Miss Manners just enraged a lot of T1 Diabetics and their families recently over here.

“DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a businessman who frequently flies both domestically and internationally. I also happen to be an insulin-dependent diabetic. I currently do my glucose testing in my seat. It does involve using a lancet device to get a drop of blood to test, but is fairly unobtrusive. Of course, all lancets, alcohol preps and test strips are stored in my test kit for proper disposal later.
Am I being rude to perform this test next to a stranger? Injections I perform privately in the plane’s lavatory. In the airport, I use the counter by the wash basin, since most water closets have no room for insulin vials and other supplies.
Many people seem to stare and resent the fact of performing such a function in this space. I have also had children ask, “What is that man doing? Isn’t that a bad thing?” (They’re obviously thinking of their drug education classes.) Am I too self-conscious?

GENTLE READER: Absent an emergency, medical applications (like bodily functions and grooming) are properly done out of sight — meaning in private or in a restroom — unless they can be done so surreptitiously as to be unrecognizable as such. Miss Manners does not object to a pill taken at dinner, so long as it is not accompanied by a dissertation on your cholesterol.
The technology associated with diabetes is fast approaching this standard, although Miss Manners draws the line at drawing blood. Restrooms exist to provide a proper location for such necessary activities when away from home, and those who use them have no business monitoring the respectable, if sometimes unaesthetic, activities of others.
You may chose to tell children that it is a medical procedure, or ignore them and let their parents do that. Miss Manners would hope that any parents present would also resolve to teach their children to be more discreet with their curiosity.”


Dear Miss Manners,

How dare you suggest that I cram myself and my 6 year old son into a tiny disgusting airplane bathroom (or any public bathroom for the matter) to give him life saving insulin? Your response likening my child’s medically necessary insulin to him actually pooping on a table in a restaurant or peeing directly on an airplane seat is repugnant.

Have you actually seen a blood glucose meter? In recent years? The amount of blood that is required to read his blood sugar levels is so tiny, a paper cut would cause more blood. On our next flight should I get up and go with my 6 year old son to the bathroom to test his blood sugar 5-8 times or whatever is required during a stressful travel day? Oh, better yet….Should I wake him up while he is so peaceful and quiet, make him grumpy, drag him or carry him while his feet hit passengers faces because he’s so tired he can’t walk and then test him? What if I drop some of his diabetes supplies down the toilet? Will you reimburse me? What if you are waiting outside of the bathroom each time I have to test my son? What if the drink cart is there when I get out? What if he passes out from low blood sugar because the line was too long to get to the bathroom and my glucagon is in my carry on in the overhead bin? Should I mime to you to get the glucagon? I know I shouldnt say anything out loud, how rude. Will you then get it for me? Can you adminster it? My arms are tired from carrying him. Wait, now all three of us need to cram into the bathroom. Are you uncomfortable? It’s quite tight in here. Oh you thought the insulin needle was gross? Wait until you see the huge glucagon needle!

We have taught our child to NEVER be ashamed of his insulin or checking his blood sugar. He is 6 years old and has a lot of responsibility and burden that most 30 year olds don’t have. He sometimes has 8 shots in a day, over 12 finger pokes and a metal wire inserted in his arm each week. Could you handle that?

Recently at his after school program they asked that we give him insulin in the bathroom and we said no. If he ever has to get a shot in his butt and we pull his pants down of course we would go to the bathroom but under no circumstances will we be shunned into a place where people relieve their bowels and bladders to give him life saving medication.

Many of the parents of T1 Diabetic kids are working full time, parenting full time and suddenly expected to be full time nurses specializing in endocrinology with 4 days training. We rarely sleep through the night, we count carbs all day long, even if we aren’t with our kids while we are eating we calculate what they might have to take for the carbs we see before us. We lie awake at night even when our children have nice blood sugars thinking about those stories we read about children with Type 1 never waking up, we think about organ damage, we wish and hope with all of our might that we could take Type 1 from them and have ourselves instead.

Now on top of all of this you want us to make our children feel ashamed of a disease that has already robbed them of their innocence, a disease that nearly killed them before they were diagnosed. You want us to feel ashamed that our children have Type 1 and need medication.

Next time you are on a flight maybe you should just stay in the bathroom, and spare anyone that might have to sit next to you.

Shame on you.

Sara Jensen


  • Les

    I’m sorry but I do not agree with you. Testing my glucose through either my finger-tip or on top of my arm draws 3 – 4 microliters of blood…about as large as the head of a straight pin. It is silent and mostly unnoticeable. Plus I can control the cleanliness I need to perform the necessary operations. If I can perform my injection in my seat without others taking notice I will. If not I will, with reluctance, use the restroom but won’t put any of my needles or pens on any surfaces…you don’t know what has landed on those surfaces. The only drawback is that someone might see a bit of my belly just above my belt line as I inject the insullin…I try to be descrete but not always successful. If someone asks I answer truthfully but I will not HIDE the fact that I have diabetes. It is an illness NOT a disgrace!

  • Wait, you do realize that I am addressing Miss Manners? I totally agree with you Les! It has come to light that the son of Miss Manners is also a T1 diabetic! I find this startling and confusing because she implies that she was not telling people go to somewhere private to deal with their medical needs. Poke away! Also, we have never tested from the top of the arm.

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