What's the thing every parent of a diabetic child fears the most? The thing that causes us to set alarms in the wee hours, to wake with every peep our child makes and to awaken each morning with the uncontrollable urge to dash into our sleeping child's room to make sure they are OK? Nighttime Hypoglycemia. It is that terrifying "snake in the grass" that we are forever in fear of. And recently I was made aware of a family who experienced that very thing and shared their experience on their blog. You can read about it here.
This is a family who did everything right. They monitored their daughter's blood sugars diligently, gave snacks for impending lows and bolused for highs. They checked and rechecked and left nothing to chance. But still, this silent enemy ambushed their precious little girl in her sleep. Luckily, she came out of it just fine and was back to enjoying her vacation with her relatives later that same day. But the anguish her parents had to endure had me sobbing as I read their account of what happened early that morning. It could just as easily have been my little girl in that scenario. I could relate to their story all too well, up to the point of them discovering their little girl unresponsive with foam on her pillow; evidence of the seizure her little body had endured not long before they entered her room.
In my previous post I briefly discussed how exercise is such a boon to people with diabetes. And while it is true that exercise can reign in a blood sugar and have the long term benefit of helping to prevent cardiovascular complications, exercise can work too well and send a person into a state of hypoglycemia many hours after the actual activity. This makes it especially challenging to anticipate the effects physical activity will have on blood sugar levels, especially when things have been seemingly normal for a solid 18 hours, or as "normal" as things get with this cursed disease.
I read stories like this with all the empathy that anyone who can relate to what it is like to parent a child with type 1 diabetes would have. I weep for parents who have had to go through such gut wrenching experiences and feel their pain as if it were my own. It could be me one day blogging about such an experience, as much as I hope and pray that it won't be. But it's what we all face as we continue our non-stop, day and night battle against this lawless and relentless disease.
I also read them to learn from what others experience so that I might side-step the same pitfalls and avert possible disasters. But for the life of me, I can't figure out what I could have done differently here, shy of standing guard beside my child's bed with glucometer in hand performing hourly checks with carb tabs and glucagon at the ready.
I can just see my diabetic nurse educator's face now if I were to tell her I stood guard one night while my daughter slept after an afternoon of swimming in hopes of avoiding a nocturnal hypoglycemic seizure. She would look at me like I had two heads! During our last visit I told her that I still check Jenna at least once in the night most nights to ensure she is safe. She was shocked and I think I even detected a tad of judgement in her eyes that I would be so paranoid as to do this; further evidence that one must live this to understand it. Let her know the hourly unpredictability that type 1 diabetes can dish out with her own child and THEN judge my actions. Some things just can't be taught. They must be experienced.
Needless to say, this family's unfortunate encounter with nocturnal hypoglycemia has had quite an impact on me. It makes me realize just how unpredictable this disease can be. Is it any wonder we parents of children with type 1 diabetes feel compelled to reach out to one another for support? We are all performing a tight rope act while we cradle our precious children in our arms. The pressure is immense. The stakes, unfathomably high. And there is no getting off of this tight rope. We've been thrust on it without our consent and without warning. Within our ranks we find no judgement, only compassion and understanding. Because we know, really know what it's like.