Health Living: Local Eagle Scout creates Diabetes Survival Kit

8/25/2017 | Debbie Gardner

Category: August

The seeds for the Diabetes Survival Kit –  the Eagle Scout project for Belchertown’s Daniel Godbout Jr. – were planted early with this young Type 1 diabetic.

“When I was diagnosed [in 2011], all my friends were saying ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ll never be able to do this because your body won’t hold up to it’,” the recent high school graduate said.

Godbout didn’t buy into those assumptions. The two-sport high school athlete – he played varsity baseball and basketball – and active Boy Scout found work-arounds to let him keep doing the things he loved, despite the medical demands of a chronic illness.

“It’s all about tracking and balancing your [blood sugar] numbers,” Godbout said of living with Type 1 diabetes. “If your numbers are stable, they’re not as much of a hindrance to you. If your numbers were higher, there’s more testing, more giving insulin, more monitoring.”

One of the biggest challenges for Godbout was keeping his blood sugars balanced during the rigorous lifestyle of an active Boy Scout – which entails plenty of hiking, camping and backpacking.

That’s where his Diabetic Survival Kit came in handy.

“When [my troop] went to Philmont [Scout Ranch] in New Mexico, we did an 86-mile hike in 11 days, and this was my savior,” Godbout said. “With this kit, it showed everybody that diabetes can’t hold me back from doing what I love.”

His survival kit – designed to help him be prepared to handle diabetes-related challenges in the great outdoors – includes what Godbout considers 11 essentials.

Loosely based on a self-care package he was given when first diagnosed, it contains alcohol wipes for cleaning hands before blood testing, glucose tablets to help raise blood sugar numbers if the reading is too low, and a protein bar to help stabilize blood sugar once a reading has reached a safe level.

The kit also includes a package of glucogel – an emergency rescue substance that can be administered to a diabetic experiencing a blood sugar low enough to make chewing difficult (or to one who is unconscious) – as well as a reusable a Frio insulin pack to keep backup insulins cool for up to 72 hours, a collapsible water bottle with purifying tablets in case the diabetic needs to drink fluids to help bring high blood sugar numbers down, an extra Diabetic ID bracelet, and hand warmers to help blood circulation in cold conditions.

In addition, Godbout included a laminated set of instructions to help bystanders understand how to assist a diabetic experiencing a hypoglycemic [low blood sugar] episode or hyperglycemic [high blood sugar] episode, and a pair of disposable gloves that bystander can don to help with blood testing.

“My adult supervisors would refer to this, and know what was going on with me, and it was a very helpful guide,” Godbout said of the instruction set.”

For his Eagle Scout project, Godbout amassed the essentials to create 50 similar kits, and with assembly help from fellow scouts in his troop, donated them to Baystate Medical Center’s Pediatric Endocrinology Unit, where he has been receiving care since his diagnosis.

“The doctors said ‘these kits are amazing’, “ Godbout said, adding the unit has been giving out his survival kits to patients who are scouts or hikers/campers and the response has been that patients and families “love them and find them very helpful.”

He said creating the kits “was a really great opportunity to give back to those doctors that helped me and to show other kids what I’ve gone through and how I’ve accomplished what I have.”

Godbout said he reached out to manufacturers, friends and family for help amassing the supplies needed to create the 50 kits, and even started a Diabetic Survival Kit GoFundMe page to help raise funds to defray the cost of purchasing some items. In a about a month he raised $865 through donations from friends and family.

In total, “the kits would have cost about $1,400 to make,” Godbout said. “I spent $1,050 to make them, including donations from companies and discounts.”

Bottom line, Godbout said Diabetic Survival Kits are the ultimate reflection of the Boy Scout motto to always “be prepared,” and he encourages fellow Type 1s to think about preparing similar survival kits to match their activities, using his list of items as a guide.

“It’s a big thing to keep your numbers in control to do the things you love” when you’re a Type I diabetic, Godbout said. “You can never go wrong with a kit like this.”

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