We had just tucked James and Luke into bed, kissed them, and turned off their lights when all of a sudden it got much darker than we had anticipated. Every light was suddenly extinguished, and all the ambient noise of a modern house immediately ceased. That was what really struck me. I couldn’t tell what was more disconcerting, that it was so dark or that it was so quiet.
The power had gone out — not just for our home but for one quarter of a million other households in the area. Our house was completely dark, but even more impressive was the utter blackness of the night when we peeked outside. We reveled a little bit in the quiet and the dark, and then I started to worry.
The kids, James and Luke, weren’t asleep yet. They noticed that their noise machine wasn’t working and the street light that is normally outside their window wasn’t lit. I heard a creaky bed, some footsteps, and then I saw the first speck of light.
James was leading the way from his room using the light from his insulin pump.
Since around the time he started reading and telling time, that device, ever attached to him, has been a tool for managing his type 1 diabetes. It felt important to me that absolutely nothing in my environment was emitting any light or sound except for that little life-saving piece of technology.
The kids were afraid. And I wasn’t, yet. I remembered fondly a power outage that we experienced as a child. We all bundled together (it had been winter) in the living room and used candles for a little comfort and cheer. I tried to ease the boys’ concerns about the darkness, and I convinced them to go to sleep. Then I did some research.
It turns out that this was no mere power outage. The entire area had lost power because of a very dangerous and rapidly moving wildfire. This information, of course, was obtained from my smartphone, which ended up being an absolutely invaluable tool. Though the power outage itself was causing problems for families all over the area, it was the fire that was utterly terrifying. At one point during that dark night, it was consuming brush at the rate of an acre a minute. And now that my kids were back in their beds, thinking of all the fun things about our dark, quiet, night, I could secretly completely and totally freak out about it.
Craig and I were really worried. We didn’t know how close the fire would get to us. It turns out it missed us by a significant distance, but that first night we didn’t know. And we didn’t feel like we were ready. We weren’t even really ready for the dark! I knew I had a few flashlights somewhere, and in the interim we used James’ pump and then my phone flashlight. But we found that we were significantly less prepared than we had imagined.
What would we grab if we had mere minutes to evacuate? Could we even see what we needed, let alone find it? We thought about what we’d need, and the list seemed long. We mentally tried to slash it. We kept worrying about insulin. We didn’t want to open the fridge and risk it spoiling (and everything else in the fridge with it), but I wanted it to be easy to grab, just in case.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to grab anything. We were the lucky ones. I have contacts through my local type 1 diabetes group who weren’t as lucky as we were. Some of the families did end up evacuating, and at least one family in our group lost their home that very night.
The power outage lasted through the early morning hours, and Craig and I didn’t really sleep much that night, wearing down our phone batteries trying to make sure that we and everyone we loved were safe.
All of the D-families escaped physical harm, and all were able to cobble together the supplies that they needed, some with help from others in our community. Though mostly what was shared was support, love, and hope.
The morning brought power, sunshine, and startling and concerning information. There was a lot of sadness and uncertainty but also a generous community spirit. While this has been a wake-up call for our family to be a little more prepared, we also feel blessed to be part of a community that looks out for their own. I’ve always said that the best part of a diabetes diagnosis is the amazing people that you meet because of it — like the light of an insulin pump in the midst of utter darkness.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.