MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- “My mother’s eyes were half open, she was foaming at the mouth and she was soaked in sweat.”
It’s a scene no parent would ever wish upon their child, but for one Laurel Bay family, unfortunately it came true recently. However, thanks to proper education and good training, the kids in this case knew exactly what to do and tragedy was averted.
“I’m very lucky that I have children that pay attention, whether it’s what we teach them here at home or what the learned at Scouts,” said Amy L. McGhee, wife of Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. McGhee, a maintenance chief with Marine Air Control Squadron 2, who suffers from diabetes.
On March 11, 12-year-old Austin and 9-year-old Hannah saved their mother’s life by noticing warning signs that Amy’s blood sugar level was low and immediately coming to her aid.
“That night we came home from a hockey game in Charleston,” said Austin. “My mother went straight to bed, while my sister and I stayed up to watch television. My father was working as a security guard that night.”
After watching the movie, Austin went to use the bathroom while Hannah went into their mother’s room and noticed her snoring really loud. Hannah realized that her mother’s blood sugar was probably dangerously low and ran down the hall to get her older brother.
“My first thoughts were that her blood sugar was low,” said Austin.
Austin and Hannah pulled Amy’s arm out from under her and tested her blood sugar as they had been taught. Amy’s blood sugar was below 20. Austin then sent Hannah to retrieve the insulin and showed her how to inject it.
“I’ve done it several times before, but Hannah was scared at first,” said Austin.
“I was a little freaked out,” said Hannah. “I was worried about hurting her but I tried to stay calm.”
Austin then called his father at work to tell him what was going on. Mark, who could not get home at the time, told the children that Amy would start to come around about 20 minutes after the insulin was injected and that she would be fine.
“During all that time I was unable to leave work, but tried to stay as calm as possible,” said Mark. “There’s been a few close calls before, but nothing as this severe,” said Mark. “I’m very proud of my children. They knew what to do, and they did it.”
Amy was diagnosed as a diabetic when she was pregnant with Austin. Since then, Amy’s and her family’s life had to change, according to Mark.
“Amy can’t eat things that are high in carbohydrates or sugar,” said Mark. “She moderates what she eats and tries to eat foods that are high in fiber.”
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, which is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Sometimes if that insulin is not monitored correctly, it can lead to death or serious harm.
In addition to changing eating habits, Amy and Mark taught their children the fundamentals of diabetes and how to administer aid to their mom just in case the situation ever arose.
“At the age of five, Austin experienced his mother’s first severe situation where her blood sugar level dropped,” said Amy. “Frightened, Austin called the emergency in.”
Since then, Amy and Mark have continued to teach their kids about diabetes and how to respond if their mother was suffering from dangerously low blood sugar. In addition to learning from their parents, Austin and Hannah learned basic first aid from their local Scouting groups.
Just like normal siblings, Austin and Hannah fight, but when it came down to it, they worked together when their mother needed them, according to Amy.
“Austin was calm, and patient with Hannah,” said Amy. “He took the time to explain to her what needed to be done and how to do it.”
Austin and Hannah continue to help their mother by checking her blood sugar level, which needs to be checked four to five times a day. They also make sure that the refrigerator is stocked with juice and that their mother’s insulin is in a place where it can be located and reached quickly.
Although they hope this never happens again, Hannah and Austin feel that they will be better prepared if there is a next time.
“I thank God everyday for my children,” said Amy. “I’m very lucky.”