.
“If you are a diabetic, you are either a hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic. This would help you to be in control of your diabetes by monitoring it in the morning and at night. If you go below four it is not considered to be good. If you go above nine it is not good either.
“So the glucometer is a device every diabetic should have because it tells them when something could be going wrong… There are lots of diabetics that do not have these machines and it is something you could easily get from the polyclinics,” he said.
A basic kit contains the glucose monitor and the sticks, as well as the glucose strips to test the sugar levels.
Shepherd maintained: “In this day and age, lots of diabetics do not have these [kits] and when we go and ask them — Did you check your blood sugar? — they say no. Do you have one of these machines? No. How long have you been a diabetic? All the years. Are you going to the polyclinic? Yes.
“These are simple machines that the doctors at the polyclinic or whomever they are going to should be giving to the patients… They all come with the sticks, strips and the machine of itself.”
Asked why patients did not have these basics, even though diabetes was so prevalent, Shepherd said he believed the widespread presence of the condition was part of the challenge.
“I believe a lot of them when they go to the doctor they don’t ask questions. I don’t know if it is that some of them don’t know, but I would believe by now a lot of the diabetics should know about their condition. Even if they don’t know, when they go clinic they would hear they have to get a stick, so it is just a matter of acquiring one for their personal benefits,” he stated.
Unless diabetics had the glucometer, he challenged that they would not be in full control of their condition, which was what was needed in Barbados.
In the course of the job, he said they were finding that elderly people often did not get hungry frequently and sometimes could go all day with just breakfast. That was when it could result in danger for the person.
“Diabetes is one of the most common illnesses that we in the Emergency Ambulance Service respond to. We respond to a lot of non-trauma, like diabetics, epilepsy, asthmatics, that kind of thing, rather than the accidents and trauma, and one of the most common ones is diabetes. There are a lot of diabetic cases in Barbados and on a daily basis, every shift might be two or three diabetics that guys go out to and do their blood sticks.
“It is a lot, and not only old people; there are young and middle aged people as well. I guess it has to do with the diet,” Shepherd said.