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Diabetics and Insulin Storage

by Chuck Fenwick

I ran across an article on survival and diabetics written by a nurse. It was what we call a basic brush and floss kind of article that quoted from some well-known medical books. I call it a brush and floss article because it contained mostly information which a diabetic already knows, much like the way a dentist tells you what your mom has told you a bazillion times about brushing your teeth.

However at the end of the article the nurse pretty much consigned type 1 diabetics to doom and even referenced Darwin and the "survival of the fittest". I know in the book, One Second After, the diabetic daughter died because of lack of insulin, but the part in the book about it going bad because of temperature variations is not accurate.

Here’s some information which will be of help to those who use insulin, specifically Humulin. We've been helping with diabetic preparedness for several years and there are some important things which are not common knowledge.

Humulin--unopened--has a shelf-life of at least one year at room temperature. And Humulin can be frozen without ill effects to the user. Lilly won't tell you this, but I know of a type 1 diabetic who froze a year's supply for Y2K.

Her name is Madeline and in 1999 she called me to ask if I knew if insulin could be safely frozen. I told her that I didn’t know, but I would find out. Several of us in Medical Corps started making calls and found out it could. I relayed the good news to Madeline.

I suggested that if she were going to freeze it that she keep a log of her blood sugar test values with un-frozen insulin and then with the frozen insulin. She did and her blood sugar did not vary. In fact, Madeline still practices that type of preparedness with her disease.

As for the Darwin and the natural selection mindset, EMP or not, this country is not the Titanic. There are lifeboats for everyone. As medical people, and for non medical as well, our job is not to pick who gets to live or die simply because we may not know the answer to the problem. Our job is to solve the problem and not bow down to Darwin or "selection" or ignorance.

Diabetics, preemies, old people, retarded children and the like are not mass causalities and a matter of triage. They are just a people problem which can be solved. I do not have the moral right to pronounce doom on the sick or injured. I do have a moral obligation to at least try to solve a problem.

To say that a Type 1 diabetic wouldn’t have a tough time of it if the system collapsed would be untrue, but problems can be solved. People who are insulin dependent or dependent on any medications need to put away extra supplies for treatment and support of their condition. I would not solely count on electronic devices either.

Telemetry has a bad habit of failing, so old fashioned ways of checking blood sugar might not be that old fashioned if we lose telemetry because of an EMP. Keep in mind that there are several other diabetic problems and that there are medications to treat them.

Therefore, it is not just insulin which will be in short supply if the system fails.

These supplies will only be a cushion though if a disaster of the magnitude presented in, One Second After, happens. That cushion will give us some time to work on finding answers for a myriad of problems which would surface.

As for diabetics we will have to find a way to duplicate the work of Banting and Best and other researchers of the early 1920s. This isn’t a survival-of-the-fittest type of thing. It is a problem to be solved.

Just recently some Canadian researchers injected capsaicin into the excess pain receptors of the pancreas of diabetic mice. Then a neuropeptide was used to soothe the inflammation. The pancreas immediately started producing insulin and 4 months later the previously diabetic mice were still “cured”.

Is the diabetic survival problem complex? Of course it is. All TEOTWAWKI problems tend to be complex. But they are still just problems to be solved. Keep in mind that if an EMP wiped out all type 1 diabetics, it would not be an end to type 1 diabetes. If it could be ended by some sort of natural selection then where did it come from in the first place?

Summary:

1)   Humulin can be frozen without damaging the contents, bottle or seals and then used without ill effect to the patient.

2)   Unopened Humulin has at least a one year shelf-life at room temperature (70 degrees F.)

3)   Darwin wasn’t a diabetic or a survivalist so who cares what he said.