I met John Crowley a couple of years ago when I started working with Alliance Health. He’s a sweet, down-to-earth, tech-savvy guy who made me realize — for the first time really realize — how much a child’s diabetes affects every aspect of the parents’ life, even long after that child is able to perform all the daily D-management tasks on their own.
A Guest Post by John Crowley, Caregiver Advocate, DiabeticConnect.com
Long before diabetes became part of our family, I remember watching the movie Steel Magnolias with my wife. The scene where Julia Roberts experienced a low blood sugar was truly horrifying to me. Not only because of the tormented look on her face, but also because of the way Sally Fields forced the orange juice down her throat. I remember thinking, “Is that really the way to do that? It seems like it could kill her?”
Well, my son has now been diagnosed for almost nine years and I still don’t know if the Steel Magnolias portrayal is accurate or not. In all this time, we’ve never seen our son experience a low that caused that kind of reaction. He has been low—really low—but always coherent and able to calmly get some carbs in his system and recover.
As a result, the dreaded “insulin shock” hangs out there as an unknown, a nightmare waiting to happen, a time bomb ticking down. I feel confident in dealing with pretty much every aspect of diabetes, except this one.
A few weeks ago, I thought I was going to have to face my fear in the most stressful of circumstances. We were on a family trip to the east coast. Our kids had never been to that side of the country and we were typical tourists, cramming way too much into every day.
One beautiful Friday, we headed out for Washington DC. We had a fantastic day. The monuments were inspiring. The Holocaust Museum, sobering. The Smithsonian, entertaining. My wife had a bunch of snacks in her purse and we power-walked our way down our list of “must-sees.”
As the afternoon turned to evening, we had only one thing left on the list: Arlington National Cemetery. We stood outside the Lincoln Memorial and looked across the Potomac at Arlington. It was obviously a bit of a walk. But parking had been such a huge headache, we decided it would be best to walk rather than go back to the car and try to find parking again.
It seemed we had made a great choice. The weather was beautiful. People were boating on the Potomac. Bikers and joggers passed by us also enjoying the picturesque day. As we arrived at the JFK memorial, my son started to feel like his blood sugar was dropping. Quickly, we opened my wife’s purse only to find that we had eaten every last snack. My son tested his blood sugar. He was 60 and felt like he was dropping fast.
We turned our back on the walk over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and headed straight for the Arlington Visitor’s Center. Inside the visitor’s center, we asked if there were any vending machines—even for employees. Nothing. Now what?!
I remembered seeing the escalator coming up from the subway station just outside of the cemetery. Surely there would be a vending machine there! So we walked back toward the Arlington Memorial Bridge and hurried down the escalator to the subway station. Again nothing! Is there a law in DC against vending machines?
My son tested again: 50!
Short of calling 911, I couldn’t think of what to do. I didn’t want to overreact. But here we were in a city where we knew no one, where everything is unfamiliar. And we needed a solution FAST! Images of Julia Robert’s contorted face flashed through my mind. Were we really having an emergency? I didn’t know.
My son straightened up and said, “I can make it back to the car,” and he headed up the escalator and across the bridge. I was much less sure than he was. I looked at the water bottle of every biker and jogger who passed by, hopping someone had some Gatorade that I could beg or buy from them. But no such luck.
My son got really frustrated with my questioning how he was feeling every other minute, but I was really scared. He assured me repeatedly that he was going to make it. When we reached the other side of the river, I knew the car wasn’t too far away. I started to feel a little calmer. And sure enough, we reached the car and ripped into the snacks before he dropped too low.
Lesson learned: never, ever eat ALL the snacks!
Thanks for sharing, John. So, do any of you all have a close call story? A frightening low? A time you were caught unprepared?