A Simple Mistake and the Bureaucratic Response

Yesterday, I had two experiences with people I never met before. The first was disheartening; the second, energizing. As always, I couldn’t help but think of how our disempowered family-less kids would experience each.

There are three ways (that I know of) for a diabetic to take their insulin. From most aggravating to less they are:  syringes, “pens,” and “pumps.”

Danny is in the process of moving from the syringes to the pens. The pen looks like an oversize ball point pen. Instead of ink, though, it carries insulin.  The tip is a removable needle which is used one time only.  Yesterday, Danny had half a day of school (don’t get me started) which got him home by 11:15 am.  I had already decided that we’d go check out a summer camp for diabetic kids that is located about an hour and a half from here, in NJ.

When we got off the highway, Danny asked to stop at McDonald’s for our lunch. Fine with me, so we did.  His blood sugar counts weren’t bad, so I let him have the large fries and the sweet and sour (read: sugar) sauce for his chicken nuggets.  We finished lunch and I figured out how much insulin he should get. I gave him the number – more than usual due to the food – and handed him his insulin pen.  And he said, “Grandpa, where’s the needle tip?”  What? What? What?

Internally, I had to do some quick thinking to keep from panicking.  Worse comes to worst, I thought, we can go home. It’s an hour’s ride; the blood sugar is already rising; I knew where the  hospital was on the way home.  We carry an emergency kit at all times, but I had not updated it for the pen.  We had syringes and no insulin for them; we had an insulin pen and no needles for it.  Grr…..Dumb, of course. AKA: a mistake. A simple damn mistake.

But, being a thinking and a reasonable guy, I called the camp. It’s a diabetic camp, after all, and they should have all sorts of supplies. Whew. Problem solved. Till I got their voice mail (huh? We had an appointment.) Back to panic: go home. But I didn’t want to go home and miss this opportunity (ha ha) of the half day.  Next thought: go to a pharmacy and buy the tip. Whew. Shoprite right across the street. So off we went, with me greatly relieved.

We go into the pharmacy – blood sugar steadily rising, remember – and I show them the pen, which obviously makes this legitimate; I explain the problem; and I ask to buy one tip.  “Sorry, they come in boxes of 100 and we’d have to see if your insurance will cover them.”  “No,” I say, “I have no time for all that: we were just at McDonald’s and his sugar numbers are rising. I will buy the box and pay for it myself.”  Figuring I can always use them – he goes through 7-8 a day.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t sell them to you without a prescription.”  WHAT? No time to argue, I will call his doctor’s office. Well, I forgot I was going to a residential summer camp: I was in the boonies. NO SIGNAL AT ALL.  I race to the parking lot, finally get through and the signal is breaking up. The doctor can’t hear me. I am running around the lot trying to find a signal and finally find a spot but it only measures about three square inches. Doctor says she will fax over the prescription immediately. I go back inside and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait.  After a half hour, I go back to the parking lot to try to find that tiny piece of real estate where my phone will work.  I can’t find it. “You’re breaking up. I can’t hear you.”  Finally, she seems to realize that I can hear her and she tells me that the prescription has been faxed over. So, I go back inside. No fax. And we wait and we wait and we wait. Ultimately, the pharmacist says he will try. That works and we get our $40 box of 100 tips so Danny can have his now-much-delayed insulin.

At one point, my nephew, who was with us for the ride, recommends that we simply go up and threaten the staff with bodily harm if they don’t give us the one lousy tip we need – or tell them Danny is having a blood sugar reaction of some kind and that will get them to give us the tip.  I point out to him that it won’t work.  They will simply tell us to go the emergency room. By the time we got out of the emergency room we could have been home five times – where there are dozens of tips.

Accidents happen; people make mistakes; folks forget things. Why are we made to go through all this for one lousy tip. Even if at absolute worst I was a heroin addict planning on using an insulin pen (??) to shoot up heroin, so what?  It’d be a one shot shoot up.

On the contrary though, I have id; I have the pen with his name on it etc. etc. etc. Where is simply human problem solving?  One damn tip.  Mistakes need to be allowed for in our bureaucratic systems.

Okay, I am at nearly 900 words. To be continued……


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1 Response to A Simple Mistake and the Bureaucratic Response

  1. Dorothy Hannigan says:

    I hear you and feel your pain. I recently was given temporary custody of my 4 grandchildren, ages 5 years,3 years,2 years and 3months. They are from Suffolk County and I am in Queens. I am dealing with 2 DSS offices and 2 CPS teams. Very Confusing and a good situation for a lot of mistakes and misscommunication!

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