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Victoria teen with diabetes told 'no food' on B.C. Transit bus

Saanich News - 1/17/2019

B.C. Transit is re-evaluating its on-board rules for food consumption following an incident earlier this week when bus driver told a teen not to eat.

Unbeknownst to the driver, the teen, 17-year-old Sequilla Stubbs, was engaging in eating her fruit salad in an attempt to regulate her body's sugar level as she lives with Type 1 diabetes.

Stubbs was catching the bus back to Fernwood, late from a tutoring session in Vic West after school on Jan. 9, when she ran to catch the bus.

"As I got on the bus my glucose monitor alarm rang, saying my blood sugar was low," Stubbs said. "I was opening my fruit salad, in a container, when the driver told me I can't have it on the bus. I told him I was a Type 1 diabetic and I needed it for my blood sugar but he said 'no food or drink on the bus, no exceptions.'"

That initiated a back-and-forth conversation during which Stubbs said she was dizzy. She explained she could pass out, faint, have a seizure, or die if she didn't eat the food. She said the driver responded by saying there might be allergies on the bus and if she needed to eat something, she should have shown up to the bus stop five minutes earlier.

"He seemed a bit annoyed and irritated as the conversation continued between us," Stubbs said.

In the end, she decided to put the food away, she said, adding it wasn't worth having to wait for another bus.

"I only got one bite down, not enough to raise my low blood sugar," she said. "I just hoped that I wouldn't pass out or faint."

B.C. Transit spokesperson Jonathan Dyck said they received the complaint regarding the incident and apologize for the situation.

Dyck said B.C. Transit has a policy per food and drink that allows them in a closed container. Riders are permitted to drink beverages such as coffee from a to-go mug. However, there will be an internal follow up about food policies in terms of people with medical conditions, Dyck said.

"We recognize there needs to be flexibility within that policy to allow people with medical conditions who may need to eat on a bus," Dyck said. "It's something that we need to talk about, to meet customer needs. But we also ask people to plan ahead as much as possible, if they can, while recognizing it's not always possible."

Stubbs said in her life she is constantly thinking ahead and planning. She's also constantly monitoring the app readings on her phone, which are connected to her blood sugar monitor.

"That day (Jan. 9) was just a bad blood sugar day all around, nothing was working," Stubbs recalled.

In addition to diabetes, Stubbs, who is a Grade 12 student graduating from Discovery School this year, lives with ADHD and developmental coordination disorder. The latter makes it difficult for her to locate her body relative to the physical space around her. It also makes it particularly difficult applying her blood sugar monitor.

"I wasn't told [B.C. Transit] was going to review the food policy but if they are, I'm happy," Stubbs said. "It's obviously in need for a change, food and drink isn't just food and drink for some people, it's medicine."

Earlier this year Stubbs started a GoFundMe account to help replace the faulty parts of a blood sugar monitor that costs about $100 a week to run. Last year she attended the 2017 Rick Hansen Youth Leadership Summit pledging to make Canada more accessible by educating others about Type 1 diabetes.

"Diabetes isn't something a person would lie about, it's an invisible illness, so when someone says they have diabetes please trust that person," Stubbs said. "They know what they need to do to fix themselves in that time, or else it can become a life or death situation."

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