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March 30, 2003

Hyperglycemia and DKA, Other Social Issues

Question from Millersburg, Ohio, USA:

I have had type 2 diabetes for about four years, fibromyalgia for about two months, and I have a lot of pain in my right foot and joints. About two weeks ago, my meter reading at the doctor's office was 409 mg/dl [22.7 mmol/L] so the doctor gave me insulin immediately and gave me everything I needed to start getting my sugars under control. For over a week, my readings were 300-588 mg/dl [16.7-32.7 mmol/L], and now it is bouncing (122-260 mg/dl [6.8-14.4 mmol/L], but it seems to be getting better. The doctor wants me to be off work while we work to keep it under control as I am still shaky, I know I will get it under control, and I do not feel safe until it is, but my employer told me this is no reason to be off work as they have others who work with blood sugars in the 500 mg/dl [27.8 mmol/L] range. They told me they just call 911 if we fall down. I told them that a person is not safe working in a factory until the blood sugar is controlled, and my doctor agrees as does my pharmacist. They say I could go into DKA [diabetic ketoacidosis], and I had an aunt who died at age 61 when her sugar went up that high. I know that between the fibromyalgia and now the uncontrolled diabetes, I sometimes cannot leave the house, let alone work. I am taking up to seven insulin injections per day and testing every two to three hours. I am getting better, but how long should a person have to feel safe about working and feel in control? Is it safe for someone to work which blood sugar this high? I am very afraid to go to work right now.

Answer:

Your employer is not necessarily the one to tell you whether you are safe working or not. If you have a union, I would suggest talking with a union representative. They may know more about what your rights and appeals might be. Worst case scenario, you may want to speak with a lawyer. Anyone with as little sensitivity as your boss as shown is probably not going to give you any slack regarding this issue. If you work under hot, physical conditions, this may have detrimental effects on your sugars. This does not take into consideration time and resource availability for monitoring and treating while at work.

JTL