A couple of weeks before my daughter went on the five night youth group trip I met with the chaperones to train them in glucagon use, and to talk about diabetes concerns for the trip. These are people I know well, which has a great deal to do with why my daughter went on this trip without a parent in the first place. They were eager to learn how to help my daughter have a successful first trip away, and how to react should an emergency arise.
We gathered at a table.
"Epi pens make me a little nervous," my first chaperone friend said.
"Well, wait until you see this thing," I replied with a wry smile.
He was, indeed, humbled by the sight of the glucagon kit.
"Here's the deal," I said once it was open in front of us on the table, "We've never needed to use this. We've never come close to needing to use this. You guys know her. She's responsible about her diabetes and she's self-aware. She's got the continuous glucose monitor which alarms when her blood sugar goes low. But because diabetes can be unpredictable, there's an infinitesimal chance you'll need this, so it's important to us that you know how to use it. And besides, once you see this, I'm certain you'll listen even more carefully to the rest of the ways I'd like you to look out for her." Cautious smiles had returned.
I walked them through step by step with an expired kit, and then one chaperone physically set up my second expired kit while the other gave verbal directions. They seemed to get the gist, and learned to look for the pictographs inside the packaging for clues. In the end, I reminded them that the first step would be to call 911 and that if they were flummoxed by the kit, the fact that they knew what it was and where it was would be key for the EMS workers.
After striking a healthy fear of glucagon into their hearts, we went over the very simple things a 15 year old kid who's out of her element might need their help with in order to avoid disastrous low blood sugar:
-Someone to hang back with her if she needs to wait out a low.
-Someone to ask her if she's okay if she's spacey or uncharacteristically emotional, which are the primary signs of low blood sugar for her.
-Someone to stand up for her if someone gives her a hard time about stepping aside when she should be doing her volunteer job, or eating when she "shouldn't be," or looking at an electronic device when the kids have been told not to.
-Someone to get up and nudge her if a dexcom alarm is going off in the middle of the night.
-Help getting supplies should she somehow blow through the snacks, juice and glucose tabs we packed.
-Support if (when?) diabetes causes missed opportunities or unpleasant experiences along the way.
In the end they didn't use the glucagon. In the end, it may not have been necessary to show them how to use it at all. But in the end the glucagon training led to a much more important conversation about ways to keep her safe. Which made all of us more comfortable.