It’s midnight, and I am crouching in the dark watching a dim screen flashing, flashing, flashing…67. I have to wake her up. Thank God I caught it. Thank God I was awake.
Insulin Reaction (or low blood sugar) is a serious thing to someone with diabetes, and can cause seizures, comas, even death. That child sleeping in the bed shouldn’t be under 80, especially at night. I stumble into the kitchen to grab a juice, measure out the 4 ounces needed to balance out the low number. Go back in, try not to trip and spill the juice.
She’s crying from being woken, crying from not feeling well, just crying. I try to get the juice drank. She grudgingly slurps it up. I know her body must be thirsting for it, but she has to put up a show of defiance. 12:15. She fights me as I pull her hand to me, rub it off and hold the lancet to her finger. I can tell I’ve picked the wrong finger as “ghost holes” from previous testing start slowly oozing blood. The meter reads 54. Off I run to the kitchen, grabbing an extra juice box and come back with the straw already in and squirting out apple juice all over my hands. I trip on toys, on shoes and dolls. So much for not waking baby brother-he jerks upright in bed as she starts to wail and cry. She’s hitting my hand as I ask her to drink the juice. The fear is choking me now because she’s not acting like herself at all. I’m threatening, pleading, begging, sobbing, but she still won’t put her lips on the straw. I test again, not wiping her finger off, not caring that I didn’t change the lancet, focusing only on the tiny flashing bar that indicates the machine is working…3…2…1…and she’s 37. I pick up the phone and dial my husband’s cell.
The message must be unintelligible. “Please call home (drink the juice). We need you (DRINK the damn juice!). Grace’s blood sugar is going low and I can’t get her to drink (Oh Please, please, please drink the juice!).” In the background is my one year old son crying because he’s scared, my daughter screaming and thrashing around like she is possessed. I hang up and try to force breath out. Offer the juice rationally, calmly even. She refuses to even look at me. The big ball of fear is churning, making me feel like I’m going to vomit. It’s now 12:30 and I practically sit on her to control her hand so I can check again. I can feel her small body trying to resist me, and I’m afraid I’m hurting her but this has to be done. 27. I squeeze another drop of blood out, drop the vial of test strips on the floor after I insert one. Another countdown, and she’s 22. I freeze for what seems an eternity. I can feel a panic attack wheezing through my chest, but know I have to push it away and move on. Suddenly a bulb goes off in my head and time starts moving again. Skittles! I run into the kitchen and grab a handful of Fun Size Skittles.
And thank God, she eats them. Then she drinks the juice and asks for more. And I give it to her. I get her out of bed and onto the couch and watch her drink every bit of that wonderful sugar, eat every bite of that glorious pack of Skittles. It’s now around 12:50, and she is calmed down and watching television. She even holds her hand out for me, languidly dangling it like she is getting ready to bestow queenly blessings on me as I gather her test supplies. Another count-down, another number. 90! High enough to make me feel relieved, but I can’t even think about putting her back to bed. She and her brother settle down on the beanbag, snuggling under covers and watching a movie. They think it’s great, now that they’re both fully awake and watching a movie.
I go into the kitchen to make a nice snack for us all, and realize I have to the emergency Glucagon kit grasped in my fist. It’s a thick and scary needle, requiring mixing a powder and liquid together and then being plunged into a muscle to administer a dose of a natural form of powerful sugar to the body. It’s to be used in seizures, or when she absolutely won’t or can’t eat or drink. I have to pry my fingers from around the body of the case. I was a step away from using this, a second away from gouging another needle into her to keep her alive. As I methodically clean up the juice in the kitchen, I feel the soreness of my hand from gripping the kit so tightly. I must have been on auto-pilot when I grabbed it as I don’t even remember taking it out of the cabinet.
I bring in a snack and sit on the couch. The kids are enthralled by the colorful cartoon movie, but I can hardly see it. In my head I’m reliving the last 45 minutes, the fear and the overwhelming thankfulness. I know that she is going to fall asleep soon, and I know that I won’t be able to. I’ll check her at 2 am, at 4am, at 6am, until I’m sure she will be all right. I don’t mind-it might well save her life one day. My eyes start to blur and I realize I’m silently crying.
The next day, I blearily call the hospital from work. We’ve done everything the way we were told, she was fine the rest of the night. There’s no reason to point to, no where to place the blame. Why did it happen? They can’t tell. I’m told that I’m lucky that I didn’t have to give her the emergency shot, to call 911. All I can think is the sentence that my parents would scold me for…It just doesn’t seem fair. I know life isn’t fair. I can deal with that. But my daughter has Type 1 diabetes. She is four years old. And I can’t do anything about it except do the best I can.