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Copley student helps bill become law

7/10/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Two area children got to help Gov. John Kasich sign House Bill 264, also known as the Safe at School bill, at his office in Columbus June 12. The governor is seated with 9-year-old Aiden Dine, of Hudson, shown at his immediate right. Next to Dine is 10-year-old Emma Drushell, of Copley, shown standing with her family.
Photo courtesy of American Diabetes Association
COPLEY — A Bath Elementary School fifth-grader’s experience with Type 1 diabetes at school helped get a new law passed in Ohio.

Written testimony regarding Copley resident Emma Drushell’s life at school with diabetes provided by her parents helped get House Bill 264, also known as the Safe at School bill, passed in the Ohio House of Representatives and the state Senate, according to Emma’s father, Nate Drushell.

Emma was on hand with her parents, Nate and Becky Drushell, and her siblings June 12 when Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law. Emma said the governor gave her and each of her siblings — ninth-grader Madeline, second-grader Audrey and kindergartener Gabe — a pen to commemorate the experience.

“It was pretty cool because I actually got to sign the bill with him,” Emma said.

Emma, 10, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before she entered kindergarten, according to her father. She is considered insulin-dependent and is constantly connected to a pump, a small computerized device, that releases insulin into her body, he said.

She used to have to endure five or six shots a day, her father said, and the pump is an alternative to that. Now she checks her blood sugar, under an adult’s supervision, six to 10 times a day, depending on the day’s activity level, by doing finger-checks.

Emma performs her own blood sugar checks and changes the site of her pod, the place where insulin is stored, every three days, her father said.

The pump has a preset carbohydrate to insulin ratio, so when Emma eats something, she can input the number of carbohydrates consumed into the machine, and the corresponding amount of insulin needed can be released, he added.

Emma can manage her own care for the most part, although she needs an adult to oversee it, Nate Drushell said.

Insulin allows the body to convert sugar into energy and use it appropriately, he explained. The average person may have a blood glucose level of around 100, but for diabetics, that level can skyrocket, causing organ damage if allowed to stay high long-term, he said.

For every 20 grams of carbohydrates Emma eats, she gets one unit of insulin from her pump, he said, though the process is challenging because it’s not an exact science. Factors such as adrenaline can affect blood sugar levels, too, he said.

At school, however, the challenges multiply because if her blood sugar is running high, she can’t focus, and if it’s low, it can be fatal, according to her father.

Based on the immediate risks, nursing care staff at school were allowing her blood sugar to run high, which triggered her parents’ concerns for whether her academic abilities were being measured accurately during the school day.

The Safe at School bill will help Emma and her parents have more control over the care she receives at school, her father said.

The bill requires that students with diabetes in Ohio schools receive diabetes care in accordance with a doctor’s orders, including being allowed to manage their own care if a student’s doctor deems it appropriate.

Certain diabetes care tasks must be provided in schools, including blood glucose monitoring and administration of insulin and other medications, according to the bill.

Also, school employees, in addition to nursing staff, may be trained to help with diabetes care tasks, according to the bill. The bill states any adult at school can be trained to help with diabetes care tasks, Nate Drushell said. The new law also requires that students with diabetes be allowed to attend the school they would otherwise attend if they did not have diabetes.

Other states have passed similar legislation, according to Nate Drushell.

Gina Gavlak, a registered nurse and chair of the National Advocacy Committee of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), worked closely with Ohio families to procure testimony regarding the need for the legislation, he said.

In Ohio, written testimony came from Emma’s family, while Aiden Dine, a Hudson fourth-grader, and his family also provided written and oral testimonies.

In Cleveland schools, some students with diabetes were being forced to switch schools to receive diabetes care during the school day, which will no longer happen under the new law, Nate Drushell added.

The bill was sponsored by state Reps. Lynn Wachtmann (R-District 81) and John Barnes (D-District 12).

“With Gov. John Kasich’s signature, this vital legislation provides students living with diabetes across Ohio access to the support and care they need to manage their diabetes and stay medically safe at school,” Gavlak said in an ADA press release about the bill.

The Safe at School campaign, created by the ADA, is dedicated to making sure that all children with diabetes are medically safe at school and have the same educational opportunity as their peers, according to ADA officials.

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