How I Learned What a Severe Low Looks Like

I’m a planner by nature; I like being prepared. I’m not a fan of surprises or added stress, so I attempt to be ready for anything. Having a child with type 1 diabetes only increases this need to plan ahead. Blood sugar levels can surge or drop at any time, and it’s my responsibility — at least until my son Rush is older — to bring juice and insulin as well as treatment for severe low blood sugar with us everywhere we go.

And I did, that day Rush and I stopped into the craft store after his basketball game. There’s a running joke in my family that the craft store is a black hole for women; when we enter, we may never return. At least my husband thinks it’s funny. He avoids the craft store like the plague. The kids make him nervous bumping into displays and fiddling with the glass decor. On one particular trip, my husband opted to stay in the car as he did on many occasions. He gave the excuse that my daughter was sleeping and he didn’t want to wake her, but I’m a little more with-it than that. I knew his plan was to avoid the black hole and join her in his own nap.

Earlier that morning, Rush had played in a basketball game, and his blood sugar was currently high. The normal three-hour window to wait after physical activity for a correction had come and gone. So I gave him insulin, and we made the trek inside the store. We wandered in and out of aisles, picked up things and added them to our cart, and finally made our way to the checkout. His blood sugar had been dropping throughout our visit, but not quickly enough that I was concerned.

By the time we made it to the counter, Rush had dropped into the low range. This was still one of our first few months after his diagnosis, so we were extremely green when reading the indicators, noticing the physical signs, and understanding how he reacted after physical activity. As the cashier scanned our items, Rush’s eyes began to glaze. I grew somewhat concerned and asked him if he was okay. He shook his head yes. I probed farther and asked him what our address was and if he could tell me his birthday. He repeated both with no issues. We paid and began to walk out. I had given him a bag to carry as my hands were loaded down. He dropped the bag. He picked it back up and dropped it again. Once again, I asked if he was okay. He told me yes.

Approximately thirty seconds later, we stepped outside the sliding doors, and I noticed him making a jerking motion when trying to walk. From there on out, it was downhill. The jerky movements continued until suddenly he fell to the ground. I immediately threw down my bags and pulled him onto the grass in the median. A lady walking by noticed my panic and asked if she could do anything to help. I pointed in the direction of my car, described it to her, and asked her to run and get my husband.

As she ran off, I had so many thoughts running through my head. What is his blood sugar level? The reading says LOW, but what is it really? Is he having a seizure? Surely this isn’t bad enough to need treatment for severe low blood sugar? Rush was looking at me with wide, distant eyes, and I knew he couldn’t put words together and was scared. I made a split-second decision to give him glucose tabs, threw them in his mouth, and had him chew. In hindsight, and after speaking with his endocrinologist, this was a mistake. If he had seized while chewing he could have choked. I should have just given him the injection for severe low blood sugar, if in doubt. Looking back, what I should have done is extremely clear to me. But I talked myself out of it being serious enough for that.

His blood sugar began to slowly climb as my husband carried him back to the car. He immediately fell asleep, and I cried like a baby. I don’t know that I have ever been so scared in my life. We drove to meet his dad and Amanda (our co-parents), and Rush remembered nothing when he finally woke up. He didn’t even recall being at the store.

Our endocrinologist described the incident as a mini-seizure of sorts. Rush’s blood sugar had been extremely high, he received a correction, and apparently he was a late dropper when it came to physical activity — which isn’t that uncommon. He had dropped from very high to severely low in less than 45 minutes, and his body just could not handle it. All I know is that it was extremely scary, and I thank the Lord above I did something instead of panic. As parents of a child with diabetes, we have to do something, and we have to be prepared for the worst, even if those times are few and far between, or never.

I write this today to give new T1D parents some insight into our first drastic low to help you through yours. It will come, and your job is to be as prepared as you can possibly be in that instance. Hang in there, moms and dads, you’ve got this.

 

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.

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