BC Transit apologizes for driver denying diabetic teen a snack
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2019 4:55PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2019 4:56PM PST
A Victoria teen with Type 1 diabetes is speaking out about an encounter with a BC Transit bus driver who she says wouldn't let her eat a potentially life-saving snack on board.
Grade 12 student Sequilla Stubbs caught the bus home after a tutoring session last Wednesday when she said her blood sugar levels started to dip, triggering a glucose monitor alarm.
As she always does when her blood sugar goes low, Stubbs went to eat a snack from her bag – in this case, fruit salad.
"I was really dizzy and I was starting to see doubles of things, and all I could focus on was trying to get the container open," she said.
But she said the driver noticed what she was doing and told her to put away the food because of a no food, no drink policy on BC Transit buses.
"I tell him I'm a Type 1 diabetic, I need to eat because my blood sugar's low," said Stubbs. "Then he argues with me saying 'You're not allowed to consume any food on the bus. Look at the sign, there might be people with allergies.'"
Stubbs said she was shocked because there were only two other people on board, she wasn't eating a common allergy food like peanuts and she's never had a problem on BC Transit buses before.
She responded by telling the driver she could possibly have a life-threatening seizure if she didn't eat the snack to raise her blood sugar back up.
"At that point he just told me to look at the sign again and put away my food, which I then did," she said. "I was scared because my blood sugar was low and I couldn't treat it. All I was thinking about was I hope I get through this bus ride and not pass out."
Stubbs, who also deals with anxiety and a developmental coordination disorder, said she was upset that the driver didn't make an exception for her illness and reached out to BC Transit to report the incident.
The company has since issued an apology to the family and said there is "wiggle room" for its food and drink policy when it comes to illnesses like diabetes.
"We do apologize to that customer for that interaction," said BC Transit spokesman Jonathon Dyck. "Our customer service team is following up with the family and talking to them about what occurred, and we will follow up internally as appropriate."
Dyck reiterated the company's food and drink policy exists for a reason, so that buses don't have to be pulled for cleaning as much, but said in the case of a medical emergency the rules shouldn't always apply.
"There are exceptions within that policy where we would look at medical emergencies and medical situations, and that would have to be a conversation between the passenger and the driver to let them know what's happening and why it's happening," Dyck said. "The other thing that we ask customers is, as much as possible, to please plan ahead."
Sequilla's mother, Jennifer Stubbs, said planning ahead isn't always possible when dealing with Type 1 diabetes, which can see blood sugar levels drop from regular to low within minutes.
"I totally understand the need to enforce rules, I get that, but if somebody says they've got a disability I just don't understand why you would argue," she said. "The reality is, there's a lot of different environments where this situation might unfold."
The 17-year-old said she wants to use the situation to educate others about diabetes and other invisible illnesses
"When someone says they have Type 1 diabetes or a condition where someone needs to eat something because they're going to pass out if they don't…just a bit more trust in the person," she said.
As for the driver she encountered, she's hoping to speak with him personally instead of BC Transit customer service.
"What I've been told is they were sorry about it and they were going to try to contact the driver and teach him the protocols again," she said. "What I would like to see happen is an actual apology from the bus driver himself, because that put me in a very awkward and life-threatening situation."