That scary, ugly glucagon needle

Yesterday, the whole family went to the ADA’s family skating event in Falmouth. Well, as far as the skating was concerned, Eric and I both weren’t very good and so didn’t last long, although my husband and the older kids had a ball. But after the skating came the Q&A, which was basically a panel of teenage athletes with Type 1 diabetes (plus the parents of the youngest child on the panel, a 9-year-old girl) fielding questions about how they handled their diabetes in the context of sports. But after a while, it turned into a question & comment free-for-all among the parents. And what got me was when the father of a little girl asked about extreme lows and seizures, adding that his daughter had been in the 30s one night and he’d been feeding her sugar at 3 a.m., and he wanted to know at what point a seizure or passing out kicked in. The mother on the panel turned green and said she’d never seen that, even though her daughter has had diabetes 4 or 5 years now. Since I had seen it — Eric has had 2 such episodes, one in which he started to seize while I was giving him juice, and the other in which I saw him start to pass out and hit him with the glucagon because he’d just thrown up and juice wasn’t happening — I took the mic and told them about it, essentially saying, "We have to all make an effort to remember that it’s there, and if our kid is below 40, we need to get it out and use it, and stop messing around with the juice."

Now, of course, I wish I’d said more. Because what I didn’t address is the fact that I know deep down in my heart that I don’t reach for the kit when I ought to for the same reason my daycare provider doesn’t, which is, the damn thing is too freaking scary. It looks like something out of a CIA interrogation kit. Lilly and Novartis ought to put bunny or butterfly stickers on that blasted needle, because just looking at it makes you flinch — never mind actually picking it up to use it. I called it “that nasty-looking needle” when I was talking about it and the first response after I finished speaking was someone from the other side of the room saying, “Yeah, that needle is pretty scary to look at.” And that’s what’s been on my mind, enough that I’m on the blog at 3:30 a.m.

We all know intellectually that the glucagon kit is a necessary means of retrieving someone with T1 from the complications of extreme low blood sugar — hell, not to mince words, it can stop our kid or spouse or friend from dying. Emotionally, though, it’s very, very hard to use. Using glucagon means accepting, intellectually, that your loved one could be in imminent danger. It also means that you have the burden of acting to save them, which should be easy for a parent to bear, but it isn’t. Because behind that is the fear that you’re not going to do it! And, it means you have to stick that nasty-looking huge needle into some part of their body… and this is not the hair-thin insulin syringe, this is a bloody huge pointy thing that looks like it should be used on a horse. (As a horse owner, I can tell you, it’s actually pretty close to the same size as the needles my vet uses!)

Those are pretty big hurdles to get over. I’ve managed it once, and that was with my husband (who wasn’t present, but who was on the phone with me) coaching me. “You have the glucagon needle, right?” It wasn’t till he said it that I even remembered I did, and reached for the box instead of the juice. I hope that I’ll be quicker on the grab the next time. Although like any parent, I really, really pray there won’t BE a next time.