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Looking Back : Diabetic's Crusade Grows Out of Arrest for Drunk Driving

December 31, 1987|GARRY ABRAMS

Terry Herst has had a good year to make up for one of the worst days of her life.

In fact, Herst, a diabetic, says that since a View story on her travails appeared last April, she has continued to transform her disease and her drunk-driving arrest into positive assets in her life. Along the way, Herst reports that she has become something of a regular at law-enforcement conventions, drunk-driving seminars and similar gatherings as she wages a one-woman crusade to educate police about the symptoms of her disease.

Shaking and Sweating

Among other things, Herst, 50, says she took her message--that symptoms of diabetes such as shaking and sweating can mimic drunkenness--to the 5,000 people attending International Assn. of Chiefs of Police 94th annual convention in Toronto last October. She has been circulating a red-and-white poster/brochure headlined in capital letters: "Drunk? Drugs? or Diabetic Emergency?" She also has produced and appeared in more than 20 half-hour public access cable television shows in West Los Angeles about diabetes as well as working with individual diabetics.

Earlier this month, she says, she even spent the wee hours of a weekend night at a police sobriety checkpoint on the off-chance that a living illustration of her message would come along.

"I'm working close to 24 hours a day on education about diabetes," she says, adding, "I will lecture anywhere, I will work with anyone."

Herst, who has a law degree, plans a fast start in 1988. In January she says she'll be hiring a full-time assistant for her diabetes work--which she has dubbed "Living Well." In the next few months she hopes to complete a book about her experiences and her disease. She also wants to broaden her education efforts to include airport security workers.

Well-Connected Woman

Herst's mission was sparked more than a year ago when the financially independent and socially well-connected woman maintains she was mistakenly arrested for drunk driving. All along she has maintained that her symptoms were actually signs of a diabetic reaction called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

Although she was convicted--and subsequently lost an appeal in the case--early this year Herst persuaded the Los Angeles Police Department to produce a three-minute training video which described diabetic symptoms and informed officers that treatment of diabetics--drunk or sober--should have priority over police business.

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