Monday, 24 May 2010

Jobs and Discrimination

There are unfortunately many restrictions for diabetics wishing to enter certain types of career. Air traffic controller, pilot, most forces jobs, bus drivers, long distance drivers and some emergency response services.

This issue is a constant source of arguments, not just between diabetics and those making the decisions, but also it would seem, between diabetics themselves. Diabetes UK recently posted a comment on the Facebook site, to attempt to dispel myths about restrictions on jobs. The responses started arriving thick and fast, and within one hour there were 46 posts and counting.

Most people argued that with diabetes you are not able to lead a normal life. That the fundamental nature of diabetes itself, means that no diabetic will ever truly lead a normal life. Most people agreed that it was unfair that diabetics are subject to a 'blanket ban' on careers such as those named above, and that this should perhaps be done on a case by case basis instead.

Perhaps controversially, I have to disagree.

The careers we are talking about aren't 'work in a bank' or 'be a teacher'. The jobs we are talking about are 'land planes', 'handle weapons', 'engage in battle'. Can you see the difference I am trying to get to?

I happen to have extremely good hypo awareness, and for that I am grateful. It means I don't have to worry that if my sugars aren't running high enough, I may get caught out and be found in a heap. I don't have to worry that without even knowing it, I could easily become endangered if I lose consciousness and be at the mercy of wherever I am or, or whoever I'm with.

That being said, I (and every other diabetic), don't actually get 'hypo' symptoms, until they are already hypo. That's because your body responds to the fact that your sugars are too low. It can't do that until you really ARE low. Fact.

Once you are low, you absolutely have to stop what you are doing then and there. You have to treat the hypo immediately, and take at least 10 minutes to start feeling better. After this point, it can take anything up to an hour for you to regain your full mental and physical capabilities.

So how comfortable would you feel being under fire in a foreign country, immersed in battle with a hostile enemy who would happily hold a gun to your head and pull that trigger, hypo or no hypo, for the sake of their war? Would you be happy to be with someone who is having a hypo, while carrying a weapon, knowing that when some diabetics get low they get violent, and do things they not only don't understand, but that they don't remember? How comfortable would you be, sat in a plane, your life in the hands of someone who experienced a low 10 minutes ago and who thinks they 'are fine' to get back to the job?

I for one, would not want to be led by, or want to lead anyone if I was in that situation and was having a low. I don't get violent, I don't get angry, i don't get confused and I don't forget what I've done. But I do get clumsy, I do get weak, I need to be able to rest and I need time to recover. With most of the jobs diabetics (particularly type 1) are excluded from, there are safety issues at hand. Safety of not only themselves, but of people they work or engage with. Can the bus company afford to have someone on the staff, who may at some point go low and need to stop for 45 minutes with a bus load of people who will either have to sit there and wait or leave? Can the army afford to have someone there who will need to stop whenever their sugars get low, and who probably shouldn't be carrying a weapon? is there time to test when you are trying to evacuate children from somewhere you think a bomb may be going off?

I know that as a diabetic I should probably be fighting with the others who think it's unfair. And I know that there are few little boys and girls in this world who didn't watch Top Gun and hope that one day they would be the World's next Maverick. But the fact is, I can't get on board with the fact that it is discriminatory when it is also common sense. We're not out there lynching diabetics, or banning them from mixing with others. I'm not afraid of telling anyone I am diabetic because I believe I may be ostracized or attacked. But I do think it is common sense that anyone who suffers from diabetes - more specifically - hypos, should not be able to do certain jobs.

Diabetics talk about how scary and debilitating hypos can be - I don't think I would be comfortable being debilitated while trying to do any of the jobs I'm banned from, and I believe that is why these decision are made. It's nothing personal, it's reasonable. It may not feel fair, it may not feel right, it may have changed your plans. But it does make sense. To me anyway

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