Picture it. A beautiful nine-mile bike ride starting in the Santa Monica Mountains along a gentle trail, culminating in a bonfire and feast at the beach. Sounds heavenly, right? But then imagine that your child with type 1 diabetes is the one doing the biking, that you cannot attend the event, and that he will almost certainly have no cell reception (therefore no remote blood sugar monitoring) during the mountain portion of the adventure. A little less ideal, right?
We were faced with just such an opportunity. James is associated with a church youth group that offers lots of these kinds of activities. I like everything about the group, but I confess, the helicopter parent in me worries sometimes about these really fun adventures. On this particular occasion parents were welcome to attend. However, because of commitments to my younger kids, it was going to be very difficult for me to come along.
Enter Grandpa. Not all kids have 65-year-old grandfathers who ride bikes every day, but James does. He was the perfect candidate for accompanying James on the bike ride, except for one thing — he’d never managed James’ diabetes without Grandma before.
The most important thing was that he was willing to learn. So together we set up a plan that was certain to culminate in success on the bike ride. My dad put together a kit of supplies to handle any eventuality up in the mountains. We had the usual supplies for a bike ride including ample water and a sweatshirt for the beach part of the excursion. Then we needed diabetes supplies. The event was relatively short in duration, so mostly we just needed to make sure that we had all of our CGM (continuous glucose monitor) supplies and a fully loaded glucometer kit. Then, because James’ blood sugar tends to drop quickly during exercise, we prepared a backpack that contained a lot of fast-acting carbs.
It was a good thing we were so (seemingly) over-prepared! I can never seem to overestimate the effect of excitement and activity on James’ blood sugar. Before he even reached the base of the trail, his blood sugar was low and trending downward. But Grandpa was ready! He kept James at the top of the trail and made sure that his blood sugar was trending back up and was above a certain level before starting the ride. Of course, I only know this because my dad recounted the experience later! At the time, James was already off the grid, and I had no idea what his blood sugar was doing.
The bike ride ended up being an awesome adventure. It was instructive and positive for my dad too. I find that people are less stressed about caring for James when they have an opportunity to actually do it. In my dad’s case, he handled some pretty stubborn low blood sugar numbers, but he realized that he only needed to be patient, to test often, and to have lots of sugar on hand. He said it wasn’t all that complicated, and he felt more confident about spending time with James.
As a parent I try to do everything I can for my kids. But I’m only one person! I think it’s completely awesome when we can rely on our friends and family members to learn to care for our kids with diabetes. In my experience, it takes desire and a little training, and then you just have to go for it. Was I nervous with James up there in the mountains without me and only with Grandpa, newly trained? Maybe a little bit. But this guy was my dad. He’s a great father, very conscientious, and both James and Grandpa came back from the experience with a little more confidence. Heavenly bike ride indeed!
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.