Sunday, February 27, 2005

Make the Tape of Tom Gruver's Taser Attack Public!

Tom Gruver, a 55-year old Type 1 Diabetes patient from West Pennsboro Township, PA, is seeking to view the tape of a Taser stun gun attack that was perpetrated upon him when he was experiencing a diabetic emergency.

This is a photo of Tom. Two years ago, while he was in the midst of insulin shock, Tom was shot with a Taser stun gun several times by law enforcement, who believed he was drunk. Six months later, Tom still had bruises all over his body. And now, two years later, Tom STILL has joint pain from the attack. More than anything, he simply wants to know what happened that day, which hypoglycemia has blotted from his memory.



Whenever I see stories like this, I think of my son. And the more of these stories I see, the more I realize that mistreatment of diabetics who are in insulin shock is EXTREMELY common. People can DIE from insulin shock.

Why do things like this continue to happen? Clearly, there is a SEVERE lack of training among law enforcement regarding the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. True, the symptoms are almost identical to alcohol intoxication. However, law enforcement missed one GIANT signal Tom was diabetic--HIS MEDIC ALERT NECKLACE, which he was WEARING the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME.

From The Sentinel:
Diabetic wants to see Taser tape

By Tiffany Pakkala, February 27, 2005

"Tom Gruver doesn't know what happened to him June 17, 2003. Locked in a diabetic trance that afternoon, he says his only memory of a confrontation with Carlisle Police is the pain of being shot with a Taser three times when they mistook him for a drunk.

"Then 53, the West Pennsboro Township man says he was driving home from work when his extremely low blood sugar put him in a daze....

"The police department had purchased its first Tasers just months earlier. The stun guns deliver a 50,000-volt electrical jolt either through a fired dart or held against the suspect close-range, causing muscles to go limp.

"Gruver remembers being 'terrified' of the officers and 'feeling like someone was burning me, like they stuck a hot piece of metal against me.' But he says he didn't understand what was going on until police found his diabetic necklace and gave him sugar and water.

"Once his sugar levels returned to normal, 'they told me I had been resisting arrest,' Gruver recalls. 'They told me it took three guys to get me in the (patrol) car....'

"Short with a small frame, Gruver — who says he was obviously unarmed in shorts and a T-shirt at the time — wonders why three trained officers couldn't control him without using the device." {more}

There is no excuse, NONE, for what happened to Tom. Because--here is what witnesses saw on his body at the time of the Taser attack!

That medical ID necklace is a very clear indication that the individual WEARING the ID has a medical condition. Tom was doing EVERYTHING right. This is why we TELL OUR KIDS NEVER TO TAKE OFF THEIR MEDICAL IDs. There was no excuse for mistaking Tom's condition for drunkenness.

Why, WHY does this continue to happen? Diabetic teens and adults have died in custody due to law enforcement neglect.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to those of intoxication, but police officers should be trained to look for a medical ID bracelet or necklace and verbally ask someone if they are diabetic. At the time of the Taser attack, Tom was not threatening anyone or hurting anyone. He had been driving poorly and was then so disoriented, weak, and exhausted that he parked his car and lay down in a parking lot, probably on the verge of passing out from insulin shock. When the police confronted him, Tom, confused and unable to speak, tried to crawl into his car through the window to get away from them. The police then began shooting Tom with their Taser guns.

How hard would it have been to notice the medical ID tag clearly displayed on Tom's chest? To take a half a second to ASK... "Are you diabetic?"

The kicker is--the police have a videotape of the Taser attack. But they won't show it to Tom. That alone speaks volumes. He doesn't plan to sue, he only wants to know what really happened that day.

Here is some more information about the signs, symptoms, and risks of hypoglycemia. This material should be included in Police Academy training throughout the country!

Mild hypoglycemia
The initial symptoms appear as the body responds to the falling blood sugar levels by releasing glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline), and other hormones. In normal individuals, blood glucose levels when fasting (between meals) are usually between 70 to 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The symptoms of mild low blood sugar usually develop when the blood sugar falls below 60 to 65 mg/dL. These may include:

Nausea; extreme hunger.
Feeling nervous or jittery.
Cold, clammy, wet skin; excessive sweating not caused by exercise.
A rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
Numbness or tingling of the fingertips or lips.

Moderate hypoglycemia
If blood sugar levels continue to fall, the lack of adequate glucose begins to impair brain and nervous system functions. Additional symptoms appear that affect behavior and judgment. Symptoms usually develop when the blood sugar falls below 50 mg/dL. These may include:

Mood changes, such as irritability, anxiety, restlessness, or anger.
Confusion, difficulty in thinking, or inability to concentrate.
Blurred vision, dizziness, or headache.
Weakness, lack of energy.
Poor coordination.
Difficulty walking or talking, such as staggering or slurred speech.
Fatigue, lethargy, or drowsiness.

Note: A person experiencing moderate hypoglycemia may be too weak or confused to treat the low blood sugar and may need help. Someone with hypoglycemia may appear to be drunk or in a stupor. Mistaking hypoglycemia for drunkenness can be fatal.

Severe hypoglycemia
The symptoms of severe low blood sugar develop when blood sugar falls below 30 mg/dL. Symptoms may include:

Seizures or convulsions.
Loss of consciousness, coma.
Low body temperature (hypothermia).

Prolonged severe hypoglycemia can cause irreversible brain damage. If emergency medical treatment is not provided, severe hypoglycemia can be fatal.
(From Health Watch)

I continue to be furious about the way diabetic emergencies, both hypoglycemic AND hyperglycemic/DKA, are treated in this country. Education is the key, but first people must take these situations seriously, not HIDE EVIDENCE as the Carlisle police appear to be doing in Tom's case. SHOW WHAT HAPPENED. Then, we can ALL learn from it.

Maybe by the time my son is Tom's age, diabetes will be cured... but if it's not, I don't want him to be Tasered when what he needs is a FREAKIN' GLASS OF JUICE.