We’re a hiking family — we always have been. My husband and I are avid hikers, and so when we had kids, we just took them along with us and haven’t stopped since. We’ve hiked all over the country, visiting many of our national parks and seeing so many beautiful things that we otherwise might not have had an opportunity to experience.
When Kaitlyn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we didn’t even consider that we wouldn’t hike anymore. We take precautions and come prepared, but we’ve never started a hike that we couldn’t finish. Until just a couple weekends ago.
My husband and I, along with Kaitlyn and her oldest brother, started a local hike literally right down the street from our house. We’ve completed it dozens of times, so we were aware of the difficulty level and were very familiar with the terrain. Since it was just the four of us, and all of us are pretty experienced hikers, we started off at a brisk pace. We were mindful that Kaitlyn had high blood sugars earlier that morning, and that she had changed her pump site and given a correction. She dosed for her normal breakfast, wore her continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and packed a glucose meter, snack, water, and fast-acting sugar. She was ready!
She started out the hike just fine, a little on the high side still from the morning, but knowing that she would be exercising, she decided to slowly nibble on some candy as we went along. As we hit the first rise, she was dropping pretty quickly, so she ate more candy and suspended insulin on her pump as we continued on. She noticed that she was a little more tired than usual but kept on trucking along.
We continued up the mountain, and she was dropping very quickly by this point. She ate a full protein bar and tried to counteract her exercise with even more sugar, but she dropped 150 points within a half hour and was getting quite tired. She was still not in low range, because she started the hike higher than usual. But I don’t think I have ever seen her drop so quickly and drastically before! Finally, she was dropping so fast, and feeling so bad, that she had to stop.
Her dad, who was up ahead a little bit, looked back at us and wondered what was going on. The look on Kaitlyn’s face said it all! She looked so defeated. We stopped for a rest and realized that it was not a good idea for us to keep going. She wanted so badly to be brave and determined and finish the hike, but her body just wasn’t letting her do it that day. With tears in her eyes, she agreed to turn back. We slowly and carefully started down the mountain, taking lots of breaks and making sure she was stable as we went along, and made it back safely.
I’m still not sure why she had such a hard time that day when she has hiked successfully so many times before. It could have been that she didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before, and the hike was pretty challenging. It could have been that she had a brand-new infusion site that was working a little too well. It could have been that she was coming down from her high morning blood sugar. Maybe she was fighting off an illness, or maybe it was all of the above.
What I do know though is that she is not a quitter, she’s not lazy, and she’s not afraid. She is brave and she has grit and she finishes what she starts! I told her later, though, that sometimes the brave thing is to do what your body needs you to do. She might not have finished the hike this time, but I have no doubt that she’ll finish when her body cooperates next time.
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.