Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 4 of #DBlogWeek: Creative non-fiction

Today's topic:"We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you've made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small - think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.). (Thanks to Hillary of Rainie and Me for this topic suggestion.)"

It was hot out. My forehead was sticky with only the kind of sweat that comes when the sun is high and the air is thick. I was mid-way through my week at diabetes adventure camp, we were testing our newly learned paddling skills out on the water, where we had spend most of the day. I felt a burn setting in my arms and nose, but I didn't care, I just needed to feel the weight of the water against my paddle. My friend and paddling partner took her hat off and dunked it in Kejimakujik Lake and splashed it back on her head. We were picking up our pace as we zig zagged across the large lake, making rounds and chatting with our co-campers in the other canoes.

We paddled to the beach on the other side of the lake, got out and took a dip. I remember taking extra long as I dove in and felt the cool water wash over me. I remember thinking that it was the best day of my life, and that moment was the best moment of my life. I was free and happy.

As we swam about we were waved on to shore by our counselors and medical staff. It was lunch time, and thankfully our brown bagged lunches were waiting for us. We were a group of about 12 13 year-old type one diabetics, plus staff making us around 17 people sitting on the beach. We all checked our blood sugars, some of us treated lows, some of us treated highs, all of us were in a comfort zone. Nobody was judging us, or questioning why we were doing what we were doing.

My canoe partner and I chatted about the strategy to get back to camp as the wind was picking up and the lake seemed to get angry. We had all finished and gotten back in our canoes and were given some direction by the counselors to stay close to the shore since the water was starting to white cap.

As we started our paddle back we sang songs back and forth, and were happy and cheerful. I wanted to take that moment and live in it forever. The moment when you feel so fulfilled with everything in your life, carefree...happy.

That moment can so quickly change. As we stroked along I noticed Kim started to say some things that didn't make sense. She was slurring a bit and her strokes were uneven at best. Being one of the strongest paddlers in our group, I asked her what's up. She turned to me and just said "low." and she slumped in our canoe. I looked up and our medical canoe was about 90 meters away and the water was very choppy. I blew my help whistle and raised my paddle like I was trained to do. In that moment we did not have low supplies in our canoe, but I did have a baggie full of peppermints. I took the baggie of peppermints out of my backpack and mashed them into a paste with lake water and the grip of my paddle. I got low in the canoe trying to coax Kim to talk to me, I stuck my fingers in the bag and rubbed the peppermint paste on her cheeks and gums. My heart was racing, our canoe was drifting out in the lake, and I could see the staff paddling as hard as they could. It felt like hours.

The peppermint paste was working. I saw her eyes flutter and she was groaning. I asked her not to move, tilted her head to the side and continued to massage the peppermint paste in her mouth without taking my eyes off her. We were bumped hard by the medical canoe. As the nurse did a canoe transfer I was briefing her on what happened and Kim started to Seize. The nurse had me hold Kim steady so our canoe wouldn't rock too much as she prepared the glucagon injection. Quickly and through her shorts Kim got a shot of Glucagon as our co-campers paddled towards us. 

I don't really remember what happened after the fact. I remember paddling that canoe hard with the nurse treating Kim and being tied on to the staff canoe. I remember never feeling so happy to be putting my feet on the tiny rocks of the beach at camp. I remember being whisked away as our camp doctor met us on shore with the sirens of an ambulance not far behind. I remember my legs feeling like jell-o, my skin stung from being licked by the sun and my eyes burned from the tears that were flowing. 

It wasn't until after dinner that our group chatted with the doctor who explained that Kim was doing fine in the hospital and she would be back at camp the next day. I was relieved, and happy that I had the knowledge I did.

The next day Kim arrived back and we finished camp just fine.

Kim never came back to camp in the years following that summer and I often wonder whatever happened to her. But I felt accomplished that I had tackled one of the scariest things that can happen to a person with diabetes. Even if it wasn't my own.

Years later, I would have had the situation happen to several campers as I worked as a staff member, and I always flashed back to that canoe, that lake and those peppermints. I still don't like peppermints to this day.


  1. Wow, Alanna... peppermints, seawater, keeping your eyes fixed on hers. If you didn't have tons of praise heaped on you then, you deserve it now. Well done!

    1. I did, I appreciate it. It's pretty amazing how quick we can think in a time of emergency.