"Grandma's Close Call"

Written by Linda Weltner
Published in Diabetes Forecast
April 2007

AS THE GRANDMOTHER of a 7-year-old who had just been diagnosed with type I diabetes, I quickly learned how much I didn't know. One particular experience taught me just how much.

I made plans to take Danny and his 10-year-old sister, Jessie, to the Museum of Science in Boston. We'd see a one-hour IMAX movie, Danny would do his own blood sugar testing, I would give him his shot. Then we'd come home. It would take only four hours. Surely I could manage this.

We were within sight of the museum when a thick cloud of smoke rose up from under the hood of my 1984 station wagon. The kids panicked.

''The car's on fire!" Jessie shouted. I quickly pulled over into a nearby hospital parking lot and herded the kids and my dog, Pandora, out of the car. Forget the museum. I needed to figure out how to get us home. None of our friends were home, and I couldn't take a dog on the subway, so I called AAA and prayed.

Jessie, Danny, and I waited, sitting on a curb in the parking lot. When the tow truck arrived, the driver explained to me that it was against the law to tow a car with a dog in it. I noticed that Danny, who'd been waiting patiently until then, was crying.

"Don't be sad," I said to Danny. "We'll come back another time." Tears trickled down his cheeks.

"Nana," Jessie said hesitantly, "I think he's low."
It was only 11:30 a.m., not yet time to check, but check I did: Danny's blood sugar level was 43. He hadn't been quiet all this time out of patience. He'd been disoriented, passive, overwhelmed by his body's reaction. I reached for the glucagon shot, but couldn't remember how to assemble it.

"Don't give him glucagon yet, Nana," Jessie said. "Here. Try this tube of frosting." I was shaking by the time I got back to the truck driver.

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"My grandson's blood sugar is too low," I explained. "He's just been diagnosed with diabetes, and I don't know what I'm doing." The guy glanced at the kids. Jessie's arm was around Danny's shoulder.

"Will the dog stay on the floor of my cab?" he asked.

"Thank you," I whispered. "Come on, kids. We're going."

Back home, I threw myself into bed and cried. I wasn't trustworthy. I hadn't been attentive enough. I couldn't recognize a low when I saw one. I felt unreliable and ashamed. Every time I recalled the scene, I shrank inside.

Eventually, I took a deep breath and got out of bed. My daughter and my grandchildren needed me. There was no room for self-indulgence or cowardice. I'd learn what I needed to know. I'd do better next time.

And I did. Danny and I soon made it back to the Museum of Science, where we happily spent an entire day without a moment's concern.

Linda Weltner wrote the weekly column, "Ever So Humble," in the At Home section of The Boston Globe for 19 years. Her column was carried by newspapers around the country through the New York Times Wire Service. She is the author of two novels for young adults and two collections of her columns. She was awarded the Best Columnist Award by the New England Women's Press Association, and given the Gold Award from National Mature Media Awards 2000 for best feature in a magazine. She has addressed over 300 audiences.