Amtrak Mistakes Diabetic Shock for Drunk and Disorderly And Force Man In Diabetic Shock Off The Train
By: Chris Kramer
A recently retired factory worker from St. Louis decided to celebrate his retirement with a trip. He never expected to end up in a Flagstaff, Arizona hospital receiving emergency medical treatment.
Roosevelt Sims boarded an Amtrak train last Sunday and expected to end up in Los Angeles, but something went terribly wrong along the way. He was asked to get off the train in the middle of a national forest, two miles from the nearest road.
Amtrak notified police dispatchers that one of their passengers, Mr. Sims, was drunk and unruly on the train. They stopped at a railroad crossing to eject him. When the police arrived a disoriented Sims fled into the woods.
At the time, Amtrak employees did not realize that Sims was not drunk; instead, he was going into diabetic shock. Symptoms of diabetic shock can be confused with intoxication when the patient displays symptoms such as slurred speech, fuzzy thinking, irritability, sweating, confusion, aggression or blurred vision.
In at least one case a person has died from being presumed drunk when actually he was experiencing diabetic complications.
Last August a man was found by police sitting in his car at a scrapyard. Police suspected him of DUI. They beat and sprayed him with pepper spray before realizing that he was not drunk, he was going into diabetic shock. The man suffered cardiac arrest, went into a coma and died days later.
Sims was missing in the woods without his medication until Thursday. His brother had tried to call him on his cell phone before he disappeared and said that he had sounded incoherent when they spoke.
The area in which Sims was left had no running water and no shelter. The national forest is 800,000 acres of trees according to police.
Much to the relief of his worried family, Sims was located on Thursday. He was found barefoot, disoriented and dehydrated, walking along the railroad tracks. He was rushed to the hospital to receive treatment.
Police say that Amtrak has used the abandoned railway crossing as a drop off point before. An officer interviewed for a television news program says that whether a passenger is drunk or not, the crossing is not an area where a passenger should be let off the train.
Amtrak has released a statement regarding the incident, saying that they followed company policy.
As the number of patients with diabetes continues to grow in the United States, you would think that more police officials and companies such as Amtrak who provide public transportation would make themselves more aware of the differences between intoxication and diabetic complications. Sadly, that does not seem to be happening.
When a patient is suffering a diabetic episode, time is of the essence. When the person suffering is assumed to be drunk, valuable time is lost. Unfortunately, along the way some lives are lost as well.