Diabetes Canada CEO says education is key after teen on Victoria bus denied snack to treat low blood sugar

A 17 year-old Victoria girl says a BC Transit bus driver told her she couldn't eat a snack on the bus to treat her low blood sugar. File / Global News

The President and CEO of Diabetes Canada says if people were educated more on diabetes, a 17-year-old Victoria girl with low blood sugar might not have been told not to eat her snack on a bus in Victoria last week.

Last week, a BC Transit bus driver told Sequilla Stubbs she wasn’t allowed to eat on the bus after she pulled out a snack to treat her low blood sugar.

“I then tell him, but sir, I could have a seizure on the bus, pass out, or possibly die,” Stubbs said.

“And then he said, well, there’s other people on the bus that may have allergies. The bus at this point maybe had two other people on it.”

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Stubbs said the driver told her it was company policy that no one is allowed to eat on the bus.

Diabetes Canada CEO Jan Hux says wider education campaigns around diabetes will prevent situations like this, where somebody isn’t allowed to take the necessary steps to raise their blood sugar.

“I can appreciate that public spaces have policies. I think the important thing is awareness that this situation can be a medical emergency,” said Hux.

“The policies need to be applied in a way that accommodates people with diabetes.”

Hux said when someone with diabetes has high or low blood sugar, they need act soon to correct the problem. If they don’t, it can make them very sick.

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Stubbs didn’t want to argue with the driver, so she said she put her food away and had to hope she wouldn’t pass out. She was feeling dizzy, disoriented, and seeing double by the time she got off the bus.

“If you don’t treat low blood sugar right away what happens is the symptoms get way worse, and it might lead you to have to be in an ambulance because you’re not able to treat it yourself anymore,” Stubbs said.

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Stubbs said at the time, her blood sugar was so low that her Dexcom (which monitors her glucose levels) couldn’t pick up a reading anymore.

Stubbs claims after she reported the incident, nobody from BC Transit followed up with her for a week. The incident occurred Jan. 9, and Stubbs claims BC Transit’s general manager David Guthrie called her to apologize on Jan. 17.

BC Transit spokesperson Jonathan Dyck said the transit company is aware of the incident and have issued an apology to Stubbs and her family.

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Dyck said there is a policy put in place by the company that prohibits food and drink on board buses. He said it’s a matter of avoiding spills.

“However, we do recognize there are special circumstances and we do recognize that there needs to be flexibility within that policy for medical purposes,” said Dyck.

“So we do recognize that, and we’re working internally to make sure that’s communicated.”

Dyck said he couldn’t give details on how the company was addressing the issue internally, or on whether there would be any training in relation to the incident.

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However, Stubbs said Guthrie told her BC Transit would be retraining its staff within a month after consulting with professionals in the field of diabetes.

Going forward, Stubbs just wants people to know that diabetes is a serious issue.

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“Diabetes is already hard enough to deal with and no one should have to feel like they’re in a life or death situation while riding a transit bus,” Stubbs said.

“I go onto the bus, I pay my fare. I feel like I should be able to get to my destination, from A to B, without feeling like my life is going to be at risk or feeling anxious that I can’t treat anything.”

Hux agreed that diabetes is a disease that’s overlooked or stigmatized — even though it’s something that 3.5-million Canadians live with.

“Unfortunately, that’s poorly understood and people with Type 1 diabetes often face challenges and discrimination in workplaces, in public settings as this girl did, and in school environments. And so raising awareness about Type 1 diabetes is critically important.”

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