Not too long ago I wrote about my anguish surrounding an upcoming high school field trip. I outlined how I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to the box on the field trip permission form that would indicate whether I wanted James to have assistance related to his type 1 diabetes. James and I had discussed it, and we decided he could handle his diabetes needs for this trip. So, although somewhat reluctantly, I left the box blank. I thought he’d be okay. I just didn’t know what to do, and that non-answer had been my answer! Fortunately, I was able to report that regardless, everything had appeared to go perfectly. It was a relief. I credited it to James’ newfound sense of personal responsibility, the fact that the field trip was short and close by, and our extra care in making sure that his blood sugar was relatively stable before the event. It seemed like I had made a good decision not to check that box.
It turns out, there is a tad bit more to the story, which I found out in a kind of accidental way.
When James was in elementary school and junior high, I knew the nursing staff and office staff extremely well. I talked with the school health tech daily. By contrast, I rarely talk to the high school. They almost never see my face. Recently I was at the school to check up on something entirely unrelated, and I thought I might just double-check how the diabetes supplies were holding up in the health office. James no longer regularly visits the health office, but there have been a handful of occasions where he was out of a particular supply and went there to retrieve a juice box, test strips, or other such item.
My check-in prompted a nice visit with the school nurse. We talked about responsibility, and I was expressing to her how incredibly liberated we were now (since James has become so independent) and what a departure it was. I even related to her my anxiety about which box to choose for the field trip. Did I check the box that said James needed help? Or the box that said he didn’t need help? I confessed to her that I hadn’t checked either, sort of leaving it to fate… or deciding on no help by default, as I suspected.
That’s when she let me know that it hadn’t quite gone that way. The nursing staff had reviewed the field trip permission slips. They saw James’ form, recognized that he had a 504 plan (that pointedly did not address the issue of field trips), and saw that the teacher needed to be aware of certain issues that might arise while James was off campus. So, unbeknownst to me, the nurse trained the teacher on recognizing signs of low blood sugar and equipped him with some fast-acting sugar sources and instructions to contact the office if they suspected anything was awry. What’s more, the teacher was completely open to this kind of intervention, as he happened to have a sister with type 1 diabetes himself!
I had no idea that this conversation had taken place or that this kind of training had been initiated prior to the field trip. Was I upset? Heavens, no! I was thrilled.
It did change my internal narrative a little bit. James wasn’t quite as independent as I had previously assumed. But what an amazing thing to be a part of a school so thorough and thoughtful in their care for my child! I had assumed that not checking a box would lead to no help, but instead, they were careful enough to do the most cautious, most protective thing, and I’m grateful for that care and attention. I’m thankful for a nurse with eagle eyes and a strong sense of responsibility. I’m thankful for a teacher so open-minded and willing to help. And I’m still thankful for circumstances that merited no need for either!
So the narrative changed a bit. No longer was this simply a field-trip-turned-fortunate-nonevent that James was most likely totally prepared for — this was now a field trip that was designed by the school to take care of his every need. I’m totally happy he’s so well looked after. I still think he would have been okay. We rehearsed what he needed to do and what help he might require. But I’m glad that the school went above and beyond the scope of his health care plan to make sure that he was safe at school and away.
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.