RICHMOND – Virginia students afflicted by diabetes may receive additional support in schools thanks to a new state law.
Senate Bill 1116, which takes effect July 1, will allow school nurses to help diabetic students reinsert the tube that connects their insulin pump to their body if it becomes dislodged at school.
"This bill is for kids who need help inserting or reinserting their insulin pump," said Devon Cabot, legislative aide for Sen. Jeremy McPike, who proposed the measure.
McPike, who represents the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park and part of Prince William County, decided to sponsor the bill after numerous parental complaints about diabetic children being forced to leave school early or parents having to leave work to help reattach their child's insulin pump.
"Kids knock their insulin pump out and then need to go home for it to be reinserted," Cabot said.
The new law authorizes only certain school personnel to assist with a student's insulin pump. The school employee must be a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or certified nurse aide who has been trained in the administration of insulin and insulin pumps.
Such employees may assist the diabetic student only after receiving prescriber authorization and parental consent.
"This bill is geared towards younger pump users," Cabot said. "When they reach high school age, most kids are able to reinsert the pump themselves without assistance."
Sam Wagner, a sophomore at Godwin High School in Henrico County, knows the day-to-day difficulties of being a diabetic student firsthand. Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 14.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system mistakenly targeting the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Without insulin, the body cannot properly convert food into energy, which can be fatal.
To manage his Type 1 diabetes, Sam must take insulin for the rest of his life.
He had to wait more than six months to receive his first insulin pump. Before the pump, Sam gave himself periodic injections of insulin by syringe just as his grandfather did decades ago.
"The insulin pump changed my life," said Sam, now 16.
That's because the pumps are unobtrusive – they're about the size of a cellphone. Sam's device provides a continuous supply of insulin, is easily adjusted by touch screen and has a rechargeable battery life of one week.
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 1 million diabetics use insulin pumps worldwide.
Sam's biggest concern about using his insulin pump at school is when he needs to charge it.
While every insulin pump varies in the tubing and cartridge size it uses, all pumps use the same cord – a micro USB – to charge. "One time I had to ask another student to borrow his phone charger in the middle of class so I could charge my pump," Sam said.
Sam praises his school for accommodating class time he has missed because of his diabetes. "I've never really had an issue with making up assignments for any of my classes," he said.