Woman wants policy change for school districts

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Seven months after talking with the school about her daugther’s health, Deanna Emberg is finally able to leave her daughter at school, knowing she’ll get the medical care she needs.

“I didn’t realize how much stress I was carrying around,” she said, “until that first week of insulin at work was done.”

Emberg submitted a complaint in September to the Human Rights Commission alleging her daughter was being discriminated against on the basis of her heath. The seven-year-old requires insulin shots to treat Type 1 Diabetes.

After long discussions between Emberg, Alberta Education, Alberta Health Services and the St. Albert Public School Board, a nurse will now spend lunchtimes at her daughter’s school checking her blood sugar and administering insulin.

Natalie Emberg, 7, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was six years old. She’s currently in second grade.

Emberg says the school’s care plan includes medical services for students with disabilities, and includes glucose monitoring for students with Type 1 Diabetes.

It does not include insulin or glucagon injections.

Type 1 Diabetes occurs when insulin-producing cells, which break down sugar, are attacked by the body’s immune system. When the pancreas stops producing enough insulin, the body’s blood sugar rises.

In order to manage the chronic disease, insulin needs to be injected into the body.

Glucagon, on the other hand, is used when someone has extremely low blood sugar. Low blood sugar usually occurs when too much insulin has been administered. Glucagon is a life-saving injection that prevents someone from having seizures or going unconscious.

Last year Natalie entered Grade 1, and at the time she was receiving slow-acting insulin shots in the morning that would sustain her throughout the day.

Emberg found that Natalie was starting to respond poorly to the treatment option, and was often moody and couldn’t concentrate at school.

Her pediatric endocrinologist decided to put Natalie on a plan where she would receive injections in the morning, at lunch and throughout the evening. Since being on the new regimen, Emberg said Natalie’s blood sugar levels have been fairly stable.

While the new treatment option requires Natalie to self-inject the needle, Emberg said she’s not mentally prepared yet. Instead, she requires someone to administer the shot for her.

“When kids are newly diagnosed they aren’t necessarily comfortable with the needles right away,” she said. “So they may need support until they can figure it out on their own.”

Emberg said the school was doing everything they could to help Natalie, but it simply wasn’t enough. She said she would frequently have to duck out of work to go to the school and administer insulin.

Back and forth

After multiple conversations with the school district, Alberta Education and Alberta Health Services, Emberg decided to file a human rights complaint in September. In the complaint, she claims the school board, Alberta Health and AHS were discriminating against her daughter’s disability.

The commission looked at the paperwork and saw that there was, in fact, a potential case. Five months after the complaint, the school decided to contract a nurse to come to the school and administer the shots.

Emberg said she’s frustrated with how long it took, as her daughter suffered in the meanwhile. Because the school didn’t have someone to administer insulin during the day, she had to keep Natalie on her old treatment plan.

Now that her daughter has the care she needs, Emberg said she wants this to become a policy across all public schools.

“There are parents who have lost their jobs because they had to leave for their kids and other parents that have actually pulled their kids from school and are home schooling them because of their diabetes. It’s very exclusive,” she said.

Now Diabetes Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society are calling on all Alberta schools to provide a standard level of care, which includes administering insulin to students with diabetes.

According to Diabetes Canada there are about 4,000 teens and children in Alberta who have Type 1 Diabetes.

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About Author

Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.