How to Save a Life With a Slice of Flapjack
– Outdoor First Aid Diabetes
It was a cold and wet Lake District day. It was a working day for me, and so I had a group of fairly fit and experienced walkers with me. Our chosen route was slightly off the beaten track, and away from the hordes as much as possible. (Not that many people were out that day).
Slowly we plodded on up-hill towards a place called Levers Hawse. Full waterproofs were deployed and as you do on days like these, we occupied our own private worlds tucked away inside our hoods and hats. Unlike the streams around us, conversation was hardly flowing.
Eventually we made it to the top – and on most days the view from this summit ridge-line down to Seathewaite Tarn in the next valley is worth savouring. As I stopped and looked around to see how people were I immediately noticed that something looked wrong with Diana. Through the weekend she had on many occasions been checking her blood sugar levels and so I was well reminded that here was a lass with diabetes. So my first question was – “Di, are you hypoglycaemic?” She said nothing, looking a bit like a zombie, and nodded.
That day …
My training kicked in and I knew that Diana needed sugar. I asked her if she’d like to eat some flapjack. My clients are used to me carrying a box of home-made flapjack on various walks and adventures in the hills and this was a welcome prospect for Diana and so she nodded her head.
My next concern was for my team who had now all made it to the top of the hill and were standing around us. I knew we’d be getting cold in next to no time so I pulled out my group shelter and started to get people inside. This was also a good time to get people eating and drinking: metabolising food metabolises energy and thus helps people stay warm. I also sneaked a peak at my watch.
Time passed and Diana started to make a recovery, but she kept lapsing. I wasn’t happy that this was good enough for our purposes. Training kicked in once more and so I called 999 and asked to be put through to the police with a view to gaining assistance from the local mountain rescue team (MRT).
Moments later I was talking to a very friendly lass who I imagine was in a heated building; someone with a wealth of experience and knowledge beyond my own. She was in the ideal place to give me informed objective advice. I ran through my plan (to walk Diana and my team off the hill with Diana supported by me on a short rope). In turn the MRT would only mobilise if I requested it – but wanted me to check in with them at given locations en route.
By the time we’d got down to Levers Water Diana had made a full recovery and the MRT were able to stand down. Diana talked about how she hadn’t wanted to slow the group down on the ascent up the hill and so hadn’t stopped to refuel. This is very typical of many people regardless of whether they have type 1 diabetes or not. In hindsight I learned a lesson here: as a leader I need to keep an eye on people more closely in situations like these and if I know that someone has diabetes, I will create more opportunities than normal for that person to check their blood sugars and to snack as needed.
One thing I should also emphasise here is that it is my core belief that anyone can and should try to lead a normal, and adventurous, life. I know Diana well now and have always admired her spirit not to allow diabetes to rule her world.
Doctors will tell you, common things happen commonly. And, as so often is the case, first aid can be about treating injured people but most often in my experience it’s about treating ill people. Remember always to prioritise your first aid and stick to your ABCs. When in the outdoors don’t forget the wider aspect of group management and keeping everyone protected from the elements. And don’t be afraid to call your local mountain rescue team and to ask them for their advice.