I Think We Saved Our Son’s Life Last Night
Our last night before a cleanse for the week, we decided to get one last hurrah in and were quite intoxicated when, watching a show downstairs, we were suddenly surprised to hear the frantic screams of our child up in his room.
It was hard to comprehend at first as it was fast, mumbled and repetitive, but we soon realized as we ran up the stairs that he was screaming, “MOMMY, I NEED JUICE!” My husband started to check his blood immediately as I dashed down the stairs at full speed for the sacred life-saving serum—a juice box.
I paused for only the briefest of seconds as I stared at the three last juice boxes we had in the house and decided to take them all up with me. I couldn’t believe we had been so stupid not to have his room stocked. Or that we only had three juice boxes in the house. 46 mg/dl2.6 mmol/l. That’s what his blood glucose level was at-low, but certainly not as low as he’s ever been. [This is a kid that didn’t notice that he was 27 mg/dl1.5 mmol/l once.]
So I thought, “This is probably just a combination of a night terror (though he’s never had one before) and a low.” But, then it got weird and scary. He adamantly refused the juice now and was shaking violently. No words, just violent jerking and screams. I pulled out the glucagon and followed all the instructions listed before me in the inside of the kit lid. Insert syringe, fill glucose bottle with water, shake well, suck up glucose, remove from bottle, stab child in thigh.
Having been warned about giving too much glucagon, I only gave him half the dose. The tremors and jerking didn’t subside. Though, now he kept seeing images of nurses coming at him with needles and he was violently trying to keep them away. Periodically he would look at me and through his sobbing would ask, “What’s happening?”
His words were mumbled and his jaw was clenched. Unless he was asking me what was happening, he didn’t know I was there. His eyes looked right through me and he begged for me to come to him. As I sat in front of him trying to comfort him. His body jerked unpredictably and wouldn’t stop. At this point I started to suspect what we were witnessing was a hypoglycemic seizure, specifically a “partial seizure”. He was covering almost all the signs and symptoms from the onset to the actual thing:
- Feeling cold or clammy
- Unexplained emotional behaviors
- Uncontrollable crying
- Unaware of surroundings
- Changes in vision
- Loss of ability to speak clearly
- Loss of muscle control
- A trance like state
- Eyes staring into space
- Eyes blinking rapidly
- Inability to respond
- Uncontrollable bodily movements—jerking
- Involuntary muscle contraction
All but a few, really … I knew this was different from my second eldest child’s febrile seizure that she had at 18 months old. That one was scary, but there was something distinctly different about this. The one very significant difference is that the blood sugar irregularities that can cause a diabetic seizure can also cause the patient with diabetes to lapse into a coma.
We knew it needed to be treated as a medical emergency. We knew that he was either already having a seizure or that he was quickly on his way there. I stuck him with the rest of the remaining glucagon as my 200+lbs husband desperately fought to keep him from moving. We called 911.
His eyes, like saucers, filled with terror and looked out to who-knows-where while his body danced madly and uncontrollably on the hard floor. In a moment of “clarity,” or at least in a moment where he realized my husband was with him, he begged for his father to keep “them” at bay. So my sweet husband sat there cradling my type 1 child with his arm stretched out, warning off the invisible nurses who were attacking him with needles.
Finally the glucagon began to take effect. He started to quiet down a bit within the folds of my husband’s strong and calming embrace. He asked for me and he requested to finally drink the juice box. I was talking to the paramedic on the emergency line at the time and decided to cancel the ambulance.
The entire ordeal lasted from 10:34 p.m. to 10:42 p.m. Eight minutes. Eight minutes that stopped time entirely.
But it was over now … for now.
As we prepped him to check his blood again the silent tears escaped me. He was too out of it to notice, I’m thankful for that as the warm drops fell hard onto his meter. It is all too real that seizures in people with diabetes can lead to coma, which can lead to brain swelling and brain injury and all too often to death.
“Diabetes is a serious disease and if blood glucose levels are not regularly monitored and controlled, multiple complications may occur. A hypoglycemic seizure is one of these complications. It is triggered by dangerously low blood sugar levels. This condition may lead to a diabetic seizure. It can be fatal if not treated right away.”
We witnessed too many of those exact types of deaths over the summer through the media. A little girl, no older than my youngest at the time, died of “complications” due to type 1. She fell into a coma, this time because of hyperglycemia. Later, a boy a little older died at basketball camp, because the staff ignored that he was a person with diabetes when he began to vomit (extremely dangerous to people with diabetes). And the list goes on, spanning from children to adults.
I’m sitting here as he lays beside me. “Mumma, can I sleep with you?” You better believe it. I don’t ever want to let you go. I know he won’t really remember this night, but I will never forget.
I can only hope it never happens again. I had just finished telling someone that in the almost three years that we have watched him deal with diabetes, we have never had to use glucagon or to call an ambulance. He has never once had a seizure. That is, until tonight. Isn’t that always the way. Just as soon as you feel confident it will never happen to you, to him, ever. Then it happens.
Not sure I will be able to sleep tonight. I am about to check his blood again and will likely do so multiple times until morning. His face is covered in black face paint, the outlines of a baseball from the party he was at earlier have been rubbed all over through the thrashing of the seizure. He looks like a messed up clown, and although all I want to do is clean his face … I will let him sleep. Dirty or not, he is my sweet son whose disease made me question whether his life was in immediate danger. He can get face paint on my sheets and stick his elbow in my ear while he snores beside me as much as is possible, because he is alive. Alive.
As far as we can tell, we just saved our son’s life. Or at least, we very likely did. And I will never underestimate this disease again.