For most, the number, twenty-nine, represents a count of something: years, dollars, tweet views, whatever. I too attach a meaning to this number but it is one that I assume is rather unique in this world. Twenty-nine represents the time I almost killed my daughter.

Only a couple of months removed from her diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), at a young age of three years old, my wife and I were still learning how to manage our daughter’s disease. There were lots of mistakes but nothing seemingly disastrous. That changed one night when I decided to be aggressive in treating a stubbornly increasing high blood sugar level. And I did so at the time when we were flying blind: our daughter’s continuous glucose monitor (CGM) had entered into an error mode and had stopped reporting back her blood sugar levels every five minutes, per normal function. But she was so high though that I believed that all would be OK. And I was so tired that I could not withstand a night of constant alarms about dangerously high blood sugar levels.

Like most nights, having helped run the day with my wife, getting kids ready for school, meals prepared, showers executed and all of the other things parents do to make it through the day, I was exhausted. Dozing in and out, but with the knowledge that I was without the precious blood sugar data necessary to know what was happening with my daughter, I fought sleep for some time. I lost the battle. Several hours later, I thankfully woke. I checked the phone that would report the blood sugar numbers streaming off the CGM attached to my daughter’s belly. Still no readings. Still the error condition. For some reason, I had the thought to do a manual check. To prick my sleeping daughter’s tiny finger in order to grab a drop of blood to be read by the glucometer. I still remember the hesitation of not proceeding with a finger prick. My bed was too inviting. Sleep still seemed like it could be visited again.

Doing a finger prick in the darkness of the night, with aging eyes and lights kept off so others can continue sleeping, is indeed a skill. One that I wish I did not have to have. But one that I have perfected nevertheless. That night was not much different: find the glucometer, prepare a test strip, swab a finger with an alcohol pad, and then use the lancing device to prick a small hole in the finger, through which blood could flow on to the test strip. The numbers come back quick enough and that night, much like many others, I waited the five seconds to see what the glucometer had determined was her current blood sugar levels.

29. 29. 29. The number flashed on to the small screen of the glucometer, the dim light the only illumination in the dark room. It was – and still is – a number worthy of panic. I shouted to my wife, ran downstairs, returning quickly with a box juice, hoping beyond hope that she was still able to take the juice in, that she had not become unconscious and unable to draw the sugar-laden liquid up through the straw and into her mouth and ultimately down the throat and into the stomach. She was able to. And we let the sugar works its magic. We did more finger sticks and her numbers began rising. Disaster averted.

As I climbed back into bed, enveloped in the blackness of the night, I lay next to my wife. We were both silent. But I was not silent for long.

Thunderous waves of emotion rolled through me. The crying was as deep and profound as when I was in a similarly darkened room during our first night in the hospital, post diagnosis. Fundamental, relentless emotions took control and I could not stop the convulsions, the sobs and the tears. I tried to speak, to let my wife know that I had checked my daughter’s blood sugar levels mostly on a whim. I tried to tell her that it was luck. But no words could be formed and she held me tight.

Twenty-nine is just a number. For me though, it is a reminder that, while managing T1D is indeed much easier than ever before, thanks to so many incredible technological innovations, mistakes can happen and those mistakes have life and death consequences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *