A splinter in California

Recent news stories about life for students with diabetes in California have me thinking about my time living there. Most of my life with diabetes was spent in Florida after I moved there for a job, but I was actually raised in Southern California (after my family moved from New York).

Other than a year of my undergraduate college education and two years of graduate school, most of my education was also done without diabetes. I was in public school for part of first grade when we first moved there, went to the private school my mom taught at until 8th grade, and then went to public high school.

my awesome junior high style

My elementary school and middle school each had about 400 kids in them but I don’t remember one single child with diabetes. My mom has taught at that same school for about 25 years now and I asked her recently if she can remember any kids with diabetes who have attended there. In all that time, there has only been one diabetic at her school.

In a circumstance that I don’t think is that strange for a private school, there isn’t a nurse employed by the school. Any time we felt sick one of the secretaries would take our temperature and if we had one, or faked sick well enough (cough), they would call a parent to pick us up.

I still didn’t know anyone with diabetes in high school. It is possible that there was one there, but at that point if it didn’t involve my group of friends I probably did not know about it.

It wasn’t until one day during my senior year that I even became aware of the situation of school nurses in California schools. I was sitting at one of those desks where the chair is connected and reached toward the front of the desk to readjust it. My hand caught on a rough spot on the desk and a large splinter was suddenly embedded in my finger.

The splinter was in deep enough that trying to get it out myself in class did not produce any productive results. The teacher sent me up to the office to see the nurse to have her take it out. When I reached the office I told the lady at the front desk that I was there to see the nurse and explained why I needed to see her. She told me that the nurse was not there that day, she only spent one day each week at each high school in the district and it was not our turn. She grabbed her notepad to begin to write the note to excuse me from the rest of the day of classes. Without the nurse there, the receptionist explained, there was no one there to help me with my injury. Any of the employees in the office would get in trouble for helping me. There was nothing she could do.

I could not believe how ridiculous the whole situation was – I just wanted to get the splinter out of my finger and to get back to class! I was finally able to get her to hypothetically tell me where the tweezers were kept in the nurse’s office and turn her head as I walked into the room by myself. A few minutes later I was headed back to class with nothing more than a small band-aid.

If the California school system is unable to deal with students with splinters, how in the world can they be prepared to handle students with diabetes?

I don’t know what the best solution is in this case. Can the state afford to hire a nurse to be in each school full time? What about the nurses who protest that only an educated professional is trained enough to dose insulin in the schools? What do they think we all do at home? The kid with diabetes that attended my former school had his mom show up every day at lunch until he was old enough to operate his pump for himself. What about the families where both parents work and that is not an option? It seems like the children with diabetes are facing the consequences of being caught in the middle as both sides debate the best solution.

More about the case here and here.


  • This is a topic with which I am currently wrestling. I began homeschooling my daughter a year and a half ago after her diagnosis. The thought of letting someone else administer insulin…potentially fatal…was something I just could not agree to. She now has a pump and CGM and is one bright 8-year-old so I’m feeling a bit better about it…actually went and talked to the school nurse about her. This school –a 3rd-5th grade school– actually has a full time nurse. Don’t know how comfortable I am still with it. There were no diabetic children in her K-2nd grade school (800+ kids) and I asked this nurse in the 3-5th school and she said they did not have any there either. Another 800+kids without diabetes. Our local hospital system partners with the school districts to provide a nurse for the schools. Not sure all the details, as the K-2 school nurse was not full time…but seems like someone in Cal could step up to the plate on that.

  • First off – oh my goodness your hair. You could not have been cuter.
    Ok just FYI – I don’t think any nurses in any schools can remove splinters. Other school staff cannot remove splitters either. Thus -in TX the school receptionist can inject insulin but could not remove a splinter.
    Sadly I think it is an all or none type policy. a tiny splinter in a finger – ya seems simple but what about a larger splinter in the wrist – or bottom? How big can the splinter be to safely remove it without causing other damage? i think having a blanket policy of ‘don’t remove anything’ means nurses/school staff can’t inadvertently cause a bigger emergency?
    I really do wish all schools would have nurses. BUT – I also know that not all nurses are created equal so who’s to say the nurse at my child’s school would be any more competent if not less competent that the receptionist? We had the most amazing fantastic love her to pieces nurse in TX. Some of my friends were not so lucky. One friend told me that her school nurse brought in a treadmill and if her child was high the nurse would make her ‘run it off’. – No I will not shut Up – Im totally telling the truth. Again – not all nurses created equal.
    Lastly in regards to the comment left by K – I support all my friends who homeschool. None of them chose that path because of diabetes though. They had already been doing it or had planned to do it regardless. Allowing your child with D to walk around with out you is a scary thing. I get that. We all get that and no one would fault you for your fears. That being said – if your child wants to attend school and you insist on homeschooling because of D – the child could resent D even more than she likely already does. Also – being away at school lets her learn independence with diabetes. My kids check their sugars so often (every two hours almost) that the window for things to go south is fairly small. Granted they have gone low but in those few instances everyone did what they needed to do and all was well. We learned that we needed to tweak a few things – share some reminders but mostly just congratulated all for ‘job well done’. The pump and CGM will make going to school way easier and safer and it sounds like there is a nurse. I am of course both glad and sad there are no other cwd at the school – glad because woohoo no kids with a life long chronic decease but sad because sometimes its nice to have someone ‘just like you’ around. I can tell you this – you wont likely have to worry about D making your child stand out. Yes she will get noticed but in all my years with kids with diabetes and as a teacher – the cool kid with the neat gadgets who doesn’t freak out about sticking their fingers and the licks their own blood – is totally amazingly cool. Just say’n.
    Sorry for using your comment section to respond to another with completely unrequested opinions and advice.
    Loved your hair Sara.

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