I chaperoned a five day, four night, 120 kid high school field trip last month.
While there was a school nurse traveling with the group, and while my kid does most of her diabetes management alone at this point, I wasn't completely comfortable letting her take this trip on her own. And, perhaps more importantly, she didn't feel completely comfortable either. Our concerns included:
-The farthest my kid has ever travelled for a sleepover is 5 blocks from home. She's never been away for more than about 18 hours. Going from that level of overnight diabetes self-care to a 4 night trip over a thousand miles from home felt to both of us like way too big of a leap.
-The trip involved air travel. My arrival for an emergency (gastrointestinal illness, first-ever glucagon use, other unforeseeable situation) would be both significantly delayed and extraordinarily expensive. Also, while I'm sure someone could have walked her through airport security, the TSA checkpoint is a minefield for people with diabetes and we were concerned about her potential need for a strong advocate should she get pulled aside.
-The trip involved five days of dining out. My daughter has never managed more than two restaurant meals in a row on her own and was nervous about not having someone there to eyeball the carb counts with her and/or help her pick up the pieces after a bad guess.
-The trip's itinerary was intense. And the itinerary didn't lie. My Fitbit tells me I walked 10 miles a day with lots of 'active' time. We rose by 6:30, earlier some days, and the kids were not required to be in their rooms until 11 p.m. There were regular transitions from place to place with few moments to stop and regroup. Amusement park rides, swimming pools, and several performances including marching in a parade were all on the agenda. We were concerned that the level of activity combined with the lack of time to stop and think about diabetes could lead to problems significant enough to slow my kid down or derail her participation. It felt important to have someone there both to remind and support her as she took the time to care for her diabetes, and to stay behind with her should she need to stop and wait out a low or trouble-shoot a high.
We decided that sending her on this trip without a parent was too much to ask of my child, the nurse, and the staff. Also, spending 5 days flipping between the Dexcom app and the 'Find My Friends' app on my phone while simultaneously trying to remember to breathe didn't really appeal. After a couple of conversations with the teacher in charge of the trip I was, despite a certain level of anxiety about chaperoning a group of high school kids, grateful to be given the opportunity to go.
On the trip I performed a variety of general chaperone duties, got to know some great kids and adults, and got to be part of a unique adventure. As far as my mom-of-a-kid-with-diabetes role, I mostly watched from a safe distance while my kid did her own thing. She talked to the TSA people on her own. She kept the Dexcom with her overnight and woke to respond to its alarms. She did her own site change in her hotel room. She counted her own carbs, asked questions at restaurants, and, on more than one occasion, sent back sweetened iced tea for the unsweetened she'd ordered. She made decisions about dosing and snacking based on her activity level. She carried her own supplies. Her blood sugars weren't perfect, but given the food and schedule they were good enough. She spent the days with her friends and I spent them with the other chaperones.
As it turned out my presence was more of a convenience than a necessity. I provided some in-line coaching and moral support as we went through airport security. I handed her extra water to combat the effect of heat on her blood sugars. I helped her with an unanticipated Dexcom sensor change when the one we put in the day before the trip inexplicably conked out. I met her at a water flume ride to hold her diabetes stuff so it didn't get soaked. I carried the glucagon, a spare infusion set and some extra glucose tabs, always close enough to jump in to assist if needed. When the large group divided and headed to different destinations I stuck with my kid, making the division of chaperones a non-issue. My presence allowed the nurse traveling with us to focus on other kids without worrying about keeping track of mine.
But now that I've seen how well she handled most everything without my help, I'm excited for her to have an opportunity to travel without me. Just maybe on a trip that's a little closer, and a little slower-paced.