An open Letter to kulula about diabetes

2013-08-16 08:23
Health24 states, there are two types of crises diabetics could have that require immediate first aid treatment - as both can result in a coma if no action is taken.

A recent video uploaded by a YouTube user shows an unidentified woman, leaving a plane suffering one of these attacks. Jen Whittall, a Diabetes Nurse Specialist has written 'An open letter to Kulula' about the incident, with some of her questions directed at the youtube user. We contacted Comair CEO Erik Venter about Kulula staff's alleged non-reaction. Read their responses below.

Jen Whittall's open letter to Kulula...

"Not only did Gareth Cliff ridicule the plight of people living with diabetes through resurrecting the incident of April 2012 with the passenger on the Kulula flight urgently requesting sugar water, but by reviewing the YouTube clip, he brought attention to the shocking response from the Kulula staff - all of them, without exception.

Diabetes is a life threatening condition, and unfortunately hypoglycaemia can be a side effect of the treatment of diabetes with insulin. This can happen at any time, and sometimes quite unexpectedly and it requires immediate, simple treatment. Any delay can cause the person to become confused, unreasonable, display uncharacteristic behaviour and if there is further delay, the person could have convulsions and go into a coma.

The emergency treatment of hypoglycaemia is probably one of the most basic first aid measures that any public carrier such as yours should be both aware of and alert to.

In this instance, the person requesting sugar water knew that that was what she needed. She was beyond being able to process that a can of soda and a sandwich could also help her. ANY diabetic in this situation will know how desperate and panicky they become, and any helper will know that it is essential to give them exactly what they request speedily, and not to try to reason with them. At this point, they are medically unable to be rational in any way.

The recovery from hypos is very quick, and the person is often extremely embarrassed by the commotion they have caused.

All children with diabetes are on insulin and face the risk of hypos daily. What message are you sending them by allowing this YouTube video to appear under the heading "crazy woman" on your website?

These children (and young adults) are brave, courageous people, fighting hard to manage a life-long condition in spite of negative and insulting behaviour from people like Gareth Cliff. People with diabetes, country wide, will be appalled by your insensitivity and your inability to react accurately to a crisis."

Comair CEO Erik Venter responds...

"We regret the sensationalist broadcasting of this video clip. The incident took place in April 2012.   We feel that the confidentiality rights of the passenger concerned should also be respected, along with  those of diabetes sufferers in general.  We cannot control any content published on social sharing platforms or that of the media. We have in no way condoned this video clip or involved ourselves in publishing it on our website. It was taken by a bystander and published independently.

In terms of our staff and training, we endeavour to ensure that our crew are well trained in handling a wide range of potential medical emergencies on board. They are not qualified medical practitioners and we are only able to assist passengers, and will always call for a trained and suitably qualified medical practitioner should a medical emergency arise. We assume that passengers are fit and healthy and we ask passengers within our terms and conditions to pre-notify us of any special needs, allergies etc prior to departure in order to make adequate preparation.  If we have a problem on board our crew are trained to handle most common first aid needs. Prior to the sequence of events portrayed in the clip, the passenger was provided with a Coke, muffin and chocolate by our crew.  Post the event and analysis of the subsequent incident report, we have used this example in our training and adopted more in-depth awareness for our crew around diabetes symptoms in general.   

We have additionally approached the National offices of Diabetes South Africa  to see how we can work together as well as to review our current training program to see in what ways awareness and response can be further improved. We would also like to add that in terms of general public transportation and as an air transportation industry, we have the most extensive training and retraining of staff, to ensure that the safety and well being of our passengers is upheld at all times."

Have you had a medical emergency while travelling? What was your experience like, email us your story:

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