DRAPER — Someone had used spray-paint to emblazon "DIABETIC" on the rooftop where a group was stranded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"It was a really hopeless, helpless feeling for me," Jennifer Lindley said about seeing the image on the news. "I didn't know what to do for him."
Lindley, who is a Type 1 diabetic and has a son with the same condition, also felt a sense of desperation herself and began scouring the Internet for emergency supplies to keep in her own home, in case of an emergency.
"We have all the supplies on hand, but we don't have them organized and so you'd have to pick and grab everything to go, if you were in an evacuation situation," she said.
The experience sparked an idea that has led to the mass production of emergency diabetic kits, as well as other kits to assist people with other chronic illnesses, including asthma and heart problems.
"I wanted it to be something that everyone could feel that they could buy, because it is a necessity. It's not a luxury item," Lindley said.
Her new company, Essential Preparedness Products, which is based in American Fork, assembles and sells the kits, officially called a med-Ecase, for $69.99, plus shipping costs. Five percent of the proceeds, Lindley said, go to the American Diabetic Association and the Juvenile Diabetic Research Foundation, because "that is really where my passion is."
Lindley, who has served on the board of directors for the JDRF, said the group has made a huge difference in the lives of diabetics around the world, and she hopes the emergency kits do the same.
"It doesn't matter if you live in a disastrous-type area on the hurricane coast, or in Tornado Alley, or in an earthquake zone, personal disasters happen all the time," she said, adding that when her own insulin pump quit working earlier this year, Lindley had to rely on the supplies in her emergency kit, a prototype she had been carrying around at the time.
"I had to go through my log book and read how to convert everything over to shots and I had to go back to the basics of diabetes for five days," she said. "It definitely made me understand the use and the reasons why we need this case."
The Diabetic med-Ecase comes with foam inserts to customize the kit for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, as well as miscellaneous compartments for pills and/or syringes. It is also equipped with an ice pack to preserve insulin potency throughout the duration of an emergency situation.
However, Lindley said she doesn't recommend keeping insulin in the waterproof, air-tight pack all the time, even if the kit is being used on a daily basis.
Lindley released the product locally for the first time last month. It is available online, at www.med-Ecase.com, or by calling 855-377-6333. She is planning a national release to coincide with JDRF events in New York City later this week.
"The area is prone to terrorist threats and they've just had Hurricane Irene," Lindley said. "They are very mindful of disaster and evacuating and things like that."
Medical professionals, including endocrinologist Dr. Jack Wahlen, have endorsed the product and have also provided input during development.
"It is surprising how many patients call when they are in fairly critical personal circumstances where they have run out or lost medications," he said.
Lindley said she wasn't in the market to start a new business, but when the need presented itself, she knew she had to do something. She is an advocate of helping people get control of their diabetes, and not letting it control them, she said.
In addition to having an emergency stash of treatment options, Lindley said diabetes management is made up of performing regular blood checks, counting carbohydrates, daily exercise and monitoring insulin levels.
"Being prepared for emergencies is always about having enough food storage and a water supply, and that's great, but for some people, their lifeline is medication and this kit puts that in reach," she said. "Do I have all the supplies in my house? I do. As well as most diabetics do. But it is really nice to have them organized and ready to go."