April 21, 2014

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‘There’s no one there’


Mother outraged that school goes without nurse

STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Rachel Workman hugs her son Rodrick, 9, outside Frank Jacinto Elementary School in Lorain.

LORAIN — Rachel Workman said she just wants someone to be there for her son.

Someone trained — like a nurse — who can administer a shot of insulin in case the blood sugar in her 9-year-old son’s body soars or plummets quickly.

Unfortunately, having a nurse around when her son needs one is something the Lorain school district can’t guarantee.

The district is down to nine nurses for all 16 school buildings, and two of them work all day in the two high schools. Last year, each building had its own full-time nurse.

That leaves seven nurses to care for the thousands of students in the other 14 buildings, and in the case of Frank Jacinto Elementary, which Workman’s diabetic son Rodrick attends, it means a nurse is not there in the afternoon.

“I can’t risk something happening to him because there’s no one there,” Workman said of her son. “I keep asking them to tell me whether they can help me or not, because if they can’t, I need to take my son out of school when there’s no nurse there, but no one will give me any answers.”

School Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said that she has worked out a schedule with a nurse to come back to Frank Jacinto for a period in the afternoon, but that schedule could change if the nurse needs to be at another building.

“What we tried to do was get nurses in there for the times when the most students needed them, but we unfortunately couldn’t get nurses in there all day like we’ve had in the past,” Atkinson said.

Workman said she’s been speaking with administrators at Charleston Administration Center since Monday — the first day of school — trying to find out what they can do for her.

“They are telling me they’ll do the best they can, but no one’s telling me that there will be a nurse there when he needs one,” Workman said.

What they have offered as a solution is to have the principal or school secretary give him the shot, but Workman’s doctor cautioned her against having an untrained person administer the shot.

Atkinson said a looming $15 million debt forced the district to cut back most of the district’s positions, and the nursing staff was no exception. This was the first year that nurses were not permanently stationed at each Lorain school building, which was a shock for many parents.

But Rodrick needs someone in the afternoon more than the morning. His mom gives him a shot of insulin and some breakfast before school every day, and he eats a snack around 9:30 a.m. to stabilize his blood sugar.

The medicine leaves his body around noon, which means that between lunchtime and the end of the school day, Rodrick’s blood sugar could hit dangerous peaks and valleys.

“If he’s not properly taken care of and his blood sugar gets too high or too low, he’ll die,” she said. “He’ll go into a coma and pass away.”

Workman gave the school a palm-sized tester so Rodrick can monitor his blood sugar, but knowing if he’s in danger won’t do any good if he can’t be given his medicine.

Workman said Wednesday she isn’t worried just about her son but also for other children who might have been affected by the cutbacks.

“If they can’t provide for one, how can they provide for thousands?” she asked.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.