Today while I was packing James’ bag for a weekend away, I wasn’t worrying about type 1 diabetes. I was worrying about hypothermia and frostbite and him catching some kind of lung ailment that people in old British novels get from being exposed to too much cold. I was packing for snow camp.
James was so excited to be going. When you’re a kid from Southern California, snow seems magical. Before I first saw it, I remember thinking it was going to feel like a cross between a marshmallow and a cotton ball. I didn’t expect it to be quite so cold! Now, as a mom, the prospect of sending my child to the mountains… in the snow… overnight… is terrifying!
And so I was assembling all of his warmest things, this cobbled-together assortment of his coziest essentials — lined hoodie sweatshirts from deep in the closet, snowboard gear we borrowed, and thrift-store down-stuffed pieces of dubious fashionableness.
Oh, I packed plenty of supplies to make sure that James has everything he needs for diabetes too! I’ve found that having a prewritten list makes that kind of packing way less stressful. It means I can assume that if I check all the boxes off my list, he’ll have everything he needs. I make sure to follow up with him after every trip to be certain there aren’t any items I need to add to my list and try really hard to keep the list current and exhaustive.
So really the only stress for this trip was the cold. I just didn’t know if we’d be prepared to deal with it! But finally my boys (James and his father Craig) were packed and ready to journey to the mountains to enjoy this great season of snowpack in our often barren California mountains.
Now, on campouts, I can’t usually see James’ blood sugar numbers. James has a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) that uses cell towers to provide me with a live reading of his blood sugar on my phone. It works great for when he’s at school and friends’ homes and extracurricular activities, but it doesn’t work very well for campouts in the mountains where he doesn’t get cell service. But somehow, this time I was still getting live readings! Until midnight, when all of a sudden the numbers stopped.
I trust Craig to take care of James. He’s always learned as much as he can and taken an active role in James’ care. He’s conscientious and responsible. And so at midnight, I actually went to sleep.
But the next morning, I started worrying again. I wish I could say I wasn’t freaking out. But I was freaking out. As soon it was late enough in the morning not to be weird, I texted Craig to see if I could get a reading. It turns out James’ phone died overnight, and that was the reason I stopped seeing numbers
And then Craig texted back a picture of a blood sugar reading that I’d never seen before. It said “Too Cold to Test. Move meter and strip to warmer area. Test in 20 minutes.” Remember, snowpack. It had to be cold to sustain all that snow! Craig later told me it was in the 20s. So, freezing but not subzero, though much colder than anywhere we’d ever gone.
Craig had found a way to warm up the meter, but he wanted me to know that we had just encountered an unusual and unforeseen challenge! James was, as you can probably predict, just fine. His dad had handled it.
It turns out, in fact, that all the campers came down from that mountain unscathed from hypothermia, frostbite, or exposure. James actually had a very typical night diabetes-wise as well. Our kids can do so much, and we should let them! They can handle it — even with the occasional unexpected limitations of technology. And as parents, we need to believe not only in the capabilities of our kids but our own as well.
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.