Elliott Yamin, Diabetics Face Medical Danger After Earthquake

Back-Up Plan Buys Time for Diabetics

There is little a Type 1 diabetic can do to "stretch out" limited supplies, said Dr. Joshua Cohen, associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center.

"Insulin [shots are] an absolute necessity," otherwise within hours, a patient can develop ketoacidosis, when the patient's body, unable to process glucose, breaks down fat, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, he said.

To help diabetics be more prepared for the health risks that can arise rapidly in emergency situations, the CDC advises keeping a few weeks supply of medication in an emergency kit to buy time until health care systems are back up and running.

The CDC suggests keeping diabetic-appropriate foods, such as peanut butter, cheese and crackers, in this kit as well, to ameliorate some of the problems associated with irregular food supply.

But for the many in Chile who will not have back-up supplies, the key issue now is to get medical aid to victims in Chile, Fonseca said.

This isn't "just a short-term thing," he said. "It affects victims for a long time because health care systems take a long time to get back together fully."

During Katrina, the ADA partnered with the International Diabetes Federation to provide specific diabetic disaster support and Fonseca said he suspects and hopes they will do the same for Chile, though the ADA said that, as of yet, no such plans have been made.

Yamin echoed this need to address conditions in Chile:

"It's been a traumatic experience," he said. "I'll get home when I get home. I just want to encourage everybody to pray for people who are far worse off than I am."

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