When An Evening Walk Turns Scary


A few nights ago, my six-year old son Sacha and I took our dog Molly for an evening walk. Somehow, I managed to walk out the door without his diabetes kit; no blood glucose meter, no juice, no glucagon. That almost never happens, but that night, it did. Rookie mistake. 

Sacha happily ran around for a while, climbing on, and jumping off, stone walls along the way. He was having a blast. 

Suddenly, he stopped, and whispered that he was very tired. No more running or jumping. He just stood there.  “He’s low,” I realized, and reached for the diabetes kit.

It wasn’t there.

I pulled his Continuous Glucose Monitor out of his belt to see where things stood, but it was blinking an out-of-order message: “Replace Sensor.” Damn; a perfect type 1 diabetes storm. 

We were about 10 minutes away from the house, if we were to walk back, or five minutes if we could run. What to do? It was dark and the streets were empty,  although the nearby homes still had lights on. It was only about 8 pm on a chilly fall night in Minneapolis. 

I made a move to sling Sacha over my shoulder and make a run for it – he’s only 55 pounds – but he bravely refused, reminding me that I had recently had lumbar fusion surgery, and wasn’t allowed to lift much weight. He was right; 55 pounds might do real damage.  

I called my wife at home, hoping she could jump in the car with the blood glucose monitor and a box of juice. She didn’t pick up; her cellphone must have been in another room. We don’t have a landline. We had a houseguest over, so I called her cell. She wasn’t picking up either.

I didn’t know what to do. Call an ambulance? Seemed like a big move, given that I really didn’t know what my son’s blood sugar was. I didn’t want to subject him to all that fuss if he didn’t need it. He had a seizure last year, I called an ambulance, and the ensuing paperwork took an hour.  

Should I go and knock on someone’s door, and ask for juice? Again, I wasn’t sure that was the right thing to do. (It was – more later).  

I decided to try and walk slowly back home together. I kept talking with Sacha, asking him repeatedly how he felt. When he angrily asked me to stop, I figured he might be well enough to get home. 

We made it back within 10 minutes. There in the entrance to the house was his diabetes kit; BG meter, juice, glucagon. I quickly tested his blood, and found that his glucose levels were low – 75 – but at least not in the 50s.

Sacha quickly drank the box of juice, and just like that, the crisis was resolved.  

I think back on those few minutes now, and kick myself for not being more proactive. I should have knocked on a neighbour’s door, and asked for a glass of juice. Why didn’t I? Perhaps I didn’t want to make a scene? Perhaps I wanted to save Sacha embarrassment?

Worse, perhaps I was ashamed I would have to tell a neighbour that I had walked outside, in the night, with a six year old suffering from type 1 diabetes, without proper equipment? 

Every day, every night, every minute, my wife and I, our caregiver and Sacha’s teachers, are next to him with BG monitor, juice, and glucagon. Once in a blue moon, one of us forgets. This time, nothing adverse happened; no seizure, no damage, no hospitalization.  

Please, don’t let me forget his kit again. And if I do forget, please don’t let anything happen to him. 

Raising a child is always a huge responsibility. Type 1 diabetes makes it so much more so. Most days, I don’t think about it much.

But every now and then….

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9 years ago

Maybe try stashing candy in all coat pockets. My rockets often end up going through the wash if I don’t check all pockets, but at least something always ends up being there if I forget to mindfully grab something. I understand about not wanting to make a scene for nothing – a tough choice! Glad your son was okay in the end!

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