How one T1D mom, with the help of a “Yellow Chariot,” saved the day.
There are more than 1.25 million Americans who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Both children and adults fight this challenging disease every day, with extraordinary resilience, and with no break. For that reason, we consider them superheroes. Parents who care for their children with T1D are also superheroes, as they fight along with them. They develop superpowers, including the ability to count carbs with a single glance, operate complicated technology with ease, and function remarkably well on very little sleep. There are times, though, when they need help from fellow superheroes to get the job done.
That was the case when Andrea McDonald got a call on January 18 from Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma. Her son Carter was enjoying his fifth grade class trip for three days of outdoor education. But when Carter’s insulin pump infusion site failed, an emergency situation ensued. The school nurse was with the group and on call to help Carter check his blood sugar and administer his insulin at mealtime. But she was not able to change his site for him. Outside of his endocrinologist’s office, only his parent could perform this task, and it needed to be done immediately.
The night Andrea answered this call, the Greater Bay Area was experiencing a record-breaking rain storm. Nevertheless, she got in her car, windshield wipers working at full force, and began the one-hour drive to the secluded ranch. But once she reached the back roads, she came upon a major obstacle. “I was beside myself when I was faced with a fallen tree, a live wire down and the fire chief telling me no one was getting through. The sense of panic, and being the mother bear I am, meant I could not accept this answer,” she says.
“They were going to send an ambulance to the ranch to help my son, but I said no, as unfortunately even most medical professionals are not trained to change an insulin pump site,” Andrea recalls.
The storm did not let up but Andrea was determined. “Before I knew it, a firefighter came out of nowhere and picked me up with one hand to move me out of harm’s way. Another firefighter grabbed my keys and said he would take my car to the Novato Fire Station,” she says. The chief proceeded to keep Andrea calm and reassure her that they would get her to her son. “Little did I know my ‘Yellow Chariot’ was awaiting. A huge yellow firetruck with two firefighters quickly whisked me away and into the night. The rain was getting heavier and it was hard to see the road, but 45 mins later we arrived at the ranch,” she says.
Imagine the look on all the kids’ faces when Carter’s mom, new infusion set in hand, arrived in a fire truck! Carter’s eyes lit up when he saw his mother coming to save the day. Andrea was able to quickly change his site while the firefighters waited alongside. They stayed until Carter’s blood sugar level was back in range. “These fine heroes were kind enough to take me back down those winding roads in a torrential storm, all the way to Novato where another firefighter was waiting in the parking lot with my keys in his hands. I am so very grateful for these servicemen who were so quick to help a mother in distress get to her son,” says Andrea.
BAM! Take that T1D! You never stood a chance.
Andrea McDonald lives in Tiburon, CA with her husband Calvin, and their four children.