Glucagon Failure

Glucagon has saved Rhodes’ life three times. Three times, in 34 years, his blood sugar has fallen so low, that glucagon was needed to bring him out of “diabetic shock.” One of those three times, I should have been the one to deliver the life-saving dose of Glucagon, but I wasn’t. Because I broke the needle. I broke the needle trying to assemble it.

As Rhodes seized on the floor, I grabbed the Glucagon kit from his bag and began to prepare it the way he had carefully trained me. But my heart was pounding, my eyes were blurry, and my hands were shaking. I forgot to remove the grey cap from the grey lid of the tiny vial that contains the tiny life-saving pill. I pushed the needle into the cap and broke the needle. Gone was the Glucagon. Gone was his savior. And it was my fault. His parents, best friend, and I had to wait in horror– 15 long and painful minutes for emergency personnel to arrive with a second Glucagon.

If you have never assembled a Glucagon injection, it is not easy. Especially for non-medically trained people. The medicine is a small pill contained within a tiny vial. A syringe is included that contains a liquid. You have to inject the liquid into the vial, set the needle aside, mix the liquid and tablet to dissolve it, and then immediately extract that liquid with the same needle. Only then it is ready to be injected into the diabetic. The manufacturer of the drug explains that the medicine is not “stable” enough to be sold in liquid form. Thus, is cannot be mixed into a liquid until right before you are ready to use it.

If you or your loved one is on insulin and has been prescribed a Glucagon emergency kit for severe lows:

  1. Have your doctor or someone on your care team train you and your family.
  2. Have your family practice with a practice kit at the doctor’s office.
  3. Have friends and family practice at least once a year with expired Glucagon kits in your house.
  4. Train everyone who may need to use it (including co-workers you trust), by having them actually practice the assembly process. If you are worried about forgetting to remove the grey cap like I did, put a label on it- “remove me first.”

Watch my demonstration if you would like to see how I learned to assemble it.

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